I’m not a photographer by trade, but I have done photography and darkroom work, and worked in a 1 hour photo lab or two in my time. I’ve also been taking Polaroid photos since I was a kid. Which is probably why, at least in part, I can appreciate what Alien Skin’s Exposure 4 has to offer. In this age of digital photography, being able to add old school film effects to photographs has great appeal. Alien Skin has paid great attention to detail in recreating film stocks and effects in their newly updated plug-in. First released in 2005, Exposure is now in its fourth iteration. I haven’t used previous versions, but I can appreciate the real-time previews and other refinements they’ve made to the interface. Even on my aging 2006 Mac Pro, things are quick to update.
I was impressed with the plethora of film types and effects offered in Exposure, and the fast visual feedback makes it fun to experiment. I really like the product’s tagline, “Taking the digital out of digital photography.” It’s the perfect way to describe what Exposure does – which is a lot, from adding vignettes and wet plate effects to simulating different films and grains, age effects and even simulating infrared film.
I only have two real issues with the software, and one is quite minor. It’s not immediately obvious where to go to set up your preferences. I had to watch the demo videos to find out where the preference settings were, so I could make sure the “Output to New Layer” setting was checked. My second issue is a bit more serious, though it’s more about convenience than an actual deal-breaker. And that’s the fact – unless I’m completely missing something obvious – that you can’t easily layer multiple effects without applying the filter twice. For example, let’s say you wanted to apply a brushed paper effect along with a wet plate effect or some dust and scratches. You’d have to run Exposure and apply the first effect, then run it again to apply each additional effect. It’s not a big deal to run an image through Exposure more than once, but you have to make sure all the settings you don’t want to reapply are turned off or set to neutral. I do like the way Exposure names layers when applying an effect, making it obvious which effects you used.
If you want to try a demo of Exposure 4, you can download it from Alien Skin’s site at https://app.alienskin.com/downloads/ There are lots of videos to help get you started here http://www.alienskin.com/exposure/videos.aspx
Exposure 4 costs $249 and an upgrade from a previous version is $99. It’s compatible with Photoshop CS4 or later, Elements 9 or later, or Lightroom 2 or later, and works on both Windows and Mac platforms.