In this article, we offer an in-depth comparison of these two programs. We look at the benefits of Lightroom, we look at the benefits of VSCO, and we compare the apps on:
- Ease of use
- Editing features
- And more!
By the time you’re done reading, you’ll know which app is right for your needs, and you’ll be ready to start creating stunning edits!
Let’s dive right in.
Lightroom vs VSCO: Overview
VSCO defines itself as a “creative channel” that gives you the tools and space to express yourself. As you can probably guess, it prioritizes social and community functions (though, as you’ll see, it offers plenty of photo editing capabilities, too!).
Lightroom, on the other hand, is a “cloud-based service that gives you everything you need to create, edit, organize, store, and share your photos.” In other words, Lightroom’s main goal is to provide you with tools to improve your images. It does have a social component, which Adobe has developed further in the latest updates, but the primary focus is on image editing.
Both apps can only be used with an account, though Adobe and VSCO do offer limited free versions. They’re also both available for Android and iOS devices, though only Lightroom has a desktop version. Lightroom supports RAW formats, and VSCO does, too – but only on iOS devices. VSCO does support video, however, while Lightroom does not.
Let’s take a more detailed look:
Lightroom vs VSCO: Ease of use
Overall, both Lightroom and VSCO are user-friendly and feature a short learning curve, though Lightroom does have more tools, some of which are rather advanced.
VSCO opens in the Studio section. Here, you’ll find your imported photos, and you can always add more by tapping on the Plus icon. The toolbar offers easy access to your Feed, the Search tool, your Profile, and your Membership.
Tap on an image, and you’ll open a menu; this allows you to create a montage, apply a recipe (VSCO’s term for preset), or open the editing tools. All the editing tools work with sliders and have a live preview so you can see how you’re modifying your image in real time.
Lightroom opens in the Library panel. Here, you’ll find all your imported images, which you can organize into different albums. You’ll find three tabs in the toolbar: Shared is where you can see the items you’ve shared, Learn is where you can access the multiple tutorials, and Discover brings you to the community feed.
To open Lightroom’s editing tools, tap on a photo in the Library panel, and the tool menu will instantly appear at the bottom of the screen. Most of the editing tools feature sliders, though some of the more advanced adjustments use graphs or color wheels – and for a few tools, you need to apply changes selectively using a pen or your finger.
Lightroom vs VSCO: Layout
The VSCO default layout is beautiful and minimalist, and you have the option to personalize the app according to your needs and preferences. You can organize the presets and toolbar, you can choose the layout of the Studio, and you can apply filters to browse your images and videos more easily. You can also personalize the appearance of the app by choosing a light or dark theme.
Lightroom’s layout is generally simple and approachable. However, aside from organizing your Library in albums and folders, you cannot personalize the layout or the interface.
VSCO has always offered a robust community; it’s very active, plus it caters to a niche audience of creators. You can like images and follow other users, though you can’t comment and the number of likes is never shown. (These latter limitations are believed to have kept the community focused on creating, not on becoming popular.)
It’s also possible to repost images from other users, and because of this, you’re given an opportunity to protect your images by selecting a copyright license type.
When you share images, you can add captions and hashtags. It’s also possible to link your VSCO posts to your Facebook, Twitter, WeChat, and Instagram.
Lightroom entered the social game rather recently by introducing the Discover section. The feed offers daily inspiration based on what you’ve liked and explored; it also displays featured and trending images.
In Lightroom, as in VSCO, you can like images and follow users, but you can’t comment. What’s really interesting, however, is that you can see the edits made to each photo, which is a great way to enhance your editing skills. Also, you can save your favorite edits as presets.
Lightroom vs VSCO: In-app camera
Both Lightroom and VSCO boast a built-in camera function, each with very distinctive features.
VSCO’s camera allows you to take photos, videos, and looping videos called DSCO. The camera works in Auto mode, but you can turn the flash on and off. There’s an overlay with the rule of thirds grid to help you compose your images, and you can toggle between the back and front camera at will.
Lightroom’s camera offers far more modes and options: You can take pictures in Auto or Manual mode, and you can shoot in JPG or DNG (the latter is a RAW file format). Other features include several aspect ratios, a self-timer, geotagging, and multiple overlay grids.
Like VSCO, Lightroom lets you toggle between the front and back cameras. Unlike VSCO, however, Lightroom doesn’t support video.
Lightroom vs VSCO: Editing tools
As soon as you enter VSCO’s editing panel, you’re faced with 6 quick-access presets; that way, if you don’t want to spend much time editing, you can choose your favorite filters and quickly share your work. If you want more options, you can browse all your presets (more than 200 are available for premium users) and recipes.
Otherwise, you can process your images and videos step by step using an array of photo editing tools. VSCO has all the features that you would expect from a photo editor – you can crop, straighten, and skew the image, adjust the exposure and contrast, shift the white balance, etc. More specialized tools include dodge and burn as well as an HSL option. You can apply a vignette, grain, or a fade to your image – plus you can add text and borders.
If you’re not sure you like your edits, you can always tap and hold the image to see the original file, or you can go back in the edit history. You can also save your edits as recipes or copy edits from already-processed pictures in your Studio.
Lightroom offers pretty much all the photo-editing features included in VSCO along with a handful of more advanced options. For instance, you can make selective edits using masking, and you can even use Lightroom’s AI tools to apply adjustments specifically to the sky or to your subject.
Lightroom also packs a Healing brush to remove unwanted objects or retouch blemishes, along with a distortion-correction tool and an advanced color-grading feature.
If you don’t like to edit manually, there are more than 150 presets to choose from, and Lightroom even includes an AI tool that analyzes your photos and gives you preset recommendations. Lightroom also offers collaborative editing, and you can save multiple versions of a photo in case you can’t decide on your favorite edit (the original will always remain untouched!).
Lightroom vs VSCO: Price
Both VSCO and Lightroom can be used for free, but you’ll only have access to some of their features and presets. To unlock the full set of features, you need a paid membership.
VSCO’s membership costs $19.99 per year and you get a 7-day free trial. It gives you access to more than 200 presets, allows for video editing and montages, and unlocks certain tools, such as HSL, Text, Dodge and Burn, and Borders. It also lets you create unlimited recipes (with the free account, you can only create one).
You cannot purchase access to Lightroom Mobile on its own; the full version is included in different Adobe memberships. For example, the Photography plan, which includes Photoshop, Lightroom Classic, Lightroom CC, and Lightroom mobile, costs $9.99 per month, and it includes additional cloud storage and other perks. No matter the Adobe plan you choose, you get a 14-day trial period.
All Adobe memberships let you sync photos and presets between Lightroom Mobile, Lightroom CC, and Lightroom Classic. You’ll also gain access to over 150 presets and advanced editing tools such as the Healing brush, geometry corrections, and selective adjustments. And you’ll be able to edit RAW images, do batch editing, use AI to search for images in your Library, and more.
Lightroom vs VSCO: Which program is right for you?
VSCO and Lightroom are both excellent apps, and whether you should choose one or the other really depends on your needs and budget.
Do you want to get a premium membership? If you’re on a tight budget, VSCO is a great app and costs a fraction of the price of Lightroom Mobile.
Do you need to edit videos? If so, then you must get VSCO, because Lightroom doesn’t support video editing.
Do you like hands-on editing? Lightroom gives you more tools to apply advanced and precise edits to your images. You also get to see the edits of other creators, which will help you learn and grow.
Do you want to edit photos on your computer in addition to your smartphone? Lightroom will keep your photos and edits synced so you can move back and forth between devices.
I hope this in-depth analysis of Lightroom vs VSCO helped you make an informed decision. At the end of the day, though, the best way to choose is to try them out yourself! Remember, both apps offer some free tools, so hit that download button and see what you think.
Now over to you:
Which app do you plan to use, Lightroom or VSCO? Why? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Lightroom vs VSCO FAQs
A limited version of VSCO is free, though you do have to create an account to use it. Some of the tools will be locked, and you’ll only have a few presets available.
Yes. Unlike the desktop versions of Lightroom, Lightroom Mobile has a limited free version; it offers lots of functionality, but some of the tools are blocked. And to use it, you’ll need to create a (free) Creative Cloud account, which will give you access to the free versions of other Adobe apps and 2 GB of cloud storage.
VSCO offers more photo editing tools than Instagram. However, Instagram is the more popular social media platform. It’s really a matter of which community you like better.
That depends on your needs and budget! It’s a personal choice. VSCO and Lightroom are two of the most popular editing apps. Another popular app is Snapseed.
Yes, if you have a paid membership, you can sync Lightroom Classic, Lightroom CC, and Lightroom Mobile via the Adobe Cloud. You can also send your images directly to Photoshop.
Only you can determine if something is worth buying! If you use many presets or you’re into videography as well as photography, then you might consider upgrading to a premium membership.