Alien Skin Exposure 3

A week or so back I received a note from Alien Skin to say that a version of Exposure 3 had been released for Lightroom, and asked if I would be interested in giving it a try. Now, I have to say from the outset that I’ve never been into filter effects when taking photographs and am even less so when editing them in Photoshop or Lightroom. Nevertheless, the information provided on their website looked interesting, so I downloaded a copy and gave it a whirl.

Exposure 3 is primarily a film emulation plugin for Photoshop, but as noted above is now compatible with Adobe Lightroom. With over 500 presets the range of effects is really quite extensive and should provide something for pretty much every situation. For example, there are presets to emulate cross-processing effects, black and white films, infrared films, colour films, and even  some vintage effects such as sepia and Daguerrotype.

Adobe doesn’t allow 3rd party developers access to the raw image editing pipeline, therefore, the image must be rendered before handing off to Exposure 3. This means that the user must first configure Lightroom’s external editor preferences (figure 1).

Figure 1 – Lightroom External Editor Preference

Once the Lightroom external editor preference has been properly configured it’s a simple matter of selecting the image you want to edit then choosing Exposure 3 from the Lightroom Photo menu (figure 2).

Figure 2 – Handing off the image to Exposure 3

When Exposure 3 launches you’ll be given the option to choose from Black and White or Colour film. The main Exposure 3 editing window will then open (figure 3). The preset effects are listed on the left side of the editor and image on right. Tools for zooming into and moving the image around the window are located just above the image area.

Figure 3 – Exposure 3 Editing window in Black & White mode

Applying a preset is straightforward enough and in many situations will likely produce a reasonable result. However, the results can be refined via the Color, Tone, Focus, Grain, IR or Age tabs (figure 4). Some users will find playing around in the Grain and Age tabs particularly fruitful while others will be like me and give them a wide berth.

Refining the image via the sliders can significantly improve the underlying effect, so it’s always worth checking them out. However, be aware that blurry pixelated effect associated with screen redraw can be a bit disconcerting.

Figure 4 – Tone Editor

Effects such as vignettes, dust and scratches can also be applied to the image, and like the grain and age effects mentioned above, some users will find these very useful. These particular effects would be especially interesting to anyone who finds themselves retouching old photographs and wants to retain a sense of age.

In general, Exposure 3 does what Alien Skin claim. The effects  that it’s designed to emulate are for the most part achieved, and integration with Lightroom can’t be faulted. I found that the Colour film and Black & White emulation was particularly useful, less so the age effects. Obviously, I could spend a lot more time discussing these effects, but I think it’s probably best that you find out for yourself using the Trial version. The full version of Exposure 3 sells for $249, but users of earlier versions can upgrade for $99.