I know, I said that the next post would be about landscapes, I lied.
Many of you probably already know what VSCO is but, in case you don’t, it’s a company that makes presets for a number of image editing softwares that emulates different film looks. I’ve known about them for a long time but I’ve often felt that the effect is over-used and gimmicky, at least a lot of the more faded effects. There are however a lot of stuff that can look really nice, when applied in moderation and in the right circumstances. Still, I’ve never considered paying money for it, mainly because it’s not really a look that suits my style, until now.
With their Film 04 pack, VSCO has taken on old slide films, with lots of contrast and bold colours and very little of the over-used faded look from the previous packs. I’ve never shot anything with a film camera in my entire life, so I have no idea how these presets hold up against the real deal, but they feel right. I kind of fell in love with these when I saw them, so I decided to spend a bit of money on it (they had an offer on it at the time as well).
Since these are presets, couldn’t you just get the same effect yourself in Lightroom? Well, obviously you could, if you knew what you were doing. I consider myself to be pretty bad at post processing though, especially colour, I seriously suck at it, so these presets produces results that I wouldn’t be able to achieve by myself. That’s actually the main reason I decided to get it, to help me with the colour in my photos. The fact that these are simple presets and not some plugin or standalone program is one of the strengths, at least for my kind of editing; I can apply a preset without breaking my workflow or leaving the program, very nice.
Some of these presets are very over the top and not something I would use, other than in special circumstances. However, for my serious work I use them to get a quick starting point, a point where the colours look nice, and then I start working from there. If you take a look at my previous post, would you have guessed that those portraits were edited with film emulation presets? I like to think that that’s not something you can spot but correct me if I’m wrong. I’m very happy with the colours in those shots and I have the ‘Fuji Astia 100F Balance warm’ to thank for that. That was my base and then I tweaked everything from there. In the post before that, I played around with the different Velvia emulations for the sunrise pictures (you’ll see more of velvia in the next landscape post). Those shots are closer to what the preset gave me but they’ve still been tweaked.
Here you can see the different stages of the editing:
Another reason why I wanted to get this film pack was to use it for my private photos, the snapshots that I only share with my family. My X100S produces quite nice jpegs straight from camera but, as with all cameras, they lack any real character. Still, I don’t want to spend a lot of time editing those shots, not like I do with the serious stuff. Below are some of the snapshots I took at my mom’s place, before and after the presets. The only thing I’ve done to the shots on top of the preset is a white balance adjustment where needed and to turn of the grain.
It definitely produces a specific look but it’s one that I really like. My go-to ones seems to be Astia 100F, Provia 100F and Velvia 100F, one of those usually gives me what I want. There are variations of the different films as well but a lot of those get a lot more extreme, so I tend not to use them as much. Again, I would never use it straight up like this for my serious work, but for the holiday snapshots it’s perfect and it’s fast. There are some situations where the presets doesn’t work at all and some where they work extremely well, it depends on the light and the colour in the shot – I’m still experimenting with that myself. There are also a couple of versions of each film where the whole effect is toned down, which is great if you like the look but it just feels a bit too much.
Should you get it? I can’t really answer that, I think you already know the answer yourself. If it’s a look that you like and something you think you’ll use a lot, then it’s a good buy. If you’re unsure how much you’re going to use it, maybe wait a bit and try to develop your own style first, then you’ll know better if it suits you or not – it’s quite a lot of money for just some presets, even though they’re very good presets. For myself, I’m very happy that I decided to open up my wallet. It’s a great help for my serious work, especially with the colours, and my snapshots get a nice look with just a couple of clicks.
I hope my impressions and seeing how I use the presets has helped you decide if it’s something for you or not. The next few posts will also consist of photos where the presets were used as a base, so stay tuned for that if you want to see more.
Update: Also check out my impressions on VSCO Film 05 if that’s of interest.