Have you seen links to a website called “vsco.co” in your kid’s Instagram profile or that of their friends? If not you might soon and you’ll be like me, wondering, what the heck is VSCO? As is my nature, I immediately clicked the links, visited the website and downloaded VSCO to see what this photo app is all about.
VSCO, also called VSCO Cam, is a photography app where you can create an account and upload or take photos, edit and add filters, and share them with other VSCO users or on other social media sites. The app was launched in 2012 by Visual Supply Company. They also sell presets (collections of filters for editing) for use in photo editing software programs.
Is VSCO an Instagram replacement?
Probably not. A key difference between VSCO and Instagram is that there is limited social interaction. There are no “likes”, there is no commenting on photos. VSCO seems to have a reputation for more “serious” photography enthusiasts. The emphasis is on great looking photos and not how many likes or comments you can get. This is even part of the app description: “Because beautiful imagery trumps social clout, the number of followers, comments, and likes are absent from the platform”.
And that might be a reason that teens are starting to use VSCO. Since my daughter uses this app I asked her what would make her want to share a photo to VSCO and not Instagram. She mentioned that on VSCO, not as many people she knows will see it – perhaps giving her a bit more freedom to experiment with her photos, without judgement.
While there is no direction interaction within the app, you can easily share a photo from VSCO to other networks for that social commentary. This can be done directly from the app using the app’s sharing options. Or you can save the photo from VSCO to your phone’s photo library, then upload it to Instagram or anywhere else. You can easily share someone else’s photo too – not just your own. I actually did this by mistake – oops – and the originator of that photo did receive a notification (yep, my daughter). Some use the app just to edit and use the filters, then share to other social networks such as Instagram. This was readily observed during an Instagram search for the hashtag #vsco – 72,817,000 posts! And 109,909,984 tagged with #vscocam.
Privacy features on VSCO
I did not find a way to make a profile private. Anyone can follow you if they happen upon one of your photos. How might they happen upon one of your photos or your profile? As noted earlier many teens are posting their VSCO profile link directly in their Instagram profile area. Profile links will use the pattern myusername.vsco.co.
From within the app itself, there is an “Explore” feature where you can view photos from random users, or search by name or username.
One privacy feature worth noting, is that you can choose not to include location data within images, either for pictures you capture with the app, or those that you import or export.
- Click this little circular icon at the bottom which takes you to the settings.
- Select “Privacy”.
- Then make sure that the PRIVACY page looks like this (all the options are deselected):
Otherwise anyone who stumbles upon your photo will be able to see where the photo was taken. I always suggest limiting location sharing to only those who need to know.
When creating a VSCO profile, you’ll be asked to enter a Username, Description, External Link, First and Last name, and e-mail address. Only the username and e-mail are required. The username will be seen by others in the app so if you don’t want your real name out there and don’t want to be found if someone searches you by name, don’t include it in your profile.
With their history of presets for serious photographers, there are some serious photo editing tools within this app (although not entirely intuitive if you ask me!) Some preset filters are available for free and others are available for purchasing, from $2.99 to $6.99.
And now there’s DSCO by VSCO
VSCO unveiled a companion app, DSCO, back in October. This one is used to create animated GIFs from short videos. It’s pretty basic, you just take a short video, it is converted into a looping GIF, and then you can upload it to your VSCO grid.
Okay for teens who want to take a break from being too social
VSCO is rated 12+ in the app store, and the Terms state that anyone under the age of 13 is prohibited from using the service. Those over 13 who are willing to take the time to learn a confusing interface may have fun taking and editing photos without the anxiety that may come from wondering if they’ll receive enough likes. And many will use the app to edit and use the filters, then share to another social network such as Instagram. So, if your teen is using VSCO just be aware that any photo on VSCO has the potential to go public.