Remember the days of souping Tri-X in your basement darkroom? Alienskin’s new Exposure plugin offers the same results without the harsh smells or fixer stains.
Modeling its grain structures after the vintage film emulsions that most of us grew up shooting, Exposure lets you easily give digital images a “film look” with a simple click. Further tweaking is possible using a slider that lets you adjust sharpening, blurring, tone, curves, and grain.
The grain component is what fascinates us the most, though. Alienskin said it carefully created the grain algorithms by digitally comparing film stock with digital images. For film that hasn’t existed in years, the company found images shot with the film, scanned them, and then performs the algorithm analysis.
Why would you even want to add grain to digital images? Moore’s law has improved digital imaging sensors to the point that still images can look too perfect at times. By adding film grain—not to be confused with digital noise—to give a digital image the look of, say, a 1970s Ektachrome slide, you can make the picture appear more real or give it a touch of style. It’s akin to the argument audio purists make for vinyl over CDs.
While some photophiles will be pleased with Exposure’s list of film-emulsion presets—including Kodak’s famed Tri-X and Kodachrome 64, as well as Ilford, Fuji, and even GAF—there aren’t quite enough to satisfy everyone. For folks who want the look of more obscure films, Alienskin lets you download and install additional free presets. For example, the company offers various Polaroid presets on its website. Plus Exposure allows you to create your own presets, which you can even send to friends via an email button within the app.
The plugin isn’t multithreaded, but we found performance to be good on Pentium 4 and Athlon 64 X2-based machines. To run the plugin, you must have Photoshop CS or higher, Photoshop Elements 3 or higher, Corel Paint Shop Pro 9 or higher, or Fireworks MX2004 or higher.
While we’ve certainly seen our share of Photoshop plugins that are really cool but of limited usefulness, Exposure has rapidly turned into one of our favorite apps. And for $200 it sure as hell better be.