How I Use VSCO Film 04

How I use VSCO Film 04 and how presets from VSCO (Visual Supply Company) can be a useful in your photo editing toolkit, but is convenience worth the price? 

As I explained in my previous VSCO blog, My Review of VSCO Film 01, these Lightroom presets can be very useful to help your photo editing workflow but definitely come at a cost. I don't feel it would be necessary to rehash that blog since this is going to be a review, but rather how I use these presets and how they have helped my photo editing. If you are looking for a review of the presets, I would suggest giving my previous review a read because not much has changed. 

First a little history, VSCO are the makers of excellent Lightroom, Photoshop, and ACR presets to emulate film styles of yesteryear. I purchased their Film 01 in early 2012 and I can say that most of the presets are very usable and produce satisfactory results, about the only detraction I have is that if you’re going to emulate film then you’re going to have grain and I don’t want grain in my photos. Minor gripe though, because it’s a slider in Lightroom and it’s easy to scroll down and remove any grain. Film 04 is specifically aimed at emulating slide film, so think high contrast and deep, rich colors. I mean when I saw that Fuji’s Velvia 50 was a preset, I was almost sold right there. Velvia 50 is legendary among landscape and nature photographers because of its contrast, low grain, and how incredibly deep the colors were. Back when I used film, I used Velvia 50 & 100 a few times and with those rolls I made some of my favorite film photos.

This particular pack of Lightroom presets is definitely my favorite because its geared more toward landscape photographers, featuring emulations of many classic films that landscape photographers have used in years past (and some still do). Before I get into how I use Film 04, here is a list of the film emulations and their strengths. 

Presets included with VSCO Film 04

  • Fuji Velvia 100- / -- / + / ++ / +++ / Balance Cool / Balance Warm / HC / Landscape
  • Fuji Velvia 100F- / -- / + / ++ / +++ / Balance Cool / Balance Warm / HC / Portrait
  • Kodak E100G- / -- / + / ++ / +++ / Balance Cool / Balance Warm (GX) / HC / Portrait / Vibrant
  • Kodak E100VS- / -- / + / ++ / +++ / Balance Cool / Balance Warm / Balance Warm + / Portrait
  • Kodak E200- / -- / + / ++ / ++ Alt / +++ / Balance Cool / Balance Warm / HC / Portrait / Vibrant
  • Agfa Scala 200- / -- / + / -/+ / + / ++ / Contrast + / ++ / +++
  • Fuji Astia 100F- / -- / + / ++ / Balance Cool / Balance Warm / HC / Portrait
  • Fuji Fortia SP- / -- / + / ++ / +++ / Balance Cool / Balance Warm / Landscape / Portrait
  • Fuji Provia 100F- / -- / + / ++ / +++ / ++++ / Balance Cool / Balance Warm / HC / Portrait
  • Fuji Provia 400X- / -- / + / ++ / +++ / Balance Cool / Balance Warm / HC / HC + / HC ++ / Portrait / Vibrant
  • Fuji Velvia 50- / -- / + / ++ / +++ / Balance Cool / Balance Warm / HC / Landscape / Landscape +

Landscape photographers for years have used, and still use, Fuji Velvia 50 slide film because of its rich colors and very, very little film grain. I also got the chance to use Provia 100F, and Agfa Scala 200 black and white slide film. Both produced excellent results, and you can still pick up rolls of most of these films to this day if you have a hankering to shoot film. A few of my favorites are Fuji Velvia 50-, Velvia 100, and Provia 400x ++. I find myself using these presets more often because their neutral color tone, great contrast, and brilliant colors. Let's take a look at some before and afters. 


As you can see in the above images, the presets by themselves make a significant difference in how the photo is presented. Neither of those two photos are "done", but that is a decent start I would say. Both unprocessed images are straight from the camera, and the only editing was clicking on the appropriate preset in Lightroom. You can see the amount of contrast that comes into play when using these presets, so if you are thinking about using them be mindful of that when capturing the photos. 

Now what happens when I take a previously edited photo and apply one of the presets to it. Here is a before and after of that, the photo on the left is edited the way that I liked and I applied a Fuji Provia 100 preset to the photo and the result is on the right. 

Pretty extreme wouldn't you say? Again you can see the amount of contrast the film emulation adds to the original photo, and the vibrance of the colors is off the charts. I would say it's too much for my tastes, but that isn't to say it is "wrong". Just simply not my style. 

When using the emulations, you have to be careful on how you use them and how much of an effect you are looking to get. In my opinion, if you go too far then the photo begins to look like an oversaturated cartoonish HDR photo, which isn't I use these presets. My last photo is one of my favorite photos, taken in 2013 on a trip to Grand Teton National Park with Rick Louie. We stopped at Lake Marie for a great sunrise and I was pleased with my efforts there, the presets definitely helped bring out the contrast when I was editing after the trip. I don't think this is too extreme, but the contrast was really lacking in my original edit of this photo. 

Do you use any of the VSCO Film packs? I'd love to see your work if you do, please leave a link in the comments or post some images. If you are on the fence about purchasing these packs, I would be happy to answer any questions you might have to help you decide.