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Exposure is from Alien Skin, the people behind such great plug-ins as Eye Candy, Xenofex and Splat. Unlike the previous software, where strange effects could be created, this is for the more serious photographer and offers more serious results.
The idea is simple - a set of controls that let you adjust grain, sharpness, colour and saturation in the highlights, midtone and shadow areas. Doing so allows you to create the subtle differences that you would have found when exposing and processing a conventional roll of film.
You could do most of the things you can here with the controls available to you in programs such as Paint Shop Pro or Photoshop, but not with the ease or clarity that Exposure allows. The program is so simple to use, and what makes it even more foolproof in mimicking your favourite film is that a series of presets have already been worked out for you. These include black & white films such as Kodak T-Max, Konica 750 Infrared and Fuji Neopan or colour films such as Kodachrome 25, Fuji Velvia 100 and Agfa RSX II.
Installation couldn't be easier. The program comes in a plastic VHS video sized case, I'm not sure why they couldn't stick it in the more convenient DVD sized case, but that's no real gripe. The instructions provided include a few bits of basic technical data about grain structure etc to help you understand how the program works along with very helpful sections on each of the manual effects tabs. The developers actually put films under the microscope to help create the engine for this program, so it's not just based on pixel pushing, but on real film!
- Adobe Photoshop CS or later
- Adobe Photoshop Elements 3 or later
- Macromedia Fireworks MX 2004 or later
- Corel Paint Shop Pro 9 or later
- 2 GHz Pentium 4 or later
- 256MB RAM
- Windows 2000 or XP
- 1 GHz Power PC G4 processor
- 256MB RAM
- Mac OS X 10.3.8 or later
When loading the CD, the existing image editing program's plug in folder is automatically found and everything slots into place with no effort. Restart Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro and the plug in appears in the filter menu.
Now when you open a photo you can select the Alien Skin Exposure filter and go straight to the Color (It's an American company!) or black & white film presets lists.
Below are a few of the controls and a short explanation of what they do. Click on each photo to view a higher resolution version to see the palette clearly.
The preview is almost instant and the processing is quick, unlike some plug-ins I've tried. One thing that is frustrating is the magnifier always defaults to high and top left corner, so when you change film you have to reset the image in the preview window to a preferred size using the Ctrl and - key. I thought there would be an option to change the default and looked up the preferrences...the only option here is to set the duration that the program checks for updates, some preferences!
Some of the preset effects I liked
Blue Toning - Full tone
Selenium - Split Warm Cool
FSA red bleach
| || |
Sepia - Mid Band Split Toning
This is a very easy to use plug-in that's fast and has some realistic emulations of some classic film and processing styles. The editing is easy to follow and the creative options are fantastic. I'm sure there are many freebie plug-ins/actions to be found around the world that do parts of what this does, but the hassle of trying to find them may not be worth the effort. $199 is steep for a plug-in but the time saved creating the effects makes it worth while, especially if you're a fan of old processes and certain films. It's a winner in my book.
In summary the positive points of Alien Skin Exposure are:
Very easy to use
The negative points:
Magnifier defaults back to top left
Expensive for a plug in
No Velvia 50!
Alien Skin have read this review and have the following comments to add:
"Saving zoom and thumbnail position – Good idea. We’ll probably add an option to reset or use last position/zoom setting.
"Another feature to highlight – There is a before/after toggle for the preview pane, located top left above the preview window. Some folks like the split screen preview, but it can be turned off completely if desired. The before/after toggle is always available.
"Inaccurate and missing film types – No, we’re not going to get them all just right, but our preset system is infinitely expandable. It’s also easy to tweak the factory settings and resave them as your own. In addition, it’s very easy to import, export, and email Exposure settings as attachments. The manual, available free from alienskin.com, describes this in detail:
"Importing new settings is idiot simple. Just double click the new settings, like the ones on our message board, and they’re routed to correct folder on your hard drive.
"Price – True, $199 is expensive for a plug-in, but Exposure is for professional photographers who spend thousands of dollars on a new SLR and hundreds on lenses. For existing Alien Skin customers, we offer $99 upgrades for registered users of any other Alien Skin product. There’s also educational pricing available to students and teachers."