I recently had a chance to sit down and try out the latest version of Alien Skin’s Exposure plug-in, which lets you easily perform all kinds of traditional film and darkroom tricks with your digital images. The plug-in works with the Mac or PC versions of Adobe Photoshop (CS4 or later), Photoshop Elements (9 or later) or Lightroom (2 or later), and provides a huge arsenal of image enhancement and modification tools.
Exposure 4 can accurately replicate the looks of numerous of types of analog film such as Kodachrome or Polaroid, but can also simulate the unique optical properties and anomalies of various cameras.
While you can quickly dive in and start playing with Exposure 4’s numerous presets, you’ll find there is a nearly infinite amount of flexibility under the hood. The application provides granular control over color, tone, focus, grain, as well as infrared halation and aging effects you can layer together onto your images.
What’s really cool about Exposure is that – assuming your machine is fast enough (I’m on a speedy Core i7 iMac), it provides instantaneous preview feedback as you drag its control sliders around. That means there’s less time waiting to see what your image might look like, and more time experimenting and creating. The preview even lets you toggle between seeing your modified image in full, or various split-screen modes which let you see the before and after effect. Once an effect is applied, Exposure 4 is kind enough to set it into its own layer, and even names it appropriately for easy reference.
I’m not going to go into gory detail about each control you’ll find in the various panels, but suffice it to say that you can adjust just about any exposure-related attribute you can imagine, along with the application of color filters, dust and border layers, and even cyanotype and split-tone effects.
Perhaps the coolest effects you can achieve with Exposure 4 simulate all sorts of film types and light properties of specific cameras. The plug-in can emulate a variety of film from Agfa, Fuji, Kodak, Ilford, Polaroid and others, as well as effects like light leaks, scratches, grain and the artifacts from printing from a negative. If you love that Lomo or SX-70 look, but still want to shoot with your Nikon, you’ll love this.
The tools provided in Exposure 4 give you a tremendous amount of control – assuming what you’re looking for relates to color modification or lens aberration. Having played with a number of tools for creating retro, Lo-fi and vintage images on my iPhone, Exposure 4 will spoil you with its depth. That said, it is a bit of a niche product – but if you’re looking for a professional grade tool for create stylized photos from just about any subject matter, I can’t think of a better tool for the job.
Exposure 4 sells for $249(USD), and is available in a trial download version over on Alien Skin’s website. If you happen to own an earlier version of Exposure, you can upgrade for $99, and users who purchased Exposure 3 since November 2011 will be sent a free upgrade.
[Image Credit: D Sharon Pruitt]