5 Things I Didn’t Know About Alien Skin Exposure X4: Software Review

What I don’t know would fill a 300TB hard drive, that’s for sure. But I thought I had a pretty good handle on Exposure X4 from Alien Skin. I’ve been using Exposure in its progressive incarnations for a long time, so I was really surprised to learn that it has powers I never knew.

What is Alien Skin Exposure X4?
Alien Skin Exposure X4 is a powerful Raw editing platform that is replete with useful tools and more than 500 valuable presets. With significant emphasis on file classification and organization, X4 includes features like Smart Collections that help keep your image library orderly. It’s sold on a subscription-free basis and they have a free trial offer (it’s always a good idea to try before you buy). Priced at $149 it’s not a casual purchase, but the cost is reasonable for what you get, and competitive in the marketplace.

The strength of this non-destructive editor is its film emulation. If you have reasonable knowledge of—or curiosity about—past emulsions and want to recreate them, this is the place to go. And it provides an intuitive side-by-side image comparison view that lets you make choices easier than some other systems. Exposure X4 from Alien Skin does everything you’d expect from a high-end editor, things like PSD support, Mac and 64-bit Win compatibility, integration as a PS plug-in, etc., and it does everything fast.

Here’s the deal; I play with many, many different pieces of software and many of them suck. Some can do cool things, but either crash or otherwise abuse system resources. In fact, there are a few out there that I never want to install on my sandbox PC again. But when it comes to Exposure, Snap Art and other Alien Skin applications, I’ve never had a crash, lock-up, memory leak or laggard processing time. That says a lot in my book.

Here is what I didn’t know Alien Skin Exposure X4 can do.

1. Correct perspective distortion.
Buildings everywhere have been falling over backwards for this feature. Okay, weak joke, but you immediately get the drift. When a large object like a building is photographed by a camera that is tilted off vertical access, the image is distorted. Exposure X4 can correct most distortion and includes handy tools that allow you to rescale the image before cropping.

2. Reposition film fog and lighting effect overlays.
Adding that fogged-film look to your creation is sometimes fun, and even the older versions of Exposure did it well—but the fog and flare always appeared in the same absolute location. In X4 you can move the blotch around to meet your artistic needs. To indicate which effect is moveable, AS has overlaid the familiar hand icon (you can see it in the screen shot above if you squint).

3. Organize image files into Smart Collections.
There are only a couple animals that are worse than I am at filing and retrieving images, and one of them is named Zippy the Chimp. Oh, I have a great system for filing files; finding them again is where I break down. ASX4 can automatically populate folders into Smart Collections using data that you specify. Retrieval becomes a snap.

4. Watermark photos when exporting or printing. I don’t do this often, but many people do. Adding a watermark protects your ownership and usage rights. Exposure X4 adds your indicia automatically upon request, including information from image metadata if desired.

5. Render grain differently in shadows, mid-tones, and highlights.
Many plug-ins can simulate grain, but most do it either randomly or equally in all density areas. Alien Skin Exposure can render grain more realistically by altering its appearance in the shadows and the highlights.

There may be more things I don’t know about in Alien Skin Exposure X4. Not to make excuses for my folly, but like many people I learned the software through trial and error, and stuck with the features I like. This experience has taught me to delve a bit deeper even when I think I already know it all.

—Jon Sienkiewicz