VSCO is a popular mobile photo editor app that can be used at no cost but recent reports suggest some free features have now been paywalled. While a subscription unlocks everything in the app as you’d imagine, there have been people using the free features for years, that now get a message “unlock with a VSCO membership” or a similar prompt like from the image above, with no apparent warning these changes were incoming, which seems a bit harsh. Let's have a closer look at what features aren't free anymore and a potential replacement app.

So what features are we talking about exactly? Based on Reddit and Twitter reports (I have a subscription already so can't easily verify this myself), these VSCO app features are no longer free and are only available via a subscription:

  • Sharpen
  • Clarity
  • Grain
  • Split Tone
  • Tone - Highlights/Shadow
  • Copy and paste edits
  • C1 and other presets

That’s a lot! To suddenly move all of those, what were free features and probably more, into subscription only, with no apparent warning, if the reports are correct, kind of sucks. VSCO are obviously entitled to do what is best for their business and perhaps they are trialling these changes, we don’t know, but it’s not the best customer service. Grain adjustments seem like a particularly popular option, now behind a paywall.  

Locked features in VSCO

Should VSCO not just make the app fully subscription-based at this point, rather than an increasingly limited freemium app? Perhaps this move is a stepping stone, in getting rid of free users entirely. VSCO is also a social media app too, which generally you don't expect to have to pay for, so that is another factor. There must be plenty of free users that often edit and post to VSCO, which could now abandon VSCO entirely if they can't rely on the tools that they had access to previously.

What if you don’t want to pay for VSCO, what are the alternatives for photo editing? Snapseed is a great option, like VSCO it’s available on both iOS and Android and comes with plenty of editing features, more than most people would need and it is entirely free! If you are fed up with VSCO, Snapseed is a surprisingly useful option, developed by Google, which is worth knowing. Download links: App Store and Google Play Store.

Editing a photo in Snapseed on iPad, also available on iPhone and Android

Snapseed has 29 Tools and Filters, including by the way "Grainy Film – get modern film looks with realistic grain", which should be a good substitute for the locked VSCO Grain option. I should add I think VSCO is reasonably priced but I understand if people don't want yet another subscription, especially if it's something they had for free previously.  

Featured image from Reddit and middle image from Twitter.

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