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Software Review: Exposure 5 From Alien Skin Software

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Exposure 5 is the latest version of Alien Skin’s effects package that lets digital photographers and graphic artists create images that mimic the look of film in their digital photos. Through the use of presets combined with manipulation by controls you have the ability to emulate the grains, tones, and color differences of different types of film.

Exposure 5 comes with a large selection of presets that emulate the different characteristics of different real-world films. These films include Kodachrome, Ektachrome, GAF 500, TRI-X, Illford, and even Polaroid films. Exposure 5 can be run as a standalone application or as a plug-in in Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Photoshop Elements, Adobe Lightroom, and Apple Aperture.

Exposure 5

Exposure 5

The Exposure 5 interface has been completely redesigned to reduce distractions and provide you with new ways to find your own style of work. You also get a rich range of textures and controls that you can use in a wide variety of ways, all with the goal of making your photographic image look like it was created by a human and not by a computer. To see what is required to run Exposure 5, check out the Alien Skin requirements page.

To create Exposure, Alien Skin explored the world of analog photography going back through its entire history, finding discontinued films, darkroom techniques, and other ways that you could bring back the old art forms by recreating them realistically. The company then packaged them into presets that give you a starting point from which you can tweak your image using the controls. Once you find something that you like, you can save it as a new preset and use it to batch-process a series of prints.

First, the interface is new and much more streamlined than before. The left panel contains the presets. This is where you can begin with a certain look. The presets are categorized by type: Color, B&W, Cinema, Neutral, Cross Processing, etc. When you click on a type, you are presented with a series of thumbnails that break down the type even further and show your image as it would look using this processing. You can also search by type, and using buttons at the top you can tag your favorites, the ones most recently used, and the ones that you have created.

Exposure 5

Exposure 5

Once you select a thumbnail, the processing is shown in the view panel in the center. The panes are collapsible and give you the ability to work the way that you want to. On the right side is the control panel where you can tweak your image. At the top of the control panel you have an overall intensity slider which allows you to make the effect more subtle or more dramatic.

Below that you have controls that manipulate color, tonal curves, focus, grain, IR, vignettes, and borders and textures. Once you manipulate the image to how you want it to look, you can go back to the preset panel and save that preset by pressing a button at the top. Saving it will save all of the parameters that were used to achieve that look so that you can apply it to a series of images for consistency. Then just press “apply” and you are done.

If you want to use batch processing then you will need to use Exposure 5 in stand-alone mode. Once inside, you select all of the images that you want to process and the preset that you want to use. From here you can just press “apply” and save. You will then be given the ability to choose which images to process, what folder to put them, what suffix to give them, and if you are saving them as JPEGs, the quality that you want.

Along with the redesigned interface, new to this version of Exposure are the Texture Overlay controls. To use these, you just go to the Borders and Textures panel. Along with adding borders, you have the option to add light leaks, sun flares, dust, paper textures, and scratches. You even have the ability to protect an area from the effects so as not to interfere with the main subject of your image.

Exposure 5

Exposure 5

I really liked using Exposure 5 and found the changes to the interface extremely intuitive, which made experimentation a lot of fun. The thumbnails made it easy to choose a base to start with and the controls worked very well for making tweaks to the image. The dark theme of the interface and the collapsibility of the panels are collapsible make it easy to focus on the image itself.

When you add in all of the creative textures and effects, you really have a world of creativity with the new Exposure 5. If you want to bring back the look and feel of analog film to your photographic creations, or if you just want to pump some creative juice into your work, then I highly recommend Exposure 5.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.