A curious feature of digital photography is that, the more ‘digital’ photography becomes, the more photographers seem to want their photographs look the way they used to when they were taken on good old-fashioned film stock and lovingly developed in dark rooms.
Alien Skin recently released a bundle of Photoshop-compatible plug-ins aimed at serious photographers. The Photo Bundle includes Blow Up 2, Bokeh, Exposure 2, Image Doctor 2, and Snap Art 2 at a price of $595, which represents an effective discount of $500. We’ve previously reviewed Blow Up, Bokeh and Snap Art and will look at Image Doctor in the near future. Here I want to concentrate on Exposure 2.
You can select from a huge range of presets or use the tabbed pages to alter the settings to taste
Exposure 2 promises to give your digital pictures a ‘film-stock’ makeover. A large range of presets (over 200) not only let you do relatively conventional image processing such as changing colour pictures to monochrome, increasing the saturation or altering the sharpness; they can also simulate specific types of film such as ‘Kodachrome 100G’ or ‘Fuji Reala - pushed 2 stops’.
Now, even though at one time in my career, I worked as a freelance photographer (pop stars), I have to confess that I am not familiar with the finer points of all these film types nor do I have ready access to sample of film stock to do comparative tests. So I am going to have to take Alien Skin’s word for the accuracy of the filters.
I can certainly see changes when I select one film stock or another but the effects are often quite subtle - a slight tonal difference of the highlights or shadows, a slightly increased ‘warmth’ of tone and so forth. On the whole, I find it easier to understand and use the presets with more straightforward names such as ‘Sunlight faded, blue shadows’ (which makes it look like a photograph that’s been left too long on a bright window ledge),’Super Fat Grain 100%” (which makes it look like a picture that’s been printed on sandpaper!) or ‘Daguerreotype - Sepia’ (which turns a new photograph into one that seems to date from the reign of Queen Victoria).
You can customise the presets by making adjustments to the settings in a set of tabbed dialog pages: Color, Tone, Focus, Grain and (for black-and-white pictures only), IR /Infrared. The IR filters can be used to give crisper contrast plus subtle glow effects or ‘halation’.
The user interface of Exposure 2 is simple and easy to use. It lets you preview all effects in a panel before applying them to the original image. Exposure 2 can be used with Photoshop CS2 or later. Photoshop Elements 4 or later, Adobe Fireworks CS3/CS4 or Corel Pro Photo XI. Windows users must have at least a Pentium 4 processor or compatible and Windows XP or later. Macintosh users must have a PowerPC or Intel processor and Mac OS X 10.4 or later. A monitor with 1024x768 resolution or greater is required.
Example Original (top left); Golden Hour, Orange More (top right), Kodak Ultra Color 100UC (bottom left); Daguerreotype - Sepia (bottom right). Bear in mind that these samples are rather small and low-resolution. For more extensive, higher resolution examples, see Alien Skin’s Exposure 2 Examples page: http://www.alienskin.com/exposure/exposure_examples.aspx
All in all, a very nice tool for fine tuning digital photographs. And if you are really serious about your work, the Photo Bundle of five filters is great value.