4 Simple Editing Tips | VSCO + Afterlight

Photographer Natalie Allen offers 4 simple tips to editing in VSCO and Afterlight.

Iso Sunny 11

Writer and photographer, Natalie Allen, shares 4 simple tips + tricks to better your mobile photography game in her editing apps of choice: VSCO and Afterlight. With exquisite colors and dynamic tools, both of these mobile applications can not only give you various filters and presets that excel in tone, but can also go deep into the editing process like that of Lightroom or Photoshop.

There is by no means one right or wrong way to edit, these tips come from Natalie’s personal tastes and preferences.

Find 3-5 Filters That You Love

Whatever kinds of presets or filters you like to use, select no more than five to bounce back and forth when editing a series of photographs. Not that you want every image to be a direct clone of one another, but when editing a full session using a handful of the same presets will give your images a consistent underlying look and feel. After selecting a preset of choice you can adjust the brightness, HSL, saturation, and contrast according to each picture’s composition and lighting.

Once you discover a formula that works, stick with it. Natalie personally digs KP9, A6, and AL5 in VSCO and Fable or Clover in Afterlight.

Keep It Simple

Adjust what you think is absolutely necessary, but don’t go too crazy. Only editing the parts of a photograph needed to improve it from its original version is a key ingredient to an organized editing workflow. Brighten the exposure, deepen the contrast, and play with the white balance for subtle changes that make your images pop. Natalie loves when her photography feels timeless, organic, and natural – explicitly simple by character.

Adjust Skin Tone

One of the greatest tools in VSCO’s editing app is the ability to adjust skin tone. Sliding the intensity level to the left produces more reddish skin hues, while sliding the lever to the right gives it the skin an orange/yellow aftertaste. This very simple, yet highly effective feature is complementary to a diverse palette of skin tones. You can see in Natalie’s portrait of Andrew Kearns that VSCO’s skin tone tool was levered a smidge to the right, resulting in a fresh coat of sun-kissed tanness.

Go Deep, Adjust Curves

Although VSCO’s simplistic interface is what makes their editing tools so unique and reliable, there is one feature it doesn’t give its users: curves. In the Curves adjustment, you adjust points throughout an image's tonal range. Initially, the image's tonality is represented as a straight diagonal line on a graph. This single tool is one of the most powerful commands you have in any digital darkroom – Afterlight definitely won our hearts with this one.

As you can see in the video, Natalie had a hard time adjusting one image in particular. When you have images that require an extra bit of help (like an overexposed shot during a sunny surf day!), it’s recommended to use the curves tool in Afterlight. Simply adjusting the curve line into an “S” for underexposed images or a “reserved S” for overexposed images. In the video example, you can see Natalie adjusting her curves into a “reversed S” to bring down the exposure without losing too much detail in the shadows.  These subtle tonal changes can be immense help with your mobile photos.

VSCO and Afterlight provide wonderful tools and resources for any mobile creative. By having excellent filters that mimic the nostalgic feel to film (Natalie’s favorite!) and impressive darkroom capabilities, like curves, you can most certainly step up your mobile photography game.

Be sure to watch the full video for further explanation and visual resources.

Are you on the list? You don’t want to miss our weekly email with fresh, inspiring content.