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First Look: Alien Skin's Exposure 2 plugins

updated 09:00 pm EST, Wed December 5, 2007

First Look at Exposure 2

Digital photography, some film veterans will argue, has no feeling, due to the lack of imperfections in digital imagery. Others prefer the artistic qualities that film grain provides, and the varied tonal ranges that exist or have existed through different film types. Unfortunately, film is slowly losing ground to the digital lifestyle, and many film types are being discontinued, never to be seen again. Alien Skin's Exposure 2 gives new digital photographers a chance to play with well-loved vintage film effects - some that are even discontinued completely - and provides film photographers with the chance to keep using their tricks of the trade on in to the digital age.

Exposure 2 is a set of plugins for Adobe Photoshop that are designed to emulate film grain effects, as well as give users the ability to play with grain properties, color filtering, tone, focus and a number of other settings.

After installing the plugins and launching Photoshop, select an image to work on. Exposure is accessed through the Filters menu, and provides two options: Black and White Film, or Color Film. Each section features a number of different tabs that provide controls for the film preset selected. If you prefer to build your own effect from scratch, a neutral preset is provided and all settings can be altered from there. If you happen to want Color Film after selecting Black and White Film, shortcut keystrokes and menus allow you to switch back and forth between the two, as well as other Alien Skin filters.

The right side of the plugin window contains the preview and a few buttons. A pulldown menu contains options for how the preview works - split horizontally, vertically, diagonally, or total. There is a button to swap between seeing a preview and seeing the original file, a zoom tool, and a movement tool.

The Settings tab contains all of the film presets - from companies such as Agfa, Fuji, Ilford, Kodak, and Polaroid, as well as some vintage finishing types like Daguerrotype and Calotype - and custom user settings. When you choose a setting, it instantaneously shows in the right hand preview window. From there, you are free to edit the effect properties or accept the setting and move on.

The Settings tab

The Color tab is where fine tuning is done to the cast and inks. In the Color Film filter, you can change RGB saturation, filter color and density, cooling and warming, and overall intensity. The Black and White Film filter uses RGB sliders to emulate the effect of having a gel filter over the lens, and instead of changing the cast, you can change the colors and intensities of inks used, and which ink occupies either shadows or highlights.

The color tab

A curve chart and contrast, highlight, midtone, and shadow controls occupy the Tone tab, with preset functionality and sampling features. The Focus tab provides a few sharpening and blurring options.

The Tone tab

The Focus tab

The Grain tab provides controls for adding grain to the image - something that is normally seen on film due to millions of randomly-sized little silver halide filaments. Here you can set the grain size, intensity, roughness, and whether to emulate push push processing or not.

The Grain tab

Black and White Film has one additional option that color does not: Infrared. IR film typically provides an eerie, surrealistic feel to photographs, making images seem other-worldly with black skies and white foliage. Controls for color contrast and halation are located in this pane.

The Settings tab

Exposure 2 has many different effects that can be achieved through the use of its many sliders and controls, and acts as somewhat of a virtual time capsule, preserving vintage film effects from being lost to the ages. Check back soon for a review covering Exposure 2.

by MacNN Staff



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