Jenn Kowalik

I have had a lot of love for mobile photography since I first got a phone with a camera in it. I found that I was always snapping away on and off set with my iPhone and dragging my friends along on impromptu photography adventures with me. Since a lot of the work I do professionally is very reliant on pre-production and planning, the spontaneity of being able to shoot something just for fun when an idea may strike has always been very enjoyable. But over the past few months I found myself taking fewer and fewer pictures this way.

When Instagram first arrived on the scene I was really into it. I liked being able to share my work and see what people are up to. Even though I still check in on Instagram from time to time to see what my friends are shooting I have been posting less often since the beginning of this year. When I did post I found that I would spend a lot of time (too much) checking in to see how many likes my latest image had gotten and to keep up with comments from my friends. I also realized I was posting less creative work and more and more images of my dogs and travel photos (not that there is anything wrong with that – my dogs are adorable) but it had become more of a platform where I would post thoughtless images and a lot less of a fun place for me to post whatever interesting or creative thing I was working on that day. There was also the debate about Instagram changing their terms of service, and though I still post the occasional travel shot on there to let people know what I am up to, I just never got around to posting creative work there again – but that is not what I want to focus on in this article.

Jason Wulf

In the past few weeks I have found myself making images on my phone more frequently, and it has a lot to do with an update that Visual Supply Company made to their already pretty great VSCO Cam app. A short time ago VSCO released this update (which has become my new camera app of choice for the iPhone, and pretty much the only thing I use for mobile image editing aside from Snapseed) and despite how cool the photography aspects of the app are, they built something even more interesting into this edition that has really made mobile photography more engaging for me again – VSCO Grid.

VSCO has created a publishing platform for mobile photography that really excited me when I first saw it in action – I could not wait to get one of my own, but I had to wait a few days to get an activation code after it was released. When I did finally get my account activated I found that a lot of the good feelings that I got from creating my little phone snaps and pictures of friends that I had lost with Instagram had come back. More importantly, there was something about the app and the style of sharing it allows that led me to be a lot more thoughtful with my mobile photography. Suddenly, I was taking more pictures with my phone – without any of the weird anxiety I would ocassionally get from using Instagram.


The interface is clean, responsive, minimal, and I really like the way that it presents a stream of images. Another thing I appreciate is that it was designed as a publishing platform and not a social media site – there are no friends, likes, or comments and for the time being that really appeals to me (though it does have some basic social integration like being able to tweet one of your images or share something to Facebook). The idea of having a platform to share this kind of imagery that specifically eliminates the idea of a lot of social media trappings is kind of endearing to me, and I think VSCO did a really fantastic job of giving photographers and artists a platform where they can do that in a very elegant and well designed way.

Jenn Kowalik

You can now see my mobile image on my VSCO.Grid 4am Knows All My Secrets (because I stay up way too late playing with my iPhone images, and because Poppy Z. Brite is amazing). It is going to be something of a side project for me where my more creative mobile photography can live (and ocassionally some of these images will pop up on this blog too). Some of the images that populate it now are from new adventures and shoots, while others are select favorites that I have brought over from Instagram and reworked using VSCO Cam. The timing of VSCO Grid being released was sort of perfect too, because over the summer and into the fall I am going to be working on a lot of new projects, and the nature of the images I create and even this blog are going to be changing significantly in scope and subject matter. Grid will be a perfect place for me to share the fun stills I make on adventures with my friends, documenting their style, grabbing candid images on shoots, and creating interesting images while I explore Buffalo and other cities on my travels. Having this outlet and medium to be loose with what I shoot and just have fun feels great – so 4am Knows All My Secrets will be serving as something of a second, purely visual blog for me while my main blog will focus on the stories and images I will be sharing about the subjects of my work and the new directions I plan on taking it in (but that is a whole different post for another time…)

Don’t get me wrong, I love social media (you can find me on Twitter or Facebook most of the time, and I often write posts on social media for ASMP’s Strictly Business blog), but I have always been kind of fascinated by how social media affects how people create. I certainly  enjoy sharing work I create with others, and I have made some really genuine connections with some seriously cool people, but when it comes to creating work that is designed to be shared specifically over social media I get kind of dragged into questioning how the medium itself affects the motives people have for creating. Is our intent and work altered by the reaction of others on social media? Does an artist’s search for approval lead them to create an image in search of likes rather than capturing something that truly captivated or fascinated them? Have I ever told you I over analyze things sometimes, even things that are just supposed to be simple fun?

So, before I get too philosophical about it… let me sum up by saying that VSCO Grid is a lot of fun for me, probably the most fun I have had creating mobile images in a long time.

If you are using VSCO Grid too,  drop me a link to your feed – I would love to check out some cool work.



  1. Hello, Found your link on NubbyTwiglet’s blog and found this article interesting. “Is our intent and work altered by the reaction of others on social media?” I can find myself getting caught up in this trap and I do believe if we are not careful our search for approval can sometimes over power our true essence. I just posted a beloved picture of myself doing my favorite thing which is roller skating, which these days is not very hip or popular but I’m trying to remember to stay true to myself and at the end of the day being genuine should over power approval of others. Approval of others and society can be so fickle like waves in the sea. So before I get too philosophical let me just say thanks for writing this, it’s comforting to hear about the thoughts of others not just going along with the crowd mindlessly.


    1. Rayna,

      Thank you fro sharing your thoughts on this, I’m glad that there are others out there who like to think about perceived acceptance affects how and why we create. I was just in Denver earlier this week and had numerous conversations with fellow photographers about where the influences of photography as a social medium intersect with the bigger ideas and stories that we try to tell in image.


  2. Horace says:

    I also like that there are no followers or likes on vscogrid but I do wish there was a way to follow, or subscribe to grid feeds, or even just to mark them inside my phone for browsing later.

    Going to check out your grid right now. Mine is horace.vsco.co


    1. I’ve started to build a little bookmark collection of some of my favorites – Though at maybe at least having the ability to follow an RSS feed of someones Grid would be pretty cool.


      1. Thomas Boueilh says:

        Hi! I really love your portraits!
        I’m new with it and I’m just doing it for fun during holidays but if you want to check mine, my grid is thomasboueilh.vsco.co


  3. This was a really great post … it’s nice to hear honest opinions on social photography. I think a lot of people get caught in the trap of needing / wanting comments and likes, and it definitely pulls away from the act of “art for the sake of art”. I have also made some very genuine connections with people through Instagram, but I have also found that on occasion, my desire to get feedback on photos was overwhelming and took the fun out of it. VSCO Grid is such a great platform because it allows us to post art for the sake of art. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! Your Grid is lovely, by the way!


    1. Fun was a big part of it for me too. The social trappings of Instagram and other services like it always felt a bit much like keeping score to me. Not to mention that it the cults of personality based around certain feeds, the spam, and the fact that it became more of a marketing/brand engine than a place to share photography all became major factors in how I started to feel about it. Grid brought the fun back for me.


  4. I totally agree with your thoughts on Grid, Luke. I share a lot of photos to facebook (personal and business page), instagram, pinterest, a website and a blog. Each of those serve a different purpose, but unfortunately none of them are good platforms for sharing whatever weird thing I felt like taking a photo of. Having no comments, likes, or pageviews on Grid is very liberating. I just got my invite to Grid a week ago, and I’m enjoying using it as a collection of whatever I think is cool.


    1. I feel much the same, Grid is sort of liberating for me, in a way that Instagram never was. I also just got a bit tired of the creative and economic politics surrounding Instagram.


  5. Even having a paltry 100 FB friends, I still find myself checking throughout the day to count likes or read comments. Yes, I think all artists hunger for approval. But it is almost as if the advent of social media has enabled the worst in us — any feelings of inadequacy or tendencies to follow the crowd are multiplied as soon as we start to get that constant loop of feedback. And that is when we start to create to the crowd.

    My first impression of VSCO Grid was how simple and elegant the design is. And then I quickly realized how freeing it was — no emotional roller coaster of likes and comments, and no obligation to like and comment back. Just a simple, beautiful collection of inspiration to browse and a place to create my own “portfolio,” just for me. 🙂

    Beautiful images here! Going to check out your grid right now. Mine is marycarroll.vsco.co


  6. Really good post very true indeed, social media can easily (even if it is unknowingly) push your photos into a direction that seem more ‘cool’ or whatever as dictated by likes and what others are doing. Love the concept of the grid and going to check yours now..! gtmarais.vsco.co


  7. I really enjoyed the article and was thrilled to get my VSCO Grid activation code a few weeks ago. I too, love the idea of not being influenced by the desire to be accepted or “liked”. Right now I’m on WAY too many social media sites – IG, EyeEm, Flickr, BackSpaces, Twitter, Pinterest and I find it a bit overwhelming. In addition I blog at iartchronicles.com. I find myself being more selective when posting and so far have only added three images. gericentonze.vsco.co


    1. I have been all about reduction of social media lately. Fewer channels, and pretty much only those I truly enjoy using. I don’t believe you have to be everywhere – In fact I think it can be something of a detriment to spread yourself too thin and use social media Ineffectively. I used to be on many more services, but now am only really active on FB and Twitter.


  8. Only got my grid recently, but i must say its awesome! A simple clean, neat space to just ‘curate’ photos you have taken w/o the need of getting ‘comments’, ‘likes’ or ‘followers’.
    Just being free to experiment, seek inspiration & share stuff.

    its really great there are many like-minded individuals as well!

    my grid : marcusyo.vsco.co



  9. I just started using VSCO Grid, and the thing I love most about it is the fact that it is free of comments and “likes”. So much less anxiety involved when I don’t feel a compulsion to check in every five minutes to see what kind of response it’s getting! I feel so free! =] Beautiful photos, by the way.


  10. Great article and grid Luke. I’m trying to be really strict with mine and maintain a low edit consistent look. It’s tricky because I like to mess around with all styles of iPhoneography so VSCO will be a unique space for me. Right now I like the lack of interaction there and the fact that I can just focus 100pct on me and my grid with no feelings of guilt.


  11. Mry Mr says:

    very cool article, I’ve just discovered vsco and I’m already in love with! I really appreciate that there isn’t the “likes thing”…Beautiful portraits on your grid, mine is mrymr.vsco.co


  12. I was just thinking today how I should write a little article with this line: “Instagram is great, it just makes me unhappy.” I became obsessed with getting likes instead of having fun and taking photos. VSCO grid reignited my love for mobile photography, just as it did for you.


  13. hooray!
    I love vsco-grid because is so simple and finally I doesnt check how many likes or followers I have… Unfotunately, I can use vsco grid only for vsco edited photos and I still prefer 35mm :/ I dont want blog, just site like vsco grid where I can post all my photos..


  14. Isis Jarib says:

    I honestly loved this, has some really good points and questions to ask yourself.

    I’d like to check out your grid also, great job!



  15. penpenpenpen says:

    I couldn’t agree more. I don’t have an instagram account and people asks me why so when I love taking pics. I just couldn’t shake the idea of constantly seeking affirmation / appreciation by wanting to get as many likes as possible. Like you, I’m sometimes guilty of this. Vsco on the otherhand, is a great platform for expressing art –no more, no less. And that’s what I really love about it.

    BTW, do you know how to share vsco photos in wordpress? Is there a widget for it?



  16. Luke, you have written succinctly the sentiments shared by many regarding this new medium. Not being a professional photographer, I enjoy the format and it is inspiring to browse the ‘grid’ Great portraits, I like how your subjects appear natural or slightly provocative. Also, I like this shot http://lukecopping.vsco.co/media/51ba32025a6808c53c000005 because it doesn’t adhere to your general theme, and demonstrates the freedom with which this application can be used. viscous.vsco.co


  17. Stu Pitt says:

    I love the no likes/followers/comments aspect as well. I left IG and am very happy at VSCO, no link to my page though. If you find it, you find it.


  18. Aishah says:

    I’m not exactly new to vsco cam since I have had it for a while now, but I am new to vsco grid. I decided to create a vsco grid account and I instantly fell in love.
    My grid is itsaishah.vsco.co
    I’m going to check your grid out now!


  19. I enjoy the VSCO app. It tends to slow things down a bit. I deleted my instagram account. I just felt it was too self centered or something, if you will. I switched to EyeEm, which I think has a much better user base that seems to be in interested in photography for the most part. I just felt like everything on Instagram was sort of Look at me!!!

    Sometimes I feel I would like some type of understanding of what my VSCO grid is doing though. It just seems so totally unknown what activity is taking place, but I have adjusted to this.

    I am planning to get a wordpress themed photoblog going instead of relying on photo websites and the such though. Hopefully will get on that soon!!!



  20. Hi. I perfectly agree to every word in this article! I’m a blogger too and also fond of taking pictures using my compact. I feel a bit detached to the mainstream world because I feel like I hate how “vanity” somewhat or somehow affects our original intentions as bloggers. I can’t wait to share my blogs and my grid to people for the sake of sharing alone not for the number of likes, hypes or whatsoever counters after. I have a VSCO grid too at http://charmae.vsco.co/. See you around the grid and thanks for this great article! 🙂


  21. Having recently got vsco cam, I can totally relate to how you kind of stop using the other social media photography apps, mainly instagram. I used to get embarrassed if some of my photos got less than a certain number of likes etc. I absolutely love VSCOcam, and although I’m keeping my instagram up and running too I agree with you about how it sort of restricts your creativity. That’s not saying I dislike it, however!
    I don’t know if it’s only me, but for some reason, not knowing who is or will see my photos really makes me want to create beautiful works more. There’s something in that that I think is great, and shows people how to enjoy their hobbies without having to do it for other people – it feels like it’s for yourself on VSCOcam, unlike Instagram can feel sometimes.

    I really enjoyed reading your blog and I look forward to future posts and articles (:
    My VSCOcam is mixedchillies if you ever get the time; I love your monochrome photos.


  22. kheivee says:

    hey luke,i really love your article and your vsco grid, please check out my grid kheiveecnsl.vsco.co
    please let me know what you think! 🙂


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