Exposure from Alien Skin Software is an Adobe Photoshop/Lightroom plug-in that replicates film and quirky camera effects. In this review, we'll be taking a look at the fourth version which offers an improved, speedier interface, new controls and effects and a number of new presets which will help get you started if you've never used the program before. Popular classic films are accurately simulated, like Kodachrome, Polaroid, and Panatomic-X. For new users, the full price is $249 for Exposure 4 but if you're upgrading you pay $99. If you're unsure about spending $249 without trying it, Exposure 4 is currently available on a free trial.
Ease of Use
Launching Alien Skin Exposure 4
The download and installation of Exposure 4 is easy and fast from the Alien Skin website. To open the program once it's installed, you have to launch Photoshop, make sure you have an image open and go to Filters, Alien Skin, Exposure 4. A warning window will tell you that Exposure 4 is open in a new window and to return to Photoshop you need to press OK or Cancel. We found that sometimes Exposure 4 would automatically launch over that window and we had to click the red cross to start it up. Aside from the lack of consistency, either way, it doesn't really matter. It's no hardship pressing a button.
Alien Skin Exposure 4 Main Screen
Once the Exposure 4 window is open, there's a lot to see. The screen is split into two main sections with the presets on the left only taking around a third of the space. A small preview of the image is at the top and one of the new features is that as you hover over the film presets, the picture will change to give you an idea of what it will look like if you OK it.
The number of presets available in Exposure 4 is huge. There are 23 drop-down tabs with what – on the surface at least – looks like hundreds of options. But don't get too put off. The first drop down is B&W film. This will list every black and white film simulation they have in the presets. The rest of the B&W tabs will split that list up depending on how it affects the picture, which is another new feature. There are lists for low contrast, vintage, infra-red, split toning or tonality. The same is repeated with colour film while at the bottom there are three options for Cross processing, Lo-fi and Cross processed lo-fi. You can tick a button to filter out just colour or just B&W if you please. There's also a search box for you to type the name of a film when you have the hang of the program.
Alien Skin Exposure 4 Colour Screen
In the centre of the main Exposure 4 window is a larger preview version for you to make manual amendments to the picture, which are listed to the right in tabs. There are six tabs in total for colour, tone, focus, grain, infra-red and age.
Alien Skin Exposure 4 Tone Screen
As we explored the program, we found that modifications using buttons or menus were addressed to the picture immediately and we're impressed with how fast it actually is. Sliders aren't the same story though and we had to close down the program once or twice to kill it as it got stuck in a process. Granted, we were sliding the adjustment to the extreme ends to see what they would do.
Alien Skin Exposure 4 Focus Screen
It seems that the fourth installment of Exposure has been designed to make everything easier and more flexible. Back at the left side, the presets are situated under a tab named “Factory”. Flicking over to “User” allows you to employ previously saved settings. The great thing is that everything is possible to save. The presets can be applied, experimented around with on the right then saved as a user setting. If you add grain using the preset 50%, for example, you can adjust it with the slider underneath if you want it stronger or lighter to a value that isn't available in the drop down menu. This can then be saved as well. It means that if you have a favourite preset that you like to use on all your pictures, there's no need to keep doing it step by step. This will reduce your workload over time which is great.
Alien Skin Exposure 4 Grain Screen