I’ve been a huge fan of Alien Skin’s software for years now so I’m sure it’s no surprise that I’m excited by their recent update to an already killer plugin. Exposure 4 keeps the functional structure in tact and further enhances its skill set to fine tune it into a plugin that will help any photographer, or digital artist further realize their final vision.
Read on for my experience through this exciting new release…
The first difference is that you don’t have to initially specify Black and White, or Color filters when getting into the program and are able to now switch much more fluidly within the plugin. The good news for upgraders is when opening an image in Exposure 4, you will feel at first glance that little has really changed. For any previous users, you’ll feel right at home, in fact, any presets you have saved will follow you into Exposure 4, or at least mine did. I was really excited about that as I’ve fine tuned quite a few presets to my own personal taste in Exposure 3 that I wasn’t looking forward to attempting to manually replicate like I’ve had to do with other plugins. As you start to play around you notice that the interface, while familiar, is completely different and much more streamlined. The settings/filters stay on the left, but the Color, Tone, Focus, Grain, IR(new) and Age tabs move to the right making way for a real time preview window at the top left, and giving all your adjustments more room for sliders, histograms, curves and the like on the right. This makes switching between presets so much easier as you can do so while still tinkering with settings on the right and not having to click back on the Settings tab to get back to the presets as we’ve had to in the past. There is a very handy search field and toggle between (Factory & User) defined presets just above the Settings as well. Have a look:
Just as in previous releases, the film replications, grain structure, densities and traditional filters are beautifully recreated in digital form with the ability to tweak everything to suit a particular need. Added in this release are much more concise aging/texture tools and control along with many new finely tuned filters. I counted 454 preset filters, all of which are completely user adjustable. A quick CMND(CNTRL) + “S” will save any adjustments as a preset into the “User” list on the left, handy for wanting to replicate a look or consistently process a series. A key difference that I found immediately was the lack of filters being replicated in the menus with and without grain. This is awesome. To me, I was always switching between, say Portra 160 NC and Portra 160 NC no grain to see exactly how the default setting of the grain structure looked in any particular image. I would usually tend to gravitate toward the “no grain” option, and then introduce grain as my last step (in the cases where I’ve wanted to). Now, all filters are what they are, and you can toggle the grain on or off globally for all presets, on the Grain tab. You can also adjust the overall opacity of any preset under the Color tab (see above screen shot).
As always, Jimmy from Alien Skin has laid out many of the new features in Exposure 4 via videos on the Alien Skin website. (see link below next pic)
One tutorial I found fun to follow along with is this vintage “Glamour” treatment:
You can see the step by step (as well as many awesome Exposure 4 tutorial videos) here: Exposure 4 Video Page
Alien Skin Exposure 4 can be downloaded as a free trial directly from the Alien Skin website here: Free Trial Downloads Page
Available for $249 for the full plugin, or as an upgrade to existing Exposure, Exp2 and Exp3 users for $99.
Alien Skin Exposure 4 is the best film replication software I’ve used by far. The attention to, and replication of detail is second to none. Ignoring the film replication, the filters are a lot of fun to tweak allowing a plethora of looks from any single image file. The addition of more precise adjustment tools, streamlined workflow and deeper filter/textures catalogs, it’s a different monster than the already stellar Exposure 3 software. The only perceivable downside is that this plugin is priced accordingly, I’d also like to see an Aperture compatible plugin as well. It has further separated itself from the comparably priced plugins like the NIK software offerings by providing more filters for not only color films, but includes hundreds of black and white film presets, and offers a much better (more naturally film like) grain generation and aging texture interface than say the Silver and Color Efex Pro plugins AND this works in BOTH Lightroom (LR2 or later) and Photoshop (CS4 or later) with the same license (just as all Alien Skin plugins do) as opposed to having to buy two separate plugins for each host. There are many new, lower cost challengers out there now that weren’t around (or at least as complete) as there were when Exposure 3 was launched as well though. Is Exposure 4 worth it? If you are a picky editor, an avid post processor, plan to print or offer print services where you want a more natural looking grain or are a shooter looking for the best film based filter plugin available, I’d say absolutely.
Hit me up with any questions or comments and I’d be happy to try and help.
Here’s to getting through winter!