Exposure 1.0

Reviewed by: Mario Georgiou, May 2006
Published by: Alien Skin Software
Requires: Photoshop CS or a recent edition of a plug-in compliant host application, Windows 2000 or XP, 2GHz Pentium 4 or later, 256MB RAM; Mac 1GHz Power PC G4 processor, 256MB RAM, Mac OS X 10.3.8 or later
MSRP: US$199.00

Alien Skin specializes in creating cool and useful Photoshop plug-ins for imageers and designers. Exposure is a tool which has been created to answer a particular need of both digital and film photographers. Many a photographer and designer has a favorite 35mm or medium format film or look they like. Some like the rich saturated colors of Velvia, some like the gritty look of T-Max and others like the fidelity of Kodakchrome.

What Exposure does is allow the user to emulate the look and feel of specific film types as well as adjust and control color, tone, focus and grain. It works in two modes: a) the emulation of B&W film types or toned images, and b) color film, processes and treatments. The list of available emulations is quite comprehensive with more promised in future.

Exposure is great for emulating specific black and white films, B&W infrared, toned and specially processed images like Calotypes, Daguerreotypes and Orthochromatic images. It even features several types of cross-processing treatments such as C41 to E6, E6 to C41, Lomo and old film effects. I was quite impressed by how well these were implemented.


Exposure is really easy to use and allows a great deal of modification from the base effect. Each interface features five control panes which allow you to select the effect you want to use and then modify its color, tonality, focus, the grain attributes and settings.

The individual filters are easy to figure out from their descriptive labels and would be obvious to anyone one who has had a broad experience with shooting film. Most of the filters do look a great deal like their real world equivalents but some could do with a little refinement, something which happily Exposure readily enables. Another big plus is the capability to save your own library of presets, something which I consider to be a must for any tool of this kind.

Film grain is one of the hardest attributes to effectively emulate and it is often something which many imageers are asked to remove from scans and images. In Exposure this attibute is actually a requirement because the user is trying to emulate a real world quality which has its own aesthetic value. Grain in Exposure is nicely implemented with controls for affecting the inclusion of grain in shadows, midtones and highlights as well as grain size and the grain color variation when it's applied in color film mode. One of the attributes which would greatly improve the handling here is the inclusion of features like clumping and grain shape to allow for special effects and more realistic grain effects. It might be possible to create application curves and profiles for different types of grain and effects.

I found the best results were created when using a fairly neutral image with no overt color casts. I also found that using higher resolution images was a neccessity, as with lower resolution images the grain effects proved unrealistic. A 4 megapixel image is a recommended baseline.

Technical and creative support for Exposure is excellent with online help, web based support including user forums, and a manual which covers not only the software but also the real world issues around which the capabilities of Exposure are based. Visiting the forums at Alien Skin will also yield additional settings and tips for improving your use of this excellent tool.

Exposure is impressive and it is my feeling that the only real way to improve the conversion process is to use a spectral mapping system for determining the characteristics of each film type and then using a characteristics table which allows you to determine image source and image target profiles.

Cons: Would like to see more film types. The interface needs a little improvement on its focus. The grain effects could also be more realistic in their character. Some of the filters need fine tuning. It would be nice to be able to access all of the presets in one place. The effects will only work in RGB mode so those of you who prefer to work in CMYK need not apply.

Pros: Fast and easy to use. Highly configurable. Exposure is aimed at and priced for professional users who can appreciate the work that's been put into this excellent plug-in. Excellent support forums. Whilst much of what Exposure does can be achieved using a whole array of features found within Photoshop, the plug-in unifies these capabilities in an interface which makes it easy to achieve the desired result. The available presets further simplify the process. Exposure is easy to use and doesn't get in the way of the process of exploring what you can do with your images. All told, Exposure is a must have for any photographer and imageer who works in the digital realm. What's more, you'll have fun working with it. Highly Recommended.

KSN Product Rating:





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