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VSCO: Like Instagram, But More Pretentious

Kelly Duggan 0

“So…is it like Instagram?”

This is the first thing most people ask about VSCO, the trendy new app for creative photography. Admittedly, I first downloaded VSCO because it’s where girls my age post gossip-fueled iMessage screenshots and pictures of their outfits. The app can be used for social purposes in this aspect, but otherwise VSCO is more about creativity than it is about social media.

For a first-time user, the whole concept can be pretty confusing; while a user can have followers, there’s no way to like or leave comments on someone’s pictures. Where’s the validation in that?! Users can get an ego boost when someone reposts a picture from their “grid” (where you upload photos) to their “collection” (where users repost other users’ photos).

A sample of my trendy VSCO grid.
A sample of my trendy VSCO grid.

Besides that small social reassurance, VSCO is about building your brand. A user’s grid is all about aesthetic. Users curate their grid as a means of self-expression; it’s a compilation of personal photography, images taken from the web, screenshots of meaningful quotes or lyrics, and anything else you can upload as an image file.

Additionally, VSCO’s photo editor and unique filters provide a way to stylize your library. According to this article from Liisten, VSCO’s CEO and co-founder Joel Flory thinks of the app as an “ever-changing art gallery, not a social network”. Compared to Instagram’s Explore page, Like button, and follower counts, VSCO is just that: a gallery.

The app also has something like a blogging feature. Users can post an image to their “journal” and write about it. These posts can be public or private, but staying public may be a helpful tool for artists and organizations who use VSCO for branding purposes. VSCO’s own profile is a good example of how to interact with an audience without standard social media features.

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VSCO’s Journal feature being used for an important cause.

So, VSCO is kind of like Instagram’s quiet, judgmental older brother who went to art school for two years and came back with a non-ironic mustache—but in a good way. There’s a need for platforms that let users express themselves creatively, without all the noise of social media response.

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