But I do remember the rich colors of Kodak Kodachrome and the grainy texture of Kodak Tri-X, the increased contrast and grain when pushing film, and the look of some Polaroid instant slide films and how easily they were scratched.
When it came to E-6 reversal (slide) films, Fuji fast became a favorite, with Velvia and Provia leading the pack. Ilford’s black-and-white emulsions also had a unique place, capturing a certain depth of tone. Agfa color film never quite did it for me; ditto their black-and-white emulsions. Fuji black-and-white, too, was one I rarely used, although it did have its adherents. There was also 3M and Konica – each a poor but economical substitute. Some of these films are still available today, although I doubt they’re the same. On the other hand, for the more adventurous film shooter there is Lomography film, for a unique twist on analog photography.
One of my favorite black-and-white films was known as chromogenic—a favorite not because it was processed in color chemistry and yielded a black-and-white negative, but because it could be exposed over a wide range of ISO settings – kind of like what we do today with our digital cameras – one film fits all, kinda.
What I don’t miss about film is changing cassettes amid a storm of midges, the time wasted to change film cassettes, the need to change film cassettes whether because you’ve run out of exposures or to suit the lighting or the subject – and the need to carry around all those canisters of film. Good thing back then that airline travel was a simpler thing.
Still, I wonder if I’ll ever recapture the feeling of looking at a cardboard-mounted frame of Kodachrome on a lightbox, seeing those rich colors, that fine grain. I know I won’t recapture it in a film emulator, but at least this software can imbue my images with a quality they did not have before. And that’s what I’m going for. And that’s what I found so remarkable about Alien Skin’s Exposure X.
What Is the “X” in Exposure X?
Exposure X is not simply the Exposure app updated. Exposure has something “X”tra – new life and a new vitality. It’s now also a RAW converter, which means that you no longer have to first process your files before taking them to the next level. But how practical is Exposure X as a RAW processor? Regrettably, it's missing a number of things, not least of which is a histogram. But if you're not working in Adobe Lightroom or using Adobe Photoshop to process your RAW images (or any other RAW processor), then this is a quick and easy RAW converter. And it's non-destructive.
I personally use the software as a Lightware plug-in. I could also use it as a Photoshop plug-in, but Lightroom is where I do all my RAW processing.
Why I Don't Like Film Emulators
The main reason I don’t believe in film emulation software is that film is variable: from batch to batch and with how the film was exposed, processed, and stored (before and after exposure), and if it was used beyond the expiration date. Professional photographers would buy film in bulk and control processing to minimize variables. And each would get from that roll of film a definable quality and consistency.
Today there are too many variables, not least of which is sourcing the film for testing.
So, Why Am I Even Bothering with This Software?
Because it’s fun to use and lends my images a distinct quality. No one who looks at the results asks, what film did you use or, more shrewdly inquires, what emulator did you use? No, they simply marvel at the images. I'll let the results speak for themselves.
I don’t even take notes on which presets I used, although a few stay with me. I just apply those presets that appear to best suit the image, and I of course tweak them to my taste.
Where can I get more info?
Alien Skin Software
Who publishes it?
Alien Skin Software
How much is it?
Free trial available: Yes
Some Tips From Alien Skin Software
Exposure uses the brush button to combine effects. You can stack two effects with this procedure:
* Open Exposure, select an image, and select the first preset from the presets pane.
* Click the brush button
* Select the second preset from the presets pane.
* Choose 'close' from the brush panel.
* The result is the second preset applied over the first.
You can also use brushing to apply an effect selectively.
* Open Exposure and select an image.
* Click the brush button.
* Choose the 'neutral' preset from the brush presets on the brush panel. Velvia affects the entire image.
* Select a dust texture from the overlays panel
* Choose the brush size, feather, and flow options
* Use the brush tool in the preview to add the effect.
* Choose 'close' from the brush panel.
* Repeat the procedure to add another layer, such as scratches.
* If you want to modify existing layers, select the pins in the preview area while the brushing panel is open. The selected pin has a black center.
In summary, opening the brushing panel and applying a preset will add a layer that affects the entire image. Opening the brushing panel and starting to brush will start a new layer that affects the regions you brush.
As you may notice, changing the sliders in the editing panels doesn't modify the preset you applied. If you want to save a modified version of a preset for later use, you can save it as a new preset. We designed it this way to prevent presets from being accidentally modified.
Exposure X can be used standalone or as a plug-in (Adobe Photoshop CS6 or Adobe Photoshop CC 2015 or newer; Adobe Lightroom 6 or Adobe Lightroom CC 2015 or newer)
Mac OS X 10.9 (Mavericks); 21.5” iMac equipped with a 3.1 GHz Intel Core i7 processor, 16 GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M 512 MB.
File Types Supported:
RAW (all popular formats), TIFF, JPEG
A film emulator that also does RAW processing. Exposure X offers numerous settings to let you tweak the results, but not enough to lend each image a distinct feel. When you process a true wet plate, for example, each and every image looks different. You don’t quite get that here with the wet plate options. That said, you can always go into Photoshop to finesse the image further and give it that distinctive quality.
I was enamored of Alien Skin’s software way back, specifically Eye Candy and the now ill-fated Xenofex when Photoshop plug-ins were few and far between and well before I started using Lightroom. These plug-ins helped me produce some of my most creative composite images.
Sadly, I haven’t had them on my computer in a while and I miss them. But at least I now have Exposure X. No, it’s certainly not a replacement for those plug-ins, but it does let me add a new flavor to my images and one that no other film emulator has allowed me to do – and to achieve these results easily and efficiently.
Despite some weakness (which I’m told will be addressed in time), Exposure X is a decidedly worthwhile addition to my image editing library.