Thursday, June 26, 2014

Why Alien Skin Exposure 6 Is Great

As I mentioned a few days ago, I very recently downloaded Alien Skin Exposure 6 photo editing software. I continue to be impressed with Exposure 6, and even said the other day, "This is the software I've been waiting for!"

I grew up in the days of film. When I was a kid I used to borrow my dad's Sears KS Super 35mm SLR and shoot Kadachrome 64. My first real camera was a Canon AE-1 SLR. I used a number of different black-and-white and color films, and even spent many, many hours in a darkroom. I went digital about five years ago, but I still own and occasionally use several film cameras.

I love the look of many different films that I've used for years and years. There's a quality that's difficult to quantify that I appreciate. It's simply missing in digital images.

Now with Exposure 6 you have full control of the editing process, and there are a whole host of ways to make tons of different adjustments. But that's not what makes the software great. Alien Skin has done painstaking research and figured out how to make a digital image look like film with one click.

Which film? You name it. Every film that I've ever used, plus a bunch that I haven't (including some that have been discontinued) are all available. Even push processed, bleach bypass, cross processed, different chemicals, toning, etc.--they've figured this all out. And they look very much like the real deal, including the grain.

Exposure 6 is the software for photographers who really like film, but prefer the convenience of digital.

Below are 10 photographs (five color and five black-and-white). They are all different versions of one photograph called Hitching Post & House. I captured that photograph using a Sigma DP2 Merrill camera. I had to open up the RAW file in Sigma's software and save it as a TIFF. I applied nothing other than the default settings.

I then opened up the TIFF file in Exposure 6 and applied different film presets. Some of the presets I let stand "as-is" while others I made some minor tweaks. I made no major adjustments other than applying the different film presets. Below you can see the results and judge for yourself.

All of the film presets that I chose are of films that I have personally used at least once with the exception of Kodalith, which I've never had the chance to use. Exposure 6 just nails the look of each of these films. Some of the differences between the different films are subtle, while others are more obvious.

Kodak Plus-X 125
Ilford Delta 100
I darkened the sky a little in this version to simulate an orange filter.
Kodak Kodalith
Just a little too contrasty for this scene.
Kodak Tri-X 400 pushed to 3200
Just a tad too grainy for this scene. I darkened the sky a little to simulate an orange filter.
Kodak Tri-X 400 pushed to 800
I darkened the sky a little to simulate an orange filter.
Of these five monochrome versions, I like each of them, but it is a toss-up between the Delta 100 and the Tri-X pushed one stop for which would be my favorite. For this scene, I like the cleanness of the Ilford film, but the contrast of the Tri-X. If Kodalith was just a little less contrasty I'd prefer it (actually, there is a less-contrasty Kodalith option available, I just didn't choose it).

Fuji Reala 100 pushed to 400
A little too grainy for this scene.
Kodachrome 64
Kodak Ektar 100
Fuji Velvia 100
Kodak Ektachrome 100VS
When I captured this scene I did not intend to make a color version of this photograph. I did so to illustrate that Exposure 6 does a great job of replicating the look of the different films.

Of these five color versions, I prefer the Ektachrome 100VS. That was one of my favorite color films back in the day. The Ektar version would be my runner up. The Reala film is too grainy for this scene, the Kodachrome isn't saturated enough, and the Velvia isn't warm enough. If it were a different scene, I might prefer a different film. You choose the film that's most appropriate for the scene.

Interestingly, Kodachrome has been discontinued for a while now, and even if you still have some old rolls, there are no labs that will develop it. Yet, thanks to Alien Skin, it lives on in digital form. Kodachrome, for those who may not know, was the standard film for National Geographic for many decades. 

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