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VSCO and Snapseed - how and why to use these apps

Welcome back! I've missed you!

OK, really it was me that disappeared there for a little while. I over-estimated my ability to blog and podcast while traveling. My travel schedule has calmed down a bit so I am back, full speed ahead. And I want to jump into a series about free phone apps I love to use for my social media posts!

Today we will talk about VSCO and Snapseed. Both of these are photo editing apps that can make the photos you take look better. They are not photoshop and won't change the content of the image (those will come later!) but instead just brighten or straighten or adjust colors for photos you have taken. If you have been around Instagram a long time, you may have heard of both of these, but I want to give you some examples of what they do and also my suggestions on how to use them best.

VSCO is a very very very (did I say very?) popular app for many of the Instagram lifestyle influencers. These are the people who make money just by showing how fabulous their life is on Instagram. Like the Kardashians. They post photos of themselves and their amazing lives and they use VSCO to make sure the whole Instagram feed has the same feel across all the images. For example, if you look at this woman's Instagram feed, every photo has the same soft feel. That's a VSCO preset. (What's a preset? You are about to find out!)

Let's jump into VSCO with one of my photos.

I'm not usually this healthy! But I'm trying to change my ways. This was a Whole30 food haul!

This is a photo I took yesterday. I upload it into VSCO and choose to edit it and I have some choices. First I see some filter presets. These are templates that have been created that may not only tint the image slightly, but also may include higher/lower contrast, brightness, etc.

Then I have some editing choices as well, like exposure, contrast, adjust, etc...

I brought the clarity way to the right, which sharpened this image immensely. I then brought the colors to the highest saturation.

I can also control the color tints manually.

Image editing!
They are starting to look a little cartoonish...

Some features require a paid account (very normal for photo-editing apps).

Probably the best thing about VSCO is that I can save one recipe (private preset) for free, but to get more, I must get the monthly membership.

My final masterpiece!

Let's compare with Snapseed. The opening screen looks the similar, with some presets only minimally editing the image. There don't appear to be as many presets, but they are all free and at the far right is an option to save my own "looks" (presets). All free. And I can have multiple private presets.

The editing menu is extensive (and all free).

I dove into some of the editing tools and tried to loosely replicate what I did via the VSCO example.

Additionally, I added a border -- something I could not do with the free version of VSCO.

My final masterpiece!

Both of these tools are great, but I do want to tell you why I have both when they do very similar things.

First, there is no shame in my game...I will use multiple tools on the same image to get what I want from both. For example, If I liked the way VSCO did presets but I wanted a border, I would use both tools and come out with my ideal example. You will see what I mean in future posts in this series as I build the amount of tools I review.

But, the truth is that for artists, often we don't want to change the colors or tone of the photos, and that is what VSCO does best. If you are a sculptor or a jewelry artist who works in monotones, maybe you would want to set up a preset that allows your feed to be as similar in tone to the Instagram lifestyle influencer that I linked above, but if the exact colors of your artwork are key to the piece, I think Snapseed is the best choice. That isn't to say that you shouldn't consider using VSCO as well, but since I normally start with Snapseed when editing a photo of a painting, this will be the one I will demonstrate.

First, try to take the photo in good lighting. Many artists know they should try to take the photo in indirect lighting, like in a shady spot on a sunny day. The better the lighting, the less you have to fix. Also try to take the photo as squarely as possible (or if your subject isn't a square/rectangle, try to take it as close to the aspect you want to show it in as possible). Sometimes both good lighting and good angles are not available. We can deal with them in Snapseed.

Convergence - fine art pour painting
This is one of my newer pieces. I call it Convergence.

Next, I look at the piece and decide if I need to brighten it up or change the white balance. Taking photos indoors and with different lighting fixtures may turn the whites a little yellow, so you can clear that up in the tools menu. In this case I needed neither, so my next step is to crop the photo just a bit to get rid of excess content. I want to leave a little border around the photo so I have room to work with, but if I leave too much excessive space around my photo, the grid lines for my next step have too much leeway between them.

Next, I choose the perspective tool and I choose the "Free" option. This allows me to pull the corners of my painting up or down, left or right, to straighten it and square it up. This is where the grid lines come in to help me to get everything straight.

And again I crop. Now that it is squared, I can crop down to the edges and eliminate the background. This will be great for entering it into shows or adding it into other tools I will demonstrate in the future.

Then I choose the "Looks" (presets). Usually I choose between either "Pop" or "Portrait". Pop is my go-to but it can sharpen things too much, emphasizing the glare on shiny things (like glass) or showing too much detail in brush strokes that would not be visible to the naked eye. In those cases, I choose Portrait. If when photographing jewelry against a black background, you see specks in the photo (which is almost always in those cases!) you might choose the "Smooth" option which will brighten the colors and effectively erase the specks in the black background. I could choose "Accentuate" if it does't change the colors. In this case, Pop worked beautifully.

And that's it! Next time I will show you some tools I use next in creating eye-catching and fun Instagram and Facebook posts! These images can be used for Pinterest, email marketing or your website as well!

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