I’ll get the caveats out of the way right away. I’m not the world’s greatest photographer, I’m not the world’s greatest post processor and I’m not the world’s most technical chap either. I sound pretty rubbish really.
But, I am a keen photographer. I know my way around Adobe Lightroom CC well enough for my needs and more importantly, I don’t like creating extra work for myself. That’s why I love Lightroom Presets!
Lightroom presets are like the magic pixie dust that you can throw onto an image with the simple click of a mouse button and give the image a new look, most of the time for the better. It makes your Lightroom workflow so much quicker and if you are clever about it, you can add presets for even the simplest of tasks, just to save you time on the computer so you can spend more time doing the fun bit, taking photos.
VSCO, in case you haven’t heard of them, are a company that are producing tools for creative types that compliment the creative process. Currently Lightroom Presets, ACR Presets, Camera Profiles and a pretty cool iPhone / Android app for your phones and tablets are what the company is producing.
I’ve been following their products for a while but have never taken the plunge to buying their products. Mainly because I’ve worked in monochrome and I didn’t think I’d need all their fancy colour products. However, I’ve started to get into colour photography more, so I thought I’d give their latest product, VSCO Film® 07, a try. As it was on offer too at $89.25, I thought I’d seize the chance.
The VSCO Film® series of presets are designed mainly to emulate, as the name implies, different films that have been available over the years.
So as I said at the start of this post, I’m not the most technical whiz in the world, so first of all I’m going to post a selection of examples of the same image with the different presets applied and then I’ll tell you what I think of the product.
So first of all, the original image as a reference. It’s the Big Band Fly Squatter I took while I was in Harrogate. Taken with my Fuji X100s in raw, imported into Lightroom CC and exported to jpg with only a minor adjustment to slightly burning out highlights.
A colourful image with lots of shadows and highlights. I’ll tell you why I chose this image later on. So next comes three of the colour presets and three of the monochrome presets. First the colour ones:
This is the Kodak Ektachrome 64 preset. You can see the punchier colours and more contrast than the original image.
Next comes AGFA Optima 100 II. Similar to the Kodak Ektachrome 64 version in terms of contrast but you can see the difference in the reds on the man’s tunic.
The third colour version is Fujifilm Sensia 100. This is actually a film I used when I first got into photography before digital photography (thankfully) took over. Again, the contrast is there, like the previous two, but the colour saturation probably isn’t quite as much as the Ektachrome 64 version.
So now onto the Monochrome versions. I love monochrome images and as I said, up until recently I have been producing monochrome images pretty much all the time and I have my own Lightroom Preset that I call Punchy Black and White which I use most of the time. Download it if you want it, free stuff is always good. So let’s see how these compare.
This is the Ilford Pan F Plus 50 preset. You can see the shadows are quite dark so I’m losing a bit in the man’s face.
Next comes Kodak Plus X 125. A subtle difference to the Ilford version, the shadows are a little less harsh and you can see the different treatment to reds by comparing the man’s tunic with the Ilford version.
Lastly, for this post, Kodak Tri X 320. Quite similar in fact to the Ilford version, the reds and shadows get a similar treatment.
There are lots more presets available with this 07 set, but the ones I have selected probably show the biggest difference from the original image.
So what do I think about them? Are they worth the money? Let me answer that in two parts.
I like what VSCO have done with these presets. You can see that the results are subtle, and I think that’s the key word, subtle. These aren’t wild and crazy effects that will totally transform the image, these are subtle enhancements that will give a good image that final nudge, the icing on the cake if you like.
I think the important bit to remember here is that they won’t turn a bad image into a great image, which might be why you are looking at my examples and thinking “meh”. I chose this image to try it out on because it’s what a lot of my images are like from my Street Photography and it was a colourful and contrasty image to start with. I don’t, at the moment, take the more fine art or studio lit shots where I think these presets will have a bigger impact. So that brings me onto the second question…
Are they worth the money? Well, for me, right now, I probably didn’t need them, however I do like the Fujifilm Sensia 100 preset and will use that one more. I’m starting to try out colour photography more now so the chances are they will become useful and getting them now while they are on offer will save me a few quid. I’m actually writing this post from Spain as I’m away on my holidays, so the Sensia and Ektachrome presets will probably be useful as I’m heading off to Seville in the next few days to explore the streets, the colours and the architecture.
If you are interested in the VSCO presets, my tip would be to look at the example images they use to advertise their products. I think specific presets will work better on different styles of images so if your photography is similar to those examples, then the VSCO Film® presets will definitely compliment your work and will be a worthwhile investment. Just expect the changes to be subtle and don’t think that they can be used to polish a turd. A nice closing statement don’t you think?