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Exposure 2 provides the user with an almost limitless set of variations that one can use to create film effects.

Software Review – Plug-In Exposure 2 From Alien Skin Software

Exposure 2 is the latest version of Alien Skin's stock simulator, and effects package. Exposure 2 is meant to allow digital photographers, and graphic artists to create images that mimic the look of film in their digital photos. It does this by emulating the grain, and color differences that different films produced.

Exposure 2 has over 300 presets that emulate the different characteristics of the different films. Some of the films include Kodachrome, Ektachrome, GAF 500, TRI-X, Illford, and even Polaroid films. It is installed as a plug-in, and will work with, Adobe Photoshop CS2 and greater, Photoshop Elements version 4 and greater, Fireworks CS3, and Corel Paintshop Pro version IX and greater. You will need a Pentium 4 processor with Windows XP or later, or a Mac using either a PowerPC, or Intel processor. You will also need a 1024×768 resolution monitor or greater.

Once installed, Exposure is listed on the filters menu with two options. One is for Black and White film and can be used on RGB, or Grayscale images. The other is for Color film and works on RGB images. Both can work with 8 or 16 bit/channel images. They can be used with Photoshop Actions to modify multiple images at once. They can function as a Smart Filter which means that you can apply them in a non-destructive manner on Smart Object Layers in Photoshop CS3.

Click for larger imageAs can be seen in the image at left, the interface is broken down in to several functional areas. On the left you have the set up area where, depending on the tab that you are on is where you will manipulate the settings. At the top of the left panel are the tabs. This is where you access the advanced controls for each filter. These include basic settings, color, tone, focus, and grain.

On the right, the main part of the screen is the analysis window. Here is where you see the effects to the image that your choices on left result in. On the top is the navigational thumbnail where you can maneuver what you want to display in the main window. You can also, as in the image above, split the window to see side by side what the effects are; there are a number of ways to split the screen.

Exposure 2You can totally customize your settings, use a formulated preset, or a combination of both. If you find one that you create useful, you can create a customized preset, and save it for later use. You can export, or email a user setting if you need to share.

Exposure has five tabs. The first is "Settings" and is the most basic of all of all. Here you choose a film style and it is applied to the preview. You can then stop there, and you will have the Alien Skins rendition of that type of film. It would appear that there are many hours of work that went into matching these film types, and as such, would be a perfectly good place to stop as well.

On the other hand, if you are like me, good enough is, well, never good enough. So the other tabs were made for people like me. The "Color" tab for color film covers color casts and saturation. You have a set of sliders that manipulate the overall intensity, filter density and saturation. For Black and White, this controls the conversion of color images to Black and White.

On the Black and White Film filter, you also have an Infrared Tab that controls special effects that simulate infrared film. This of course is only a close approximation, since there is no infrared information contained in your image.

Calotype - SepiaThe Tone Tab controls items like contrast, brightness, shadows, and highlights. There is a curve editor that displays how input brightness is converted to output brightness. You can manipulate the full spectrum with RGB, or you can manipulate a channel at a time.

The Focus Tab contains controls for sharpening and blurring an image. You control the amount, the radius, and threshold when sharpening, and the Opacity and radius when blurring.

The Grain Tab adds realistic grain to selected tonal ranges of your photo. Keep in mind that grain is not noise, and unlike noise, it appears in selected tonal ranges. It is not square like a pixel, and it has subtle color variations. In this tab, you can control shadows, midtones, highlights, roughness, color variation, push processing, and grain size.

Polaroid 669 Creamy Blown HighlightsI found that Exposure 2 is incredibly easy to use. It is amazing on how accurate; at least based on my memory of some of these films, is. I like the fact that you can save your own presets, as well share preset with others on the online forum where you can also get help from other users.

You might say, why would any one want to put grain, and other effects in to digital images in the first place? Obviously the easy answer is for artistic creativity, and that is a good one. Another is to match a portfolio. That is, you have some film that you have shot, and some digital. You are working a layout, and you want all of the images to appear similar. You can now simulate your film. Exposure 2 is a very mature product and as such, very easy to use. It provides the user with an almost limitless set of variations that one can use to create effects

Snap Art is available at the Alien Skin online store for $249.00 new, or $149.00 for an upgrade.

About T. Michael Testi

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

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