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Mars Effect: Download the new Nike Sportswear x VSCO filter

Image by Wells Baum

The new Nike Sportswear x VSCO filter dropped while I was on vacation last week in the Dominican Republic. It paints a Mars-like effect on your photos. This is how VSCO describes it on its blog:

“the preset creates a bold, duotone look using strong black and red hues. The tonal range of each image is remapped to these two colors, resembling the innovative look and expressive style of Nike Tech Pack.”

As I typically do with every new preset release, I go back and try it on recent photos to see what works. Portraits and scripture seemed to work out best. Here are some of the ones that came out.

Processed with VSCO with tech preset
Processed with VSCO with tech preset
Processed with VSCO with tech preset
Processed with VSCO with tech preset

Nike has sponsored a VSCOCam filter before with the NikeLab ACG x VSCO. It also featured a dark aesthetic.

I love creative accidents. I originally applied the Nike Sportswear preset on this image and the changed it to preset X5 but the sky retained some of the red and black from the Nike preset.

You can see a bunch more pictures from the trip on the VSCO Grid and on Instagram (@bombtune).

Filters are kind of dead

I stopped using Instagram filters almost two years ago. You don’t need them. The snap should be able to speak for itself, in its raw untouched nature.

But I do believe that some images still need a little pop. And that’s when you should use the VSCO app, Litely, or Snapseed, whichever apps enable you to adjust the strength of filters without making the photo look fake.

The newswire photographers such as David Guttenfelder, who documents North Korea and other parts of Asia, never use filters. Images that show up in newspapers aren’t even allowed to be retouched.

AP pictures must always tell the truth. We do not alter or digitally manipulate the content of a photograph in any way.

The best filter is none at all. I guess this is why #nofilter or natural is the most popular on Instagram, although it’s the second most engaging.

Word of Caution:. Using filters outside Instagram doesn’t permit you to use the #nofilter hashtag. You will get called out. Oh, and stay away from borders too since that’s said and done.

Instagram blew up because of its iconic filters. People used filters to call out that they were on Instagram. But those days are over. Instagram is less about filters and more about context and a carefully edited aesthetic. The challenge for any mobile photographer today is leveraging filters while retaining the authenticity of the photo. Still, the best filter may be none at all.

Avoid turning pictures into paintings

A strange phenomenon has overtaken the web’s social images. Many of the images are so over-filtered they look like paintings rather than pictures.

It’s one thing to add a filter to make an image pop. VSCO is actually the best tool for this since it allows you to scale your filter strength. It’s another thing to add so much extra color to your image it looks like watercolor. Don’t do that.

Try to keep your images honest. Pictures should look like pictures.

You already have a huge advantage with your camera in your pocket and editing apps to make you look like a pro. The challenge today is balancing that storytelling with slight filter augmentation without making the images look too fake. Ideally, no one should be able to tell if you used a filter or not.

Gamifying Photo Filters

Taking pictures and adding the best filter is a game in itself, awarded in the end by the number of likes and comments.

This is even more true with the VSCO app, which allows you to adjust the strength of the filter. The game is to try to produce something slightly filtered to give it that VSCO touch but maintain the image’s unfiltered authenticity.

The Filter Game
1. Snap a picture
2. Apply filter
3. Earn points through likes and comments

Filters can augment and destroy photos. Establishing the right balance in post production is the game in itself.

Who’s got some photos for me to play with?

Is VSCO Cam the next Instagram?

Image by Wells Baum :: preset D2

“VSCO is the company coming closest to replicating the look of film without making it gimmicky.” — The Verge

VSCO could be the next Instagram, but that’s not the point. Says photographer Theron Humphrey, they’re not building next billion dollar social network, but the next app that truly moves the state of photography forward.”

In other words, VSCO is teaching a way of seeing.

Filters

Digital information is hyper-abundant. We all need a way to filter out the irrelevant and subscribe only the content that appeals to us.

The genius of Twitter and RSS feeds is that we choose from the people and sources we want to hear from. Information suck is a big deal; hence why millions of people are searching for a viable alternative to Google Reader

People want to remain informed. It’s what Seth Godin refers to as permission marketing, except social media is a faster version of email as a way to receive mass marketing messages.

Filtering information is just like filtering coffee. Coffee isn’t potable until you first grind the beans and then filter out the ground beans with hot water. We can only consume that which is usable.

Reading is a personal experience. I can’t imagine picking up a newspaper today just to find the two or three interesting articles; not to mention having to wash my hands after all that print.

The news that’s fit to print today is one that’s all digital and highly filterable.

Normalize Removes Grungy Filters From Photos

Normalize un-instagrams your photos.

I’ve recently taken it upon myself to take and share more unfiltered photos on Flickr since filtered photos seem to be the norm.

Instagram is still one of my favorite apps but it makes photography too easy.  Authentic photography is a real challenge since timing, lighting, and focus are all variables.  Plus, there’s nothing more satisfying that getting that perfect, unadulterated shot.

I thank Instagram for training my eye to appreciate my surroundings.  Sometimes I’d just rather be lucky.  #nofilter.

The right is raw.