There are quite a few film emulation plugins to choose from. Looking at the sheer multitude of cross processed filters or “film” replications on offer from different plugins can be daunting. To me, the difference is in the details, and none does a better job in my opinion than Alien Skin’s Exposure has. When choosing a plugin, the biggest and most important features lie mainly in interface, tools available and when discussing a film replication, the actual grain structure and implementation is key. Like past Exposure releases, Exposure 5 gives you a full library of Black and White as well as Color film filters. Many plugins emulate a similar result, but none has paid as much attention to detail, grain reproduction and fidelity as Alien Skin Exposure 5 has, to my eye. With Exposure 5, the new release adds a new user interface and some sweet new controls. Read on for some of the details…
I can’t help but notice that the new interface has seemingly borrowed some of the more awesome features I’ve noticed in other plugins. Where some of the older releases through Alien Skin, while efficient and detailed, were rather drab in their appearance and interaction. Not anymore.
- Much like Tiffen Dfx’s preview thumbnails, AS Exposure 5 now has every single filter (all 346 of them categorized by collapsible group) showcased in a thumbnail on the left. This is not only nice to preview, but saves SO MUCH TIME when you’re not exactly sure which direction to go. More than knowing which filter will be “the one” (it’s always good to see your image fully blown up to determine if it suits) you can at least immediately see which may not suit your image as the thumbnails are large enough to determine color cast, contrast and the like.
- The adjustment panels on the right hand side are more Lightroom-esque if that makes sense. Sliders with collapsible panels give you more real estate from which to access the tone, grain, color, IR, borders, etc as opposed to tabs up on the top of the column from previous versions. A big plus in my eyes. Great for quicker, more efficient editing, at least for those of us that are familiar with the format, and one that is far more intuitive in my opinion.
- Not new, but the continued ability to tweak and save as many of your own personal filters is key, saving them to any number of preset groups (I have a B&W group and a color group which house my dozens of saved presets). Having the ability to quickly recreate adjustments for series of images, or just a continuous, personal style, is awesome.
With 180 Black and White preset filters ranging from film stocks to split toning, vintage to infrared, and 266 Color preset filters that offer anything from film stocks to polaroid films of yesteryear, cross processed, vintage or cinema offerings, as well as the ability to entirely modify any one of those, add or remove grain, scratches, borders, color, toning, filtering, etc, the possibilities are literally endless.
Who might this plugin be for?
Well, from my experience, Exposure doesn’t have a direct competitor. It offers more in the way of true film emulations than any other plugin I use, as well as tons more “artistic” filters, and offers both Black and White AND Color filters through this gamut. To me, it is superior to NIK Silver Efex Pro or SEP2 for B&W, and it offers enough on the color side to be competitive against plugins like NIK Color Efex Pro, so while not entirely a replacement for both, it could (and does for me) offer a better Color + B&W solution. I’d say that it would most closely be resembled by either Tiffen Dfx3, although Tiffen has more quirky filters, but a far less realistic film emulator, or perhaps Tiffen’s cousin, Digital Film Tools Film Stocks v1, again with AS Exposure having a far superior grain replication filter.
One big deal, now that Adobe has gone and duked the bed by forcing users to rent their software, is that Exposure 5, like any Alien Skin software program, also acts as a standalone program. This is important because if you don’t continue to pay monthly for access to Photoshop, you can still use Alien Skin’s programs. While you can open images in this program on its own, the more conventional method is to run this program in Photoshop, Lightroom and even Aperture now which are all included on the same license!!! Upon downloading this software, I was given the ability to install it in both my versions of Photoshop, Aperture and Lightroom! No matter what I choose to use, Exposure 5 will be there with all of my saved presets, which is really nice.
Much like Exposure versions of the past, I feel that those most benefited by using it are folks who want to be able to quickly replicate a particular look, and enjoy being able to completely control that particular look. Event shooters, fine art printers, commercial shooters or those who just like to have quality film replication filters to be able to play with. The new version is far superior to previous as far as interface goes, and it keeps with the power that the plugin has always possessed. Far and away the best version of Exposure I’ve used and one that I would whole heartedly suggest as long as the budget allowed. You can find it through Alien Skin Software’s website (click here). Try downloading the free, fully functional trial version first to see if you like it. Exposure can be purchased for $199 or is available for existing users as an upgrade for $99, or if you’re looking at more than one Alien Skin Plugin from the get, it is included in the Photo Bundle for $349!. If you purchased Exposure 4 in, or after March 2013, you will receive Exposure 5 for free, and should get an email with an upgrade code (if you haven’t already).
Like I’ve mentioned, I’m a big fan of the Alien Skin products, but don’t take my word for it, download a 15 day, fully functional trial version of any of their plugins to see if it works for you before you buy.
You can also purchase Alien Skin’s Exposure 5 through B&H Photo online HERE!
Here are a couple other reviews I’ve written up for other Alien Skin plugins:
Bokeh 2 (fun, defocused backgrounds and other focusing tricks)
Snap Art 3 (create digital paintings, quickly and beautifully)
Exposure 4 (it’s just continued to get better and better)
Thanks for the read and happy shooting!