VSCO Film - My Submission to the Cool Tools Blog / by Andy Oliver

I wrote the bit below and submitted it to the Cool Tools blog. Let's see if they accept it...

The coolest tool I use right now is VSCO Film for Adobe Lightroom. VSCO Film, pronounced VISS-co, is a set of plugins for Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw that apply preset adjustments to your digital images, making them look like they were captured on film. But beyond simply being a bundle of retro-looking filters, the likes of which are widely available, VSCO put a great deal of effort into modeling specific film stocks precisely and delicately, down to accommodating how the presets would interact differently with the raw images from various camera manufacturers!

That sounds nice, but here's why VSCO Film warrants the formal appellation of "Cool Tool":

As you have no doubt noticed, retro is in: analog synthesizers, music on vinyl, the Dodge Challenger. This all makes the nostalgic pull of film hard to resist.

However, I don't eat meat and I try to limit my impact on animals. Unfortunately, no one has managed to come up with a substitute for the gelatin used to suspend the silver halide crystals as they are applied to film and photo paper. Admittedly it is impossible to live a life with zero impact on animals. But when there is a clear, viable vegan option in digital, I pretty much have no choice.

Aside from that, the limitations that film imposes can be onerous—though they can, at times, provide a creative boost. For example, what do you do when evening falls, but your camera is still full of slow 100 speed film? In the old days photographers would carry around several (expensive and heavy) camera bodies pre-loaded with different types of film. With digital it's a non-issue.

VSCO Film for Lightroom is my cool tool because it lets me get the feel of film (even a bit of randomness and unpredictability) with the flexibility of a digital camera. In fact, perhaps because I started in film, I follow a workflow in which I take a bundle of shots and apply a suitable film preset during import. This is not unlike selecting your film based on the conditions of your shoot. And for that extra touch of authenticity, I usually select the appropriate film simulation based on the sensitivity (ISO) that the picture was taken at. VSCO even have push-processed films that can match the atmosphere of a photo taken and processed under the film equivalent of a high ISO sensor setting. Once the photos are imported, it’s almost like I sent the film out to get developed and scanned.

Pretty much all of the pictures on my portfolio were developed with Lightroom and VSCO Film. I use minimal processing similar to what one would do in an old fashioned darkroom and let the camera and film simulation do their thing.

Andy Oliver

PS - For the mobile photographers out there, VSCO also has a product called VSCO Cam that provides a lot of the same feel for your cellphone.