Essence of an Era: My Impressions of the Essence / Archetype Collection


Earlier this morning, VSCO unveiled the latest set of presets to be added to their VSCO cam app: The Essence / Archetype Collection. According to their blog, the new presets are “Crafted in the spirit of the recently released VSCO Film 05” and feature “golden highlights and deep shadows, harkening back to the gilded age of consumer film stock.” I’ve been using VSCO Film 05 for a few months now, and I’ve loved getting to use it and it’s amazing warmth in a lot of my shots recently. It’s something I’ve missed when I’ve been without my laptop and my proper camera, and so when I read that the VSCO team was bringing a similar aesthetic to the mobile world I was thrilled. A few minutes later I had purchased, downloaded, and organized the presets in VSCO cam and was ready to try them out.

Thankfully, this all occured in the space of my photography class at my high school. Not only did this mean I had time to experiment with the presets without getting told off, it also meant that I had a rather interesting environment in which to try them out in. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to create at first, but after shooting for the remainder of class and getting a decent shot for each of the presets I think it turned out a bit like a miniseries on my high school’s art classroom. Anyways, here are my 8 shots; one for each of the 8 “E” presets. I’ll talk about what I saw in the shot, how the preset added to it, and which ones are my favorites. Allons-y!



This shot was in my art teacher’s office which is a little cluttered and you’ll see more of it’s eclectic mix later on. In this shot I liked not only the sort of haphhazard compiliation of items on the filing cabinet, but the awesome colors of the cup, and the almost blob-like shape of that camera bag. The E1 preset made the shot a lot warmer and saturated the colors nicely. Something I’ve noticed about many of the VSCO cam presets is that they bring out natural light exceptionally well, so a shot like this which looked dull and flat straight out of the iPhone’s camera can end up looking much better with gorgeous natural lit tones. It’s something I appreciate in a photograph.



This shot was of one of the many cluttered surfaces out in the main classroom area. I love those old art tables with their scarred, scratched, and otherwise marked up surfaces. They tell the story of all the different creative projects and artistic pieces that have been made there, and I’ve said to my friends many times that I’d love to have one of those in my room or creative workspace. I took this shot because of that amazing table, the intense colors of the string and the likewise blaring color of the knockoff 30-Pin connector. I also took it because of the general interesting clutter of the composition, the natural light, and because overhead shots often find a way to be interesting and aesthetically pleasing. Overhead shots have quickly become some of my favorites over the past few months, and so I wanted to put a few of these in this little series. E2 is a very warm preset, and so it brought out the table’s natural wooden warmth as well as turning the colors of the string and cable up to 11, along with the natural light enhancements that I mentioned with the last shot.



As this classroom is a photo classroom, it has supplies for developing rolls of film. Here, you can see the red and black tubs as well as the reels and funnels that one would fill with chemicals in order to develop a roll of film. I liked how the red of the tubs went with the red paint of the ventilation system that’s in the development area. E3 is a much more flat preset, temperature wise. it still punched up the vibrancy and contrast, making the lighting a lot more punchy and bringing out the reds in the shot, but it did so without drastically pushing the whites in the shot to either a cool or warm look. It’s leaning a little to the warm side, but it’s barely noticeable.



One of the more visually-interesting things in the art room was the sink. It’s a shiny metal, is plenty scratched up, had lots of miscellanious items lying around it, and a lot of colorful splatter all around it. I chose the E4 preset here to bring out the blue in the handle, on the handle, and spattered around the walls. E4 is more of a cooler preset so it handled that quite nicely, and while I did have to punch the exposure up a bit that was purely because it was an underexposed shot to begin with.



Another shot of the sink here. You can see the profile of the faucet and handles, and you can also see the texture of the wall much better along with more of the spatter I got in the last one. E5 is probably one of the more neutral presets in the pack. It kept the whites fairly neutral, didn’t punch any colors or contrast up too much, and just kept the shot very controlled and not looking too-edited. I can already tell I’ll be using this preset a lot because it’s going to be a good starting point to apply to almost any shot before digging down into fine-tuning the temperature and other aspects of the shot with the more in-depth editing tools.



Besides having great old tables and a development station, the art room is also home to a decent-sized computer lab. A bunch of same-y dells sit on top of the tables, draping wires down underneath as you can see here. I liked here how the green chair and the green cable sort of played off each other without being too much alike in actual color shade and E6 helped to bring out a sort of blue-ish tint in the shadows as well as make the greens a little deeper. The shadows are a bit grainy as this was taken on an iPhone, but they don’t get too messy and the shot doesn’t suffer for it.



Here’s the rest of the art teacher’s office that I was talking about earlier. As you can see, there’s a lot of colors, shapes, and natural light bouncing around in here. The E7 preset brought up the colors, faded everything just a touch and shifted everything’s color temperature just a little bit to the warm side. I punched up the exposure in post just because I wanted to emphasize the natural light and large windows while blowing the background out, and I think I succeeded there while maybe making it just a touch overexposed in a few areas. Still an alright shot.



Here you can see a bit more of those gorgeous tables. I like them as I said before, and as I can imagine myself owning one and getting to work on one sometime in the future, I sort of posed what that might look like here in this shot. The E8 preset is a little on the cool side, and it fades things out a little much like the E7 preset before it. Once again a little more of a neutral preset, but with a little preference towards the cool side. It reminds me a bit of the higher-ISO films in the VSCO Film 05 pack because of it’s faded look, and I think it’s good that the VSCO team included a few presets with that aesthetic here in this pack.

All in all, I definitely like the Essence / Archetype presets. They remind me of the VSCO Film 05 pack, in particular some of the Kodak films included in it like the Gold and Royal Gold film stocks. It does a good job of  capturing that era, that golden age of consumer films when they were in their heyday, and that’s something thats glorious to behold when combined with current tech and all it’s quality and portability. The presets range from warm to cool to neutral and have a lot of room to tweak the aesthetic with the more advanced editing tools. I know I usually do that, but with some of these presets I didn’t feel like I had to. The presets look genuinely good when freshly applied without much other editing; which for some I’d guess is quite the selling factor. The only thing I did miss from the VSCO Film 05 pack in Lightroom was that classic film grain. I like the authentic grain in some of my shots and while I know the VSCO cam presets aren’t aiming to be film recreations, it would’ve been cool to see some of that here. Regardless, I still can’t wait to get to shoot more with the pack in the coming weeks and months, and I’m glad the VSCO team decided on the idea that they did with this pack. It’s a good looking, versatile, bunch of presets; and I’d recommend them to anyone who enjoys the film-like aesthetic which is displayed here.

I’m also quite glad that I got the chance to do this little mini project this afternoon. It was an extremely enjoyable creative experience, and getting to work within the boundaries of my photo classroom and class period made it a fun excercise with a little bit of challenge to it as well. It’s made today a great day already and school isn’t even out yet. All I can say is, Never Stop Shooting.