Film vs. iPhone | How to Edit Your Pictures Like Film Using VSCO

We’ll dive deep on a few editing tricks you can use to get that film-y look to your mobile images using VSCO.

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Film photography has become increasingly popular as of late, though not surprisingly so. People love the nostalgic feel to the grainy, dusty frames that 35mm film can seamlessly capture. But have you ever wondered what it would be like to compare images from that of an old Canon EOS SLR to an iPhone X? Well, now you can.

After we showcase a few of the compelling contrasts and similarities, we’ll dive deep on a few editing tricks you can use to get that film-y look to your mobile images using VSCO (a fan favorite!). Regardless if you have an iPhone, Pixel, or Galaxy — these tips will apply to you.

Note: 1.) all mobile images are captured on an iPhone X on the camera’s native wide lens, 2.) all film images are captured on a Canon EOS 2000 SLR with Kodak Portra 400 film stock. Only the mobiles images are edited to match the film images, using the tips below.

So, let’s jump in.

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35mm Film

Iphone 06


Overall verdict? It looks like the iPhone captures better detail in the dynamic range than the 35mm film camera. But the 35mm film camera portrays skin tones that are much less mucky and more punchy than the iPhone. The visual comparison also makes it easy to note the differences in contrast: the 35mm film wins... but is that the look people like? It’s a 50/50.

What do you think?



Iphone 07


Film 04


Iphone 04


Editingtips 1

Understanding the Different Presets

VSCO is a fantastic tool to use when you want to achieve that film-like nostalgic vibe. They make various presets that, quite literally, are made to mimic old analog photography filters. There are differences in the types of presets, however, between the App and the ones you use in Lightroom. So before you plug and play, let’s break down what those presets are and how they can help:

VSCO App Presets

There are tons of App presets VSCO so lovingly gifts to mobile photographers and videographers (yup, with VSCO X you can apply those same presets to video!). But which ones will give you the greatest film look? There are a few to choose from below.

A4 - Made to mimic old sepia-tones analogue footage, this preset will heighten any dynamic range you encounter

A5 - Deep blues in the shadows with bright highlights.

A6 - The perfect go-to if you want a minimalistic edit with lots of contrast and deep vibrance.

KP1 - Kodak Portra 160 with creamy highlights and punched blacks.

KP4 - Kodak Portra 400 for perfecting various skin tones.

KP9 - A fun one to add in if you want unique coloring with purples and greens (still mimics the Kodak 100T series.

 VSCO Lightroom Presets

I personally recommend using the Kodak Portra series, as these perfect various skin tones and color corrections. If you’re a film freak, like myself, then I’m sure you already know everything there is to know about these three stocks, but in case you don’t, each number represents the ISO.

Kodak Portra 160 Series - Creamy, warm highlights and purple-ish shadows. A slight hint of green to the highlights and an excellent stock to use for bright light.

Kodak Portra 400 Series - The go-to for an everyday film stock. Deep, warm highlights with sunny brown shadows and a touch of gold.

Kodak Portra 800 Series - This one’s the most grainy, but perfect for darker environments as the ISO has to compensate for low light scenarios.

Film 01


Iphone 01


Editingtips 2

Keep it Simple

Film photography, in its very essence, is as simple as it gets. The art of the image itself comes from crafting a stellar subject. The editing should never take away from the original version of your frame. You want to add, not distract.

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Editingtips 3

Punch the Blacks, Up The Shadows

Unless you’re shooting in low-light scenarios where the shadows are faded, most film photos have punchy blacks (contrary to popular belief). To mimic a more realistic film look, try darkening the blacks and upping the shadows in your VSCO or Lightroom toggles. This portrays enough contrast on screen, but emphasizes clarity so no detail is lost.


iPhone / Film

Editingtips 4

Add Grain

Film pictures are known for their harsh scratches and granular touch. Some people are not a fan of adding grain to digital images, which is fine, but it will help add depth and texture to your picture.

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Happy Editing!

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