What do all the controls in photo-editing app VSCOcam mean?

We all love a good photo. Making one is usually the easiest part. After that you start editing to make the colours pop a bit more, to give it an oldschool feel, or just crop out that one weird guy photobombing you.

It all sounds so easy, but I still see a lot of photo’s that could’ve looked so much better. That’s why I decided to explain the effects of all the controls you get on VSCOcam, to help you make better and more conscious decisions.

Exposure

A simple and straightforward slider to begin with. Is your photo a bit too dark? Slide the button to the right and making it a bit brighter. Or maybe you overexposed the photo a bit? Try bringing the slider to the left. There is no right or wrong with this slider. Use it to your own taste, but try to limit the changes you make. If you have to go further than +3 or -3, it might just be better to make the photo again.

Contrast

Contrast it the most used, and sometimes overused slider. Giving your photos a bit of extra contrast can help your colours and subject to pop out more. Which of course it exactly what you want! Slide the button to the right slowly until you feel it the photo it too contrasty. Then tone it back a little.

In some cases you want to tone down the contrast. During harsh sunlight at noon for example. Slide it to the left and loose a bit of that harshness.

Straighten

An easy one. This one gives you the possibility to straighten your photo so the horizon is, well… horizontal. It can always happen that you hold the camera a bit tilted. Something you always notice when it’s already too late. You can fix it easily, but you will lose a bit of the sides of your photo.

X-skew

Sometimes it is impossible to stand directly in front of the subject you want to photograph. With buildings, monuments and art it can be that there are too many people in your way, or security just doesn’t allow it. If you try to minimise the angle with the subject you are taking the photo of, you can compensate the rest with this tool. It won’t magically put you in front of something if you shoot it from the side. But it can help you if you are just a little bit of the 90° angle.

Y-skew

This is the same as the X-skew, just not horizontal, but vertical. When should you use this? Well, for example if you shoot up to something. Usually a building, or maybe you are photographing a friend who stands higher on a rock. To make it look as if you are on the same height, you can use this tool to lightly skew the angle.

Crop

It’s a simple tool, but it can help you out so much. I often use it to make a crop for my instagram stories, so Instagram doesn’t have to do it for me and fuck it up. Choose the vertical 1080 ration for your stories.

It can also help to crop out things on the side you don’t want in your photo.

Sharpen

Applying this one on your photo is a good idea in 95% of the cases. Just be sure to be careful with it. A bit of sharpening is an awesome idea. Sliding it all the way is not. Using it too much will cause unnecessary details to be visible too.

Saturation

This one adds extra colour to your photos. Is that apple in your hand not red enough for you? Use a bit of extra saturation to make the colour deeper and more present. Don’t use this one too much either. It’s kind of like the sugary glazing on a cake. A bit extra here and there is awesome, but using it too much just feels fake and gives you a stomach ache.

Highlights

Sometimes when you make a picture of a landscape or a friend, you notice the sky is very bright or even just white. Turning down your highlights can help with that. In VSCOcam opening the slider, actually reduced the highlights. This will bring back the details. Often his wil result in the clouds regaining their form.

Shadows

The opposite of highlights are the shadows. It’s not the darkest part of your photo, but everything above that. Using this slider you can get a bit more details back in those areas.

Temperature

Want people to be even more jealous of that trip to the sahara? Make your photo’s look a bit warmer. Or want to look extra ‘cool’ while you are skiing? Make the photo a bit colder. You can use this slider to your taste. Maybe an extremely blue photo isn’t your thing, or maybe it is. You can go all out with this one.

Tint

You can only choose between a more purple or more green look with this slider. In combination with the temperature slider this gives you enough options to colour your photos the way you want it. It’s a creative slider, meaning it’s up to your taste how much you use it.

Skin Tone

This is a very subtle slider. It’s mainly to compensate for the tint and temperature sliders. Turning your photo a bit more purple is a creative idea. But it’s less interesting if you end up looking like an alien. With this slider you can slightly compensate for that and looking more like yourself again.

Vignette

It’s a bit of a cliché look, but that’s perfectly fine. Clichés exist because they work. The vignetting on VSCOcam isn’t extreme, so feel free to play around with it to your taste.

Grain

Remember those old black and white photo’s? We easily recognise them because of their grain. It’s basically the dots that build the photo. Old-school pixels. Giving your photo’s a bit more grain will result in an old looking photo. Don’t use too much grain, as this will result in less details.

Fade

This is a popular look these days. It will soften the blacks in your photos. Normally your blacks are, well… black. This tool makes them slightly more grey. You still perceive it as black, but it’s less hard on the eyes. It can help you make your photos more pleasant to look at and give it an analog look. This is another creative slider in VSCOcam, so feel free to use it as much or less as you like.

Shadows and highlights tint

If adding contrast to your photo wasn’t enough, and you need that extra color-contrast. This section is for you. With this option you can add extra colour to your shadows and highlights. You choose the colour and the intensity. My advice is to pick two colours that contrast each other. I usually use yellow in the highlights and blue in the shadows. But it’s all up to you. Want to use green and purple? Go ahead!

Processed with VSCO with preset

This photo:
exposure +1,2
Contrast +2.1
sharpen +2.8
saturation +1,5
highlights +7.7
shadows +2.6
temperature +1.1
tint +3.2
skin tone – 1.7
grain +1.8
fade +3
shadows tint +1 blue
highlights tint +3.5 orange

What edits do you apply to your photos? Let me know in the comments!

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