When To Use VSCO Film

This photo gallery was originally published on Central Track (Click To View)

Visual Supply Co or VSCO filters/film emulators, however you'd like to describe them, are extremely popular and it's easy to see why. Once one of the packs is loaded into your Lightroom application you can edit your photos with a single click. It's absurdly easy to put a significantly dramatic effect on your photos and there are so many you can still remain some sense of individuality from all the other VSCO users with your end result. 

I'm just not a fan of them, though. It's hard for me to understand why we invest in such advanced equipment that can produce stunning high resolution photos but we're obsessed with degrading our photos with a look vintage or manipulating tones so harshly that the photo falls out of any realm of photojournalism. 

With that said, I just so happened to rely heavily on this quick and convenient trick this week. I was covering Action Bronson's headlining set at the House of Blues for Central Track Monday night and I experienced every photographer's worst nightmare: ugly, harsh lighting. The first two songs Bronson was covered in red lights, but even more frustrating was that there was very little key lighting on his face so a lot of my shots had somewhat of a silhouette look. The last song that I was allowed to shoot was a cartoonish blend of green and blue with the same lack of key lighting. As I was shooting I knew these colors were going to be difficult to process and pretty much knew after the second song I would be converting all of these shots to black and white even it's not something I like to do. Converting photos to black and white, to me, is a signal that I've lost control of the colors and tones in the photos. 

But, considering I was on a deadline I had little recourse so I decided to see if I could use one of the famed VSCO film emulators to rescue me. Lo and behold, I found a really great emulator called Kodak T-Max 3200. I just the amount of grain to zero and tweaked the shadows a bit and was able to walk away with some pretty clean photos that I'm pretty happy with. Part of my review of the concert was how captivating he is as a performer by himself on stage as opposed to a lot of rappers who act like they have stage fright and need at least 15 friends on stage with them as some sort of security blanket. The black and white really emphasized his solitude on stage, helping to tell the story. 

So when it comes to using VSCO products, I'm not a fan of people slapping them on every photo they take as some sort of short cut for  creating rich, dramatic photos but I can now fully understand the usefulness of this tool in the repertoire.