How To Use VSCO Filters To Create Beautiful iPhone Photos

VSCO filters offer a quick and easy way to apply beautiful edits to your iPhone photos. If you like to keep your photo editing subtle, you’ll love the collection of aesthetic filters in the VSCO app. In this tutorial you’ll learn how to use filters to create stunning VSCO edits. And our VSCO filter guide shows you the best VSCO filters for creating different moods and styles in your iPhone photos.

VSCO Filters iPhone Photography 52

Table Of Contents: How To Use VSCO Filters

Click any title link below to go straight to that section of the tutorial:

Introduction: What Are VSCO Filters?

Section 1. How To Edit Your Photos With VSCO Filters

Section 2. VSCO Filter Guide: How To Create Different Styles & Moods
Best VSCO Filters: Light & Airy Mood
Best VSCO Filters: Dark & Moody Atmosphere
Best VSCO Filters: Happy & Energetic Vibe
Best VSCO Filters: Vintage Style
Best VSCO Filters: Black & White

Section 3. Develop Your Own Style With VSCO Filters

Conclusion: VSCO Filters

Introduction: What Are VSCO Filters?

Filters (also known as “presets”) allow you to change the look and feel of your iPhone photos with a single tap. They work by applying a particular set of edits to your image. For example, by changing the color tint, saturation, brightness, contrast, or vignette.

Many iPhone photo editing apps have a set of filters that you can apply to your image. But they’re often garish and overpowering, ruining rather than enhancing your photo.

VSCO Filters iPhone Photography 56Edited with VSCO filter A2

VSCO (previously called VSCO Cam) is one of the few photo editing apps famous for its subtle, aesthetic filters.

Inspired by classic film, VSCO Cam filters are clean and simple with a beautiful timeless quality. That’s why many top iPhone photographers edit their photos with VSCO filters.

VSCO Filters iPhone Photography 57Edited with VSCO filter HB2

How To Edit Your Photos With VSCO Filters

Step 1: Import Photos Into VSCO

After opening the VSCO app, you’ll need to import the photos you want to edit. Tap the plus icon (+) at the top right of the screen.

VSCO Filters

Select the image or images you want to edit, then tap Import at the bottom of the screen:

VSCO Filters

Step 2: Open The VSCO Editor

Tap the image you want to edit. A colored border will appear around the selected image. Tap the Edit icon (slider icon second from left) at the bottom of the screen:

VSCO Filters

Note that if you have more than one photo selected, you won’t be able to tap the Edit icon. This is because you can only edit one image at a time. If you have more than one picture selected, deselect all by tapping the X at the bottom left of the screen. Then select a single photo to edit.

Once you’ve accessed the editing options, you’ll see a row of VSCO filters along the bottom of the screen. VSCO filters are named with letters and numbers, e.g. A6, F1, HB2, S5, Q10:

VSCO Filters

The VSCO app comes with a basic collection of filters to get you started. But there are many more filters that you can download from the VSCO Shop. Some are free to download, while others cost a few dollars.

Step 3: Download More VSCO Filters (Optional)

If you’d like to download more VSCO filters, tap Shop to the left of the row of filters. You now have two options.

You can download individual collections of filters for a few dollars each (some are even free). Or you can join VSCO X and pay an annual subscription of $19.99 to get access to the complete set of VSCO presets:

VSCO Filters

Step 4: Apply A VSCO Filter To Your Photo

To apply a VSCO filter to your photo, tap a filter of your choice from the bottom of the screen. In the screenshot below, the F2 filter was applied. This filter has brightened up the image:

VSCO Filters

Swipe across the bottom of the screen to see more VSCO filters. Tap on the different filters until you find one that you like.

Notice how the colors and brightness of your photo change depending on which filter you’ve applied:

VSCO Filters

It’s a good idea to compare the edited and unedited versions of your photo. Tap and hold the image to see the unedited version, then release to return to the edited image.

Step 5: Adjust The Filter Strength

If the filter effect looks too strong, you can tone it down by reducing the filter strength. To access the filter strength slider, tap the black filter icon that you’ve just applied:

VSCO Filters

Drag the slider left to reduce the intensity of the filter. Tap the checkmark at the bottom right when you’re done:

VSCO Filters

Step 6: Use VSCO Editing Tools (Optional)

At this point, you could make further edits to your image using VSCO’s manual adjustment tools. These let you adjust exposure, color, sharpness, etc. To access these tools, tap the second icon from the bottom left.

VSCO Filters

We’re not going to cover these adjustments in this tutorial. But you can click here to learn how to create stunning VSCO edits using the full set of editing tools available.

Step 7: Save Your VSCO Edits

The final step is to save your edited image. Tap Save at the top of the screen. Your edit is now saved within the VSCO app, but it isn’t yet saved to your iPhone’s photo library.

To save your edited image into the Photos app, start by tapping the three dots icon at the bottom right:

VSCO Filters

Tap Save To Camera Roll, then select Actual Size to ensure the image saves at full resolution:

VSCO Filters

Below are the original and edited photos for you to compare:

VSCO Filters iPhone Photography 12Original image

VSCO Filters iPhone Photography 13Edited with VSCO filter H3

The H3 filter subtly brightened the image and added pretty pink tones to the flowers and background.

Note that you can only apply a single filter when editing photos in VSCO. If you want to apply more than one filter to an image, you’ll need to apply the first filter and save it to your camera roll. Then import the edited image back into VSCO where you can apply another filter.

You can repeat this process as many times as you want. But remember, the whole point of VSCO filters is that they create clean and elegant edits. So don’t go overboard with lots of unnecessary filters on a single image.

VSCO Filters iPhone Photography 48Edited with VSCO filter G1

The 7 Best iPhone Photography Apps

There are thousands of excellent photo apps on the App Store, and the things you can do with apps are absolutely incredible. With that said, the number of photo apps out there is overwhelming, and it's really hard to know which apps are worth getting. 

That’s why we created this free report revealing the 7 best iPhone photography apps that you should start using straight away. Click here to download this free report. 

VSCO Filter Guide: How To Create Different Styles & Moods

Creating a particular mood in your iPhone photos helps you tell a story and evoke certain emotions in the viewer.

Of course, mood is often created at the time of shooting. Subject matter, location and lighting all affect how the viewer perceives your image.

VSCO Filters iPhone Photography 50Edited with VSCO filter P5

But you can further enhance or change the mood of a photo in editing. VSCO filters are a great tool for making subtle changes to the mood and style of your photos.

There are two main editing techniques that affect mood: color and light. Let’s take the photo below as an example. Here’s the original image of a little boy on the beach:

Vsco filters 28Original image

Below are some different edits using a variety of VSCO filters. The different color tones and brightness levels change the look and feel of the image:

Vsco filters 27

My favorite filter for this particular photo was S3. It brightened up the image and made the colors more vibrant:

Vsco filters 26Edited with VSCO filter S3

With so many filters in VSCO, it can be difficult to know which ones create a particular look or feel. Below you’ll discover the best VSCO filters to create certain moods in your iPhone photos.

This VSCO filter guide shows you how to create the following styles in your iPhone photos: light & airy mood, dark & moody atmosphere, happy & energetic vibe, vintage style, black & white.

Best VSCO Filters: Light & Airy Mood

To create a light and airy mood in your photos, choose a filter that brightens the image and adds fresh white tones. These include F2, K1, N1 and S3.

Below is the original photo of some white flowers in a vase. The second image has the S3 VSCO filter applied:

VSCO Filters iPhone Photography 17Original image

VSCO Filters iPhone Photography 20Edited with VSCO filter S3

The S3 filter makes the flowers and background appear brighter and whiter. The image looks much cleaner and fresher than the original.

When editing photos with white subjects and backgrounds, pay attention to slight changes in color tone when you apply a filter. In the screenshots below, you can see subtle color differences created by the different VSCO filters.

Vsco filters 14

The K1 filter at the bottom left has a pinkish tone. The F2 filter at the bottom right has a blueish tone. The S3 filter at the top right has the most neutral white tones.

Even subtle differences in color can have a significant effect on the mood of your photo.

Best VSCO Filters: Dark & Moody Atmosphere

For a dark and moody atmosphere, use a filter that tones down the colors and darkens the shadows. Filters with a blue tint can work well as they evoke feelings of coldness, loneliness or sadness.

Try using HB2, J1, M2 or T1 to create a dark, moody photo with a sense of mystery or drama.

VSCO Filters

Below is the original photo of a lone man looking out to sea on a cold winter’s day. The second image has the HB2 VSCO filter applied:

VSCO Filters iPhone Photography 23Original image

VSCO Filters iPhone Photography 22Edited with VSCO filter HB2

The HB2 filter makes the shadows appear darker, and emphasizes the silhouette of the man. It also has a blueish tone which adds to the feeling of coldness and loneliness.

Best VSCO Filters: Happy & Energetic Vibe

To enhance a feeling of happiness or energy in your photos, use a filter that makes the colors brighter and more vibrant. Try using C1, F1, K2 or S3.

Below is the original photo of a smiling boy on a muddy cycle ride. The second image has the S3 VSCO filter applied:

VSCO Filters iPhone Photography 24Original image

VSCO Filters iPhone Photography 25Edited with VSCO filter S3

The S3 filter brightens the image and make the colors more vivid, emphasizing the happy and energetic mood.

When editing portrait photos, be aware of how the different filters affect skin tone. Some filters can make the skin look too orange, yellow, blue, green, etc. In the screenshots below, the subject’s skin looks a different color in each one:

Best VSCO Filters

Best VSCO Filters: Vintage Style

There are a couple of different options for creating a vintage or aged look in your photos. One technique is to use a filter that fades the colors.

The T1, T2 and T3 filters are great for creating a soft, faded edit. They work particularly well for still life and flower photography.

Below is the original photo of a vase of flowers. The second image has been edited with the T2 VSCO filter:

VSCO FiltersOriginal image

VSCO Vintage FilterEdited with VSCO filter T2

T2 makes the perfect VSCO vintage filter for this photo. With a single tap you can create a romantic vintage-style look.

Another way to create a vintage-style photo is to make it look like an old polaroid picture. You can do this with the P series of filters which add different color tints to your image.

Best VSCO Filters

Below is the original photo of a baby holding his father’s hand. The second image has the P5 VSCO filter applied, making it look like a vintage polaroid picture:

VSCO Filters iPhone Photography 30Original image

VSCO Filters iPhone Photography 31Edited with VSCO filter P5

Best VSCO Filters: Black & White

For a classic and timeless look, you can’t go wrong with a black and white filter. VSCO has a great selection of black and white filters, from high contrast to vintage fades and sepia.

Best Black And White VSCO Filters

Try the B series of VSCO filters for a variety of classic black and white edits. Each filter has a different level of brightness and contrast, so you can achieve just the look that you want.

The X series of filters are perfect for creating vintage-style black and white edits. This filter series lets you create beautiful faded black and white photos. There are also several filters that have a brown or blue color tint. The brown tint is for creating an old-fashioned sepia effect.

Below is the original color photo. The second image was edited with the B2 VSCO filter to create a slightly faded black and white edit. The X4 filter was applied to the third photo to create a vintage-style sepia effect.

Vsco filters 21Original image

Vsco filters 20Edited with VSCO filter B2

Vsco filters 19Edited with VSCO filter X4

Develop Your Own Style With VSCO Filters

Your choice of VSCO filter can have a big impact on the mood of your photo. So take the time to try out different filters to achieve the exact look that you want.

VSCO Filters iPhone Photography 55Edited with VSCO filter N2

The great thing about VSCO filters is that it’s very easy to develop your own editing style. The trick is not to apply lots of different styles of filters to your photos. Stick to a handful of your favorite filters of a similar style to create a cohesive body of work.

VSCO Filters iPhone Photography 47Edited with VSCO filter A5

Editing with a similar style will create a more inviting and beautiful collection of photos. This is especially important if you’re planning to share your photos online or print as an album or photo book.

Your style might change over time or for different sets of photos. But if your share your images on Instagram or enjoy printing collections of photos, they’ll have far more impact if they’re all edited with a similar look and feel.

VSCO Filters iPhone Photography 45Edited with VSCO filter G2

Check out the two Instagram feeds below of iPhone photographers that we’ve interviewed. These prove how effective it is to edit using a similar VSCO style.

Sara Tasker (@me_and_orla on Instagram) always uses VSCO filters on her images before posting to Instagram. She particularly likes using filters from the Aesthetic and Minimalist VSCO preset collections:

VSCO Filters

Even though she shoots different kinds of subjects, her choice of VSCO filters creates a beautifully cohesive Instagram feed.

Another talented iPhone photographer who uses VSCO filters is Vlad Vasylkevych (@vlad.vasylkevych on Instagram). His Instagram feed shows how effective it is to choose the same style of filter for similar types of photos:

VSCO Filters

Conclusion: VSCO Filters

One tap filters are often frowned upon in the world of photo editing. If the filter effect is too strong or garish, it will ruin your photo.

But VSCO filters are subtle and elegant. They allow you to create a natural and timeless feel to your images.

VSCO Filters iPhone Photography 58Edited with VSCO filter A5

Choosing the right VSCO filter for a particular photo is the key to creating a stunning edit. A filter should always enhance the original image. It shouldn’t overpower it.

Your aim is to use filters to subtly alter the colors and tones for a more beautiful final result. Remember you can reduce a filter’s intensity if the initial effect is too strong.

VSCO Filters iPhone Photography 46Edited with VSCO filter HB1

Different filters will create different moods and evoke different emotions in the viewer. So it’s always worth spending a few minutes trying out a variety of VSCO effects. Find one that most suits the message or mood you’re trying to convey in your photo.

VSCO Filters iPhone Photography 61Edited with VSCO filter C3

Once you’ve become familiar with the range of VSCO filters, try using just a handful of your favorites. This will create a more cohesive collection of images with a similar look and feel.

Your pictures are more likely to stand out on Instagram or when printed if they’re all edited with a similar style.

VSCO Filters iPhone Photography 60Edited with VSCO filter C2

Don’t forget that filters are only one aspect of photo editing. Many editing apps, including VSCO, have manual adjustment tools for fine-tuning the color and exposure of your image.

While VSCO filters can be used to quickly enhance your photos, you may also need to make some manual adjustments. You can apply these adjustments before or after using a filter.

VSCO Filters iPhone Photography 49Edited with VSCO filter B4

Finally, remember that less is often more with photo editing. Keeping your edits subtle will allow the natural beauty of your image to shine through.

With the right amount of filter intensity and editing, you can turn a good photo into something truly special.

  • Liz Anderson

    great article, Kate. I particularly liked that you showed the specific filters that you use for different photos. That helps a lot to get started. I love the soft quality that VSCO gives to photos. Thanks!

    • Thank you Liz! So glad to hear you enjoyed this tutorial and that you found the filter labels helpful. I’m sure you’ll create some beautiful edits with VSCO 🙂

  • Love this article and this whole site quite frankly. Here i am sitting with an iPhone 6 plus and not knowing that I could be creating masterpieces every day! Thank you for sharing this!

    • Glad you enjoyed this article and have found our site so useful! I hope you enjoy creating beautiful images with your iPhone 🙂

  • Mary Patricia

    Well done

  • Nancy @ MapandFamily

    Really useful post – thanks very much. Am going to start at the beginning and go thru it again now!

    • Thank you Nancy – glad to hear you found this so helpful 🙂

  • Lillie Holmes Chafin

    I am happy to have found this tutorial, I needed it. Yeah! This going to help me a lot.

  • Maryah

    Hello, can anyone please tell me how to download a specific filter? I don’t have hb2 and there are no results for it either.
    Thanks, it’ll be really helpful.

    • Angelina Wu

      You will need to go to the VSCO store (which can be located in the filter section). All presets are purchased there.

  • Geoffrey Roush

    On the little boy image with sunglasses…can you colorize just the glasses Thanks for any help