What can one add when it’s all been said before, other than to perhaps reiterate how much they enjoy a perfect harmony of fashion, function and execution.
I’ve been a long time user of Alien Skin’s Exposure software. Of all the film simulation programs I’ve used, none has suited me, my style or my workflow better than Exposure has. Whenever I shoot events, or any personal project series, it has always been my go to program for a replicated filter allowing me to quickly and easily tailor fit and create a variety of final looks. I really benefit from being able to take one particular film preset and adjust the same filter to allow me to quickly get a consistent color profile while accounting for little exposure tweaks for different lighting or the like.
Having purchased and personally used Exposure from version 3, and recently beta testing the last couple, I have also been invited into the Alien Skin family which enables me to offer a personalized discount code along with gaining a sales commission for any referenced sale. While I have long shilled for Alien Skin from my own personal place of use and enjoyment, I now get to sell out a little bit, but with good conscience, because trust me when I say that even if I didn’t make a small commission for sales of this software I’d still be reviewing and talking up this brilliant program just as I have multiple times over the years. If you’re interested in trying it out, upgrading or purchasing Exposure 7, Click HERE to download Exposure via Alien Skin’s website (use code “tysonrobichaud” in the coupon code field to get 10% off any and all Alien Skin Software at checkout).
Come in to hear my thoughts, and see what’s new in Exposure 7.
Film replication/emulation has been a very en vogue thing for many corners of the digital photographic landscape. From editorial to event, senior shoot to food photography, there is a large value placed on a high end, repeatable effect that can quickly and markedly adjust an image from a post processing angle. Time is money, and anything that both saves time, and enhances an image into a finished product with little work in post is value added. Plus, it’s a ton of fun to watch your images transformed into hundreds of different versions with a click. Here are a couple before and after sets showing what 10 seconds and a couple mouse clicks can do.
So, what is new in Exposure 7? Well, sticking with what I felt was a wonderful and familiar UI, Alien Skin has looked to add more power under the hood, especially when used as a standalone program as opposed to a plugin from Lightroom or Photoshop. As one might imagine, support for Aperture has been made redundant thanks to the abandonment of a professional, digital asset management program by Apple. Thanks Apple. From Version 6, the new version 7 adds:
- RAW support within the standalone program without the need to first convert to a TIFF or JPEG.
- Non-Destructive Editing for RAW files in the standalone program further providing workflow streamlining for those using Exposure separate from a host program.
- Rapid file and folder browsing, supporting batch processing, again within the standalone eliminating the need to switch between modules on an image by image basis.
- A new crop and rotate feature in the standalone to eliminate this step in another program or DAM software.
- A list of 13 new, updated and redesigned film emulation presets (see the new and full list below) available in both the plugin and standalone.
- Finally, new textures available to produce even more vintage processing such as overlays, borders and various aging effects like light leaks, scratches or dust when looking to create a more analog looking digital file.
Here are lists (via Alienskin.com) of all included film emulation presets and “other” effects:
The idea of quickly and accurately replicating various films, past and present, is fun in and of itself, but where I feel Exposure truly excels is in the detail paid to the true structure of the film itself.
There are quite a few plugins and programs that emulate certain processes or films. What I’ve always found unique and superior about Exposure is the level of detail paid to actual grain structure from actual classic films. It’s not B&WProcess3, it’s Tri-X 400 film, and its subtleties are glorious. Color and contrast reproduction into a digital file are very cool, and the most immediately apparent tool in the visual reproduction of the film “look” but where a few of the other programs I’ve used fall short are when you look at how grain is applied in the final image. I’ve found some of the grain replicators to do little more than slapping a uniform layer of digitally generated noise on top which can end up looking more like digital artifacts. Our high tech digital cameras do very well at handling noise in most shooting scenarios these days which makes for a very nice, clean file. I would have to say though that when I compare prints from film to prints from a digital file, often it is easy to notice which is which if printed large enough. Digital files are traditionally cleaner, smoother and lack the real “look” of a print from a negative or slide. This is a good thing in many cases, so don’t take this as me whining that my digital files are too clean, but there is a soul to film that has in cases been lost to ever higher resolution digital files, and sometimes you just want to go home 🙂 Exposure is the ride that can take you there, and gives you the ability to finely control the application of these effects to your files.
Here’s an example of the default grain in the Kodak Tri-X400 preset. See the 100% crops from the original and the processed file for comparison.
Much the way that true film grain differs from areas of highlight and shadow, so too does the application of the grain through the presets in Exposure.
I’ll see if I can’t shoot some real film and do my best at comparing the actual film grain to these presets when applied to a digital file at some point down the line. I think that would be a fun project. While a personal thing, and not a preference all the time, I do have to say that the level of detail in the grain replication produced by Exposure is superior to anything else I’ve used and remarkably close to an analog print when the digital noise in the original file is well controlled. If you have a particularly noisy file to begin with, I’d probably disable the grain generator module in most cases. It then shows its benefit when even running a digital file that already has a bit of noise involved when you can choose to remove the grain entirely if desired while still gaining the color, tonality or contrast structure of the film in question.
If you do want to replicate the grain from a variety of film stocks though, Alien Skin has got you covered.
One major upgrade that appeared in Exposure 6 last year, was the inclusion of the Bokeh module. What used to be offered as a separate program entirely, has now been seamlessly integrated into Exposure. Using popular lens profiles, Bokeh has replicated various out of focus signatures to quickly and easily apply an out of focus region within your images. It also gives you the ability to quickly apply and control radial or linear/planar blur to achieve a variety of looks like gradually softening corners to replicate toy or plastic lenses, or a mini effect if desired. If wanting to select a subject in photoshop, you can replicate a shallow depth of field by applying the bokeh effect to your background, or a selection as well. It takes a bit more time, but is a tool available and now included in Exposure without having to purchase Bokeh separately, which is awesome.
At first sight, Exposure 7 looks very similar to Exposure 6. With the last update we saw a pretty big redesign and upgrade in feature and interface. Truth be told, there isn’t a huge difference between v6 and v7 from an interactive standpoint, which I feel is good. I dislike when major interface changes are made for the sake of offering “something new”. If it ain’t broke… Click below to see a full screen shot of Exposure 7.
As has been the case in previous iterations, you have all of your presets, housed in subgroups on the left. If you upgrade from a previous version of Exposure, any of your personalized and saved filters will automatically be updated as well. This to me has been a big deal because I’ve spent quite a bit of time tinkering and building specific filters for projects. If and when I’d ever need to revisit those projects, or the processing, my filters have come along for the ride and allow me to immediately process a new image as I’d done with them in the past without having to go back to previous versions of Exposure to find them.
Once you choose a preset, you can tweak just about everything you can think of via the adjustment sliders on the right hand side. Exposure, color, tonality, add vignettes, overlays and textures or borders, adjust the sharpness, grain, infrared halation and bokeh. You can reveal or collapse any particular module by clicking on its title. You can toggle the entire modules effect on or off by clicking on the green/red circle at the left of each module’s title. Other than that, it’s pretty much a matter of playing around, salting and peppering to personal taste.
To save your own presets, once you get an image to where you like it, simply press the “+” at the top of the presets tool bar at the top left if you want to apply the same effect in the future. Name it whatever you’d like, and either add it to an existing preset group, or start a new one. I have a personal folder for color filters and another for black and white filters to keep them tidy, but you can go even further and add new filter groups for projects or particular processes.
Should you upgrade from a previous version of Exposure, and who is this type of program really for? For owners of Alien Skin Exposure, you know what you have. If you use it regularly, especially if you own version 5 or before, I’d highly suggest trying out the new version. If you have version 6, and find the need to streamline your batch processing, and direct RAW processing in the standalone, I’d also look to download a free trial and give it a go. If you’ve not yet used Exposure, and you like playing around with quick and repeatable filters, shoot various projects that you feel would benefit from consistent processing or really like the look of a more analog level of processing, try it out. You can get a free 15 day full trial version via the link below. If you do buy it, use the discount code to get 10% off.
I find Exposure to be a signature software in that it allows you to completely, and repeatably produce a tailored, personal effect. Most photographers that have a “look” tend to utilize programs like this that allow them to repeat effects quickly and accurately without having to rebuild the look from scratch time and time again. I’ve processed countless projects, and many personal shots over the years with this software allowing me to really produce a consistent series, and use it in concert with various other plugins and techniques. It has come in handy for family shots with the kiddos over the years as we print images along the way, keeping some continuity in the appearance and presentation of our memories.
It’s free to try, and there’s no harm in seeing if it suits your style. Alien Skin Exposure 7 is available for $149, or if you are upgrading from any previous version, it is only $69. If you have purchased the program Bokeh in the past, you will also qualify for a discount (and don’t forget to apply the 10% off code below). You get the standalone application and the plugin which works with Photoshop and Lightroom included.
You can download a free trial of, or purchase Alien Skin Exposure 7 HERE. Remember to use the code “tysonrobichaud” in the coupon field at checkout to get 10% off.
Thanks for the read all. Let me know if I can answer any questions, I’d be happy to try.