Alien Skin Exposure X2 £121 (currency conversion)/$ 149
Perfect for analogue film effect fans
You can use Exposure X2 as a plug-in filter for Photoshop or Lightroom, but it also works as a standalone app, with built-in folder browsing tools and the ability to add keywords, ratings and colour labels, batch rename photos, and sort and filter them on various different criteria.
The multitude of analogue, retro, low-fi and cinematic effects that form the backbone of the software can be applied via single-click presets arranged in categories in a vertical panel on the left of the screen. They’re applied non-destructively, so you can go back to change the settings at any time. You can also export a new, processed image file alongside the original with a simple keyboard shortcut.
The instant results are backed up by in-depth tools for those times when a little extra control is needed. The effects are built from adjustments including tone and colour adjustments as well as light leaks, textures and film simulations. These tools can be combined in many ways, and you can brush the adjustments on to localised areas.
The integrated browsing/ editing environment is very intuitive, and is lacking the more complex cataloguing tools of Lightroom that some find too much. It doesn’t do all that Photoshop does, but you can send images to Photoshop and save them to the same folder.
Exposure X2 has a large library of atmospheric analogue film effects and image enhancement tools. It can handle regular levels, curves, colour and other enhancements like Photoshop, but its effects-first approach is more appealing if you’re looking for inspiration, uniqueness and a ‘hand-finished’ look. It does this straight out of the box, and while you could perhaps achieve the same things in Photoshop, you’d be facing some long and complex processes to get there.
Platform: PC and Mac Requirements: Windows 8 64-bit or later, Mac OS X 10.10 or later Browsing: Yes Cataloguing: No RA W processing: Yes Lens corrections: Yes Localised adjustments: Yes Layers and masks: No Preset effects: Yes Plug-ins: No
Features Ease of use: Performance Value for money
Delivers a vast collection of effects, simple browsing and powerful adjustments.