VSCO hacks to make your photos pop

Let’s not lie to ourselves. Photo editing is important. So important that a lot of people spend $10 a month on filter packages or VSCO X…for no reason. The thing is, filters don’t fix everything, and you don’t actually need filters to make your photos look professional or trendy. All those random features that you never knew how to use, like skew and shadows? These can make all the difference when it comes to salvaging too dark, too bright, or crooked photos. Here’s what I’ll show you how to do:

  • Fix skew to make horizon line straight/ make you look taller (no one likes those photos taken by moms from too high up where you look both short and fat)
  • How to enhance mediocre sunsets/natural elements like waves and trees
  • Make your photos look retro with grain, tint, and warmth
  • Fix too dark/too light photos
  • Make yourself look more tan
  • How to center photos

Ok, so clearly this would have been a good picture even if I hadn’t edited it. However, the horizon line was completely crooked and the colors and lighting needed more of a pop.

How I manually edited it:

  1. Select “adjust” then move the yellow line to straighten the horizon line. For this image, I went one tic mark to the right.
  2. Skew: I wanted to make Noah look a little taller for a more dramatic appearance. To do this, select “skew” and move the yellow line on the “Y” line to the left. This stretches the image downward, giving the appearance of longer legs and more height. Don’t mess with the X line, that makes pictures look weird and distorted. Your welcome, ladies. Y’all are gonna be editing your photos to look like VS models by the time you’re done reading this.
  3. Contrast: to make the dark and light tones stand out, I increased the contrast by +1.9. I don’t recommend doing this with darker photos, and with contrast, you don’t want too much, because otherwise it looks like it was Instagram edited by a Karen in 2010. In other words, don’t go trigger happy with the contrast, it will look like shit.
  4. Sharpen: I only recommend using this for outdoor, well-lit shots, because it looks TERRIBLE with blurry or indoors pictures. If you’re going for the well-edited travel influencer-esque look, you’d better be using sharpen. It makes the details pop. It works especially well with elements like waves and trees. I increased the sharpen by +9.8 in the photo.
  5. Clarity: +3.6. This can make or break your photo, depending on how much you use. I only used a little bit and it basically enhances the details a little more, similar to sharpen.
  6. White balance: white balance is your BEST FRIEND. This is my favorite feature on the VSCO manual editing. On photos that feel to cold or overcast, increase the temperature and tint to the right so the photo has a warmer (yellow) temperature and a magenta tint. I adjusted by +2.4 temperature and +1.6 tint.
  7. Skin tone: if you want to look tanner as opposed to pink, select ‘skin tone’ and move the dot to the right to make your skin tone more brownish yellow as opposed to weirdly pink. This is a lifesaver when you adjust saturation.

These are just the basics of what VSCO has to offer. I’ve tried out other editing apps like Adobe Photoshop and PicsArt, but nothing feels as easy to use for some reason. Plus, I’m a basic f*cker so I love myself some VSCO. Also, even if you just put filters over the top of your photos and call it good, that doesn’t fix technical issues like brightness or crookedness, which is why it’s important to know how to fix your photo’s technical issues by yourself.


How I edited this photo using VSCO:

  • Exposure -1.8
  • Contrast +1.4
  • Saturation +0.7
  • Highlights +10 (toning down overexposure)
  • Shadows +2
  • White balance tempreature +3.7, tint +0.9
  • grain +3.8
  • Fade +3.9

The essential factors you need to get that faded film look are increased saturation, increased contrasts, fade, and grain. Depending on lighting and coloration, you can mess around with these settings to give your photo a retro ambience.

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