BEHIND THE SCENES

Inside VSCO’s Imaging Lab

How VSCO brings analog authenticity to your digital shots.

VSCO: Photo & Video Editor

Where expression matters most

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At VSCOs headquarters in Oakland, California, there’s a laboratory with some decidedly analog gear: a refrigerator full of film canisters, a wet lab for photo processing, and a black room for collecting spectral data. But the purpose of it all is unabashedly cutting-edge. It’s where the company’s color scientists and imaging specialists begin the painstaking process of replicating the look of old-school camera film.

A few of the 100-plus rolls of vintage film in the refrigerator awaiting film modeling.

Among discerning digital photographers, VSCO is known for its robust library of arty filters (called presets in the app)—and for good reason: Many of its most popular come out of VSCO’s art-meets-tech-film-emulation project, where the goal is to re-create the look of the film stock on mobile devices.

It needs to be a literal digital replica of when it was manufactured. If we don’t feel good about it, we won’t release it.

—Zach Hodges, color scientist

“I feel a bit like we’re historians,” says Zach Hodges, a staff color scientist who was one of the first employees after the company’s founding in 2011. His colleague Rohit Patil agrees. “There’s definitely an aspect to this that’s about trying to keep it from disappearing,” says Patil.


The still-life subjects for VSCO’s reference shots burst with color and texture.

The digital preservation process starts in the refrigerator. That’s where more than 100 types of decades-old film are stored until the color and image scientists are ready to begin modeling. Some of the film rolls are still being manufactured, but others date back to the ’90s and have been out of production for years.

    VSCO: Photo & Video Editor

    Where expression matters most

    VIEW