About a year ago, Lee Morris stated that Alien Skin Exposure 4 was his favorite photo enhancement plugin for Photoshop. Claiming that all of its film presets makes it stand out above the rest, and the clear winner in the plugin world. Just a few weeks or so ago, Alien Skin released the latest installment, Exposure 5. But is it still the champion and must have plugin that Exposure 4 was?
Let me start by saying I won this software in a recent photo submission contest held by Peter Nguyen, a long time Exposure fan and a bit of an unofficial spokesperson for the software. If I had known that the software was available, I wouldn't have needed to enter into the contest, as I probably would have purchased it outright, since I have always loved Exposure 4.
I know plugins get a lot of hate. I’m largely with you, the hard way is always the best way when it comes to editing photos. I've always been a longtime outspoken curves fan, claiming that 95% of my editing is done through curves and layer masks. However, Plugins give me something that curves simply cannot do with ease. It gives me creative ideas.
I'm a warm tone person, through and through. Going through my portfolio seems like a trip to summer, and even when I’m shooting in blizzards, I still manage to find a way to use warm tones over cold ones. Its not because I'm completely obsessed with warm tones, its just all I've ever done. Exposure 4 / 5 opened me up to the other half of the color pallette, something I wouldn't have done on my own. Plugins are a great way to experiment, and push your creative inspiration to new heights.
What’s New In Exposure 5
Exposure 5, while having the exact same beautiful film presets as 4, has a lot of new and wonderful features to help make your workflow easier, and much much faster. By making the new Exposure 5 a standalone product, it allows it to be used in Lightroom, Photoshop, Aperture, or on its own. So lets go through and breakdown each new feature one by one.
Alien Skin has unleashed a brand new interface with Exposure 5, with a darker background color for your eyes, and scroll bars instead of menus. This makes it much easier to navigate to the features you're looking for, and makes the entire program run much more seamlessly. They also added my new favorite feature, the Grain toggle. By clicking this on or off, you can remove grain from your entire work process. With the toggle off, even the presets will remove grain from the equation, giving a whole new look to some of those lo-fi film presets.
This one was long overdue. Now, working like Lightroom and its presets, you have a small thumbnail, showing how each effect will look on your photo. A wonderful feature for those of us who are going through and editing photos quickly. The new menu system also supports a search feature, allowing you to find all of the pre made, and self made filters quickly. Certainly the old way in Exposure 4 wasn’t nearly as archaic as Photoshop Actions, but its still nice to see that they're continuing to evolve and make the workflow of photographers easier. Accompanying the visual workflow is your Recently Used tab, making it so re-using presets you just created incredibly easy. With this tab always open, I'm able to quickly go through and recreate some of the filters I used for an entire set of photos.
Perhaps the greatest thing about the new Exposure 5 is the batch processing. By making the software work in Lightroom, Aperture and Standalone, Alien Skin was able to make batch processing a possibility. This means you can easily open a bunch of photos, and go through them one by one to edit them how you see fit with a timeline on the bottom. No more opening and closing the program 40 times to get the same effect (or different) on all your photos. This works great for Lightroom and on the stand alone program, but it appears that it does not work yet for Photoshop, as you can typically only work on one photo at a time.
Another wonderful feature within Exposure 5 is the new sun flares. By using these, you’re able to quickly add realistic flares to your images. Not only do they look great, but they're fairly customizable within the dialog as well. Working much like the Light Leaks did in Exposure 4, you have many different flares to choose from, able to alter their position and opacity. However it seems that they got rid of the randomize feature found in Exposure 4 (Or true randomization at least), which is unfortunate. Fortunately, I can still have Exposure 4 installed, and intend on using that for the random light leak features.
So is Exposure 5 Worth the Upgrade?
In short, yes. If you’re an avid fan of Exposure 4, you’ll love the new interface and new features included in the latest update. I’m not much of a plugin fan, but I have always had a strong love in my heart for the Exposure series. In my opinion, and I haven’t tried them all, but Exposure 5 is the best plugin available for Photoshop today. The new interface, features, and standalone product make this a must have for those looking to get those wonderful film presents with ease.
What I Liked
- New Batch Processing System will be incredibly useful for event and wedding photography.
- Sun flares are pretty, and give my images that extra pop
- New Dark Interface is much easier on the eyes, and flows with Photoshop CS6/CC better.
- Visual Workflow makes quickly viewing different features easy.
What Could Use Improvement
- I wish they didn’t change the light leak features.
- Still understandably clunky during batch processing.
Alien Skin Exposure is available online for $199, or at an upgrade price from Exposure 1/2/3/4 of $99. However, Alien Skin is currently running a special where Exposure 5 is available for 50% off right now. So if you’re thinking about making the purchase now is the time to do so.
Alien Skin Exposure has been a long time plugin that I've used. Infact, its about the only plugin I even have installed in Photoshop. Not only is the new upgrade a great update to an already wonderful program, but it's currently very affordable to those looking to upgrade.