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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.