3 Top Tips For Editing Photos With VSCO

I’ve been using VSCO to edit my photos for about three years now having initially bought the Photoshop plugin packages (much cheaper now!) for my laptop and then realising there was a free and completely amazing phone app

And I’m not the only one. Practically anyone whose photos I admire on Instagram uses VSCO. And it’s kind of been the unsung hero of the editing process in the Insta-world. Not only providing amazing tools and filters within a great workspace but initially being the grid everyone used to preview their Instagram page.

VSCO Recently

Recent changes, this year and last, disbanding the grid upset a lot of users and me too, initially. But I totally got it (why should VSCO just be a support platform for Instagram?) and instead embraced the published page in its new one non-square photo at a time format and continued to upload my finished work. Which paid off as my photos have been occasionally selected for VSCO Search Results and VSCO Selects (where they appear in the main VSCO feed) which is a fantastic feeling!

The recent update – which again has upset some with its now non-grid editing space, but not others; including a couple of my fave big Instagrammers @me_and_orla and @danrubin both big VSCO users – bizarrely coincided with a personal phone disaster. In Applecross two weekends ago I dropped my iPhone for the nth time, the impact first cracking the screen and then killing the actual functionality. Luckily I have full insurance and managed at great pains (with no wifi or phone reception or phone!) to arrange for a replacement to arrive on our turnaround day in London before heading to the Maldives. Which worked out fine until I discovered that evening the replacement was faulty and practically cried as it crashed and gave up the ghost stuck in a hideous Apple logo going nowhere re-boot loop. (Yes, I may have stayed up til 4am the night before our flight trying to fix it, sob).

Travel/Work Disaster

So in an absolute headmess, I left for the Maldives with no super fast 128GB iPhone 6 but instead my old 16GB cracked screen mini iPad on which to do all my photo editing and social for the next week.

Now whether it was the coincidental update or just small memory of my iPad, the updated VSCO app barely worked. It kept crashing and freezing mid-edit and saving working was taking minutes as oppose to seconds. My productivity for social was agonising, slow and painful. Not great when travelling with child and jetlag and having a certain amount of social to produce per day.

Quite quickly I looked around for some alternative apps that I could edit with. I thought it would be simple. Until I’d tried about four, hated the interfaces and processes and was failing miserably to get the results I wanted.

With help from the VSCO tech team (thank you Kyle!) I managed to alleviate the speed problems – basically the app needs quite a lot of memory to work well – and I battled on through. Fast forward to home and a brand new working iPhone 6 with VSCO working a dream and my love affair well and truly cemented echoing that age old adage that you often don’t know how much you love/need/rely on something until it’s gone.


So without further ado (apologies for this essay-length introduction!) here are my top 3 tips for editing with VSCO:


By which I mean in order to produce images that have coherency with one another and hang together well and create you own personal style, settle on the way you like to edit. Make the big decisions – super colourful & saturated or desaturate & faded, light & breezy or dark & moody – then start to figure out the steps to take you there. I like my photos desaturated but with enough contrast to look interesting.

So to compensate for desaturation I will up the contrast, clarity and sharpness. Or if the photo looks too shiny and perfect I will add a bit of grain and/or fade.


Very rarely, by which I mean never, do I use a tool or filter to its full effect. Most tools – exposure, contrast, clarity, sharpness, grain & fade – I’ll only ever use between 1-3 stops. If I’m trying to soften highlights in a picture I might go up to 6 or 7. I use a filter from the minimal J series though, so can often afford to be in the 6-9 region. But then it always depends on the photo. Case by case situation, each photo needs to be addressed on its own merits… (it’s a moral philosophy thing really ;))


I mean, you can, and I often do but only as a start point. Every photo is different and while some can totally handle 9 stops of filter and 3 stops of grain and still conform to your aesthetic, another will be totally ruined by this. Of course, do use the copy & paste function (just select the photos and tap the three button menu to apply edits to all) for a series of photos taken in the same conditions but I would always click and check it looks all right!

And it only takes a few seconds to publish your picture to your VSCO images page and share to the community – the way it works is people follow you and re-publish your credited & linked photo to their collection if they like it!

And I very occasionally use apps outside of VSCO but I’ll save that for another post! Hope you enjoyed this post (apologies for the lengthy intro!) and do let me know if you’d like more posts on editing like this?

Addendum – How I Also Edit In Camera

I should also mention that with the new Olympus Pen F, with which I am completely obsessed (best camera I ever owned) I am able to start my editing process there with the completely new (and unique to the F in my knowledge) colour control wheel where you can adjust the strength of colours and save your preferences to a  custom setting. This means I don’t need to edit as much in-phone. I will do a separate post on this to show you how it works!


Discover VSCO on Instagram @vsco and with hashtags #vsco #vscocam #vscogrid #vscojournal #vscoselects 

Follow my VSCO page here at vsco.co/stylonylon

Ps. Just discovered that you pronounce it ‘VISCO’ rather than spelling out the letters which what I’ve always done!

Leave a Comment


  1. Great tips and a great read! I’ve been putting off getting to grips with vsco but this has given me the inspiration I need!

    1. Ah so glad! It’s really a fantastic app, definitely the best out there. It takes a little getting used to how to control but you will love it 🙂

  2. Thanks for the tips! I just started using VSCO about 5 months ago when I got my E-PL7 and I’ve really been enjoying the subtle nature of it. A question; what type of lighting do you do your editing in? I find I’m editing in the evening, when the kids have gone to bed, in dimmer light. The next day when I scroll through my feed I realize that, perhaps, I brightened things too much. Or vice versa with day to night. Also, I would love to see a post with more of your thoughts on curation and finding your “theme”. I seem to bounce around between moody coffee shots, blazing sunsets and happy flowers! 🙂

    1. Hmm, I think I’ve got accustomed to editing in different lights – I hope haha! But yes daylight is best. I often edit differently for Instagram (ie. Phone screen) than laptop – a bit more extreme for Instagram to stand out more… Ah yes, I actually write a piece a couple of months ago about my struggles with finding my theme, I love variety, maybe a bit of a ramble! Called My Instagram Journey, in More Reads below, but could do something more focussed! But Def discusses what to mention 🙂

  3. Having admired your photographs so much, I have often wondered about your editing process and what you do to achieve your signature look, which I think of as “desaturated-but-with-dreamlike-clarity.” I’m really looking forward to notes on how you use the Pen F to achieve this, too.

  4. Many many thanks for sharing such a valuable tips about photo editing with VASCO. I personally love taking photos and posting them online. With VSCO, you get just that. This photo editing app was perfect for touching up my photos. This was able to take basic photos and make them look almost professional.

  5. Thanks for taking the time to explain things in such great detail in a way that is easy to understand.

  6. Thank you for the amazing tips! Personally, I’ve always found it difficult to use VSCO. I guess it takes some time to completely master? Are the any alternative apps that you would recommend? Perhaps one that is easier to navigate? I did try searching through alternatives.co for a suitable option, but VSCO has always been on the top of their list.

    1. Glad of use! But yes VSCO is not amazingly intuitive to use, I agree. It does take some getting use to. Am sure there are some You Tube vids that will take you through the basics – worth it once you get to know it! Or maybe I can put together a post on that 😉

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