Exposure full review

Some professional photographers jumped readily across the divide from film to digital photography. Others are crossing over more reluctantly. But one thing they all have in common is nostalgia for their favourite film stock.

Exposure is a Photoshop CS and CS2 plug-in that simulates the look of photographs shot with a variety of colour and black-and-white films. With one click, your digital photographs can take on the saturated colours of Fuji Velvia or the unique grain of Ilford Delta 3200.

Alien Skin developed Exposure’s many film simulations by carefully analysing real films, paying special attention to film grain. Exposure recreates the size, shape, colour, and location of real grain, rather than just throwing single-pixel digital noise into images. The plug-in also includes some image-optimisation and darkroom-effect presets such as cross-processing and soft focus.

The detailed interface is well organised and relatively easy to use, considering the number of controls it packs in. The preview screen is large and offers a choice of split or toggle previews. You can stick with any of Exposure’s one-click default settings or create your own presets using the many controls found in the Color, Tone, Focus, and Grain tabs. It ships with a comprehensive manual and Help files, but the latter is buried in the interface.

Exposure’s image-optimisation settings include some that aim to improve upon editing controls in Photoshop. For example, the Tone tab features an intuitive set of sliders for individually adjusting shadows, midtones, highlights, and contrast. The Color tab contains a useful Cooling/Warming slider for varying colour temperatures while preserving image luminosity.

At $199 for a download from Alien Skin’s website, Exposure is more expensive than other Photoshop plug-ins that simulate certain film stock, such as Visual Infinity’s Grain Surgery 2 and PixelGenius’s PhotoKit Color 2. But Exposure’s cost is justified by its realistic film-grain simulations and comprehensive controls, and by the fact that it is marketed primarily to photo pros.

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