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Alien Skin Exposure 6 Review

Alien Skin Exposure 6 Review - Duncan Evans reviews Alien Skin Exposure 6 - the Photoshop plug-in with numerous customisable effects.

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Alien Skin Exposure 6 in Other Software

Ease of Use / Performance

Exposure 6

Duncan Evans gets all retro with the latest version of the much-lauded film stock emulation plug-in. With a faster, redesigned interface, new features and lots of new, customisable borders, light effects and textures, getting digital to look analogue has never been so much fun.

Exposure 6 Features

  • Classic mono film stocks
  • Classic colour film stocks
  • Vintage effects
  • New Bokeh effects
  • Enhanced borders, light effects and textures
  • Instant previews
  • Redesigned control panel

Exposure 6 Ease of Use and Performance 

There have been many Photoshop plug-ins offering film stock emulation in the last couple of years and none more extensive than Alien Skin’s Exposure. With this latest release it’s as if Alien Skin has said well, you have enough stocks and vintage mashups, it’s time to add something different. In this case it’s the functionality from its own Bokeh program. This gets its own section in the control panel, so that all the aspects of it can be tweaked and customised. There are three basic mask shapes so that shallow depth-of-field and toy camera type effects can be created. Each of these has areas of focus and feathering that can be adjusted on the image or you can simply go with the new set of presets in the Preset panel on the left. These combine filter effects as well to offer an entire creative option. Back in the control panel there are also presets for specific lenses, mainly Canon and Nikon but with some Zeiss ones thrown in as well. The actual effect for the out of focus area can be significantly customised with aperture shapes, motion blur, amount and increasing the highlights and grain. While the Bokeh does need to be used carefully for portraits, it is a handy addition to the Exposure toolset.

Example 1 - The new Bokeh function is entirely customisable, from the areas of focus to the lens aperture effect for imposing on the background highlights.

The other major development in this release has been the addition of new light leak effects, borders and textures. These can all be mixed and matched independently – in Exposure 4 they were lumped together – to really add age and retro grunge to an image. Interestingly there is also the option to load in borders and textures of your own to add to the plug-in.

Example 2 - There is a new range of vintage borders and light effects. You can also create and add your own to those supplied.

Seeing what effect everything has used to be a case of squinting at the thumbnails and trying to see what the effects were doing. Now, each thumbnail is quickly updated as before, so that as the mouse moves over each one, the main image itself gets a fast preview as well. This is almost instantaneous and really does make it easy to browse through the preset effects.

Example 3 - While there are plentiful film stock presets, sometimes it’s worth just experimenting with the individual components to create your own effect.

If you are new to Exposure then what you will be interested in are the large range of black and white and colour film stock emulations. There’s pretty much everything you could want to see from classic stocks here, but possibly the more interesting ones are the cross-processed, lo-fi and vintage effects which really take away that clean digital look. All the film stock emulation presets can be tweaked of course, so if you like your Kodachrome 64 but want to add a custom border, change the highlights or add some extra toning to it, you can. Also, each section in the control panel area has a set of preset options as well so these can be combined and then saved to create new combinations that work particularly well.

Example 4 - All the aspects of each preset can be tweaked so if the highlights are blowing out but you like the effect, it can be adjusted until it works for that particular image.

The only real rival to Exposure 6 is Nik Software’s Efex Pro range (now owned by Google), but here the vintage effects have recently been split off into Analog Effect Pro, alongside the standard Color Efex Pro. Black and white is handled in Silver Efex Pro, so to get the scope of Exposure 6 you’d need all three at $149, which curiously enough, is the RRP of Exposure.

Exposure 6 Verdict

While Exposure 6 doesn’t represent a massive upgrade from version 5, the extra effects and speed are very handy and worth upgrading for. If you haven’t bought into this already, then consider Exposure 6 as a must have Photoshop plug-in.

Exposure 6 – Pros

New Bokeh function
More lights, borders and textures
Add your own textures
Improved, faster interface
Handsome number of film stocks
Everything is customisable

Exposure 6 – Cons

More control of position of light effects needed
Some film stocks look much like the others
Can’t stack preset effects


Alien Skin Exposure 6 is a must have Photoshop plug-in.

Alien Skin Exposure 6 is available from the Alien Skin website for $149 though it is currently on offer at $96.85. The regular upgrade price of $69 is currently discounted to $44.85.

Duncan Evans is a photographer and journalist, the author of over a dozen published photography books. He has recently developed his own, affordable eBooks for Kindle, PC/Mac, iDevices and Android, available from Amazon, Apple iBooks store and www.smashwords.com directly. These include:

Practical Digital Portraits - £3.60
Get started in Digital Glamour Photography - £2.99
Digital Photography Essentials - £1.78

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