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Test Drive: Alien Skin's Exposure X4.5 Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

2 April 2019

Alien Skin released a free update to Exposure X4, its Raw photo editor, adding Look-Up Table support, new image copy and organizing tools, configurable keyboard shortcuts, enhanced metadata options and new light effect overlays.

We've had a chance to sample the new features in v4.5 and find them all welcomed enhancements. The new LUT support and configurable shortcuts top our list.


Highlights of the new release, along with Alien Skin's comprehensive but compact tutorials by Jimmy Beech, include:

  • Exposure can now import color grading Look-Up Tables or LUTs from a variety of sources to apply color styles to images.
  • Copy Photos from Card now displays image previews on the card, allowing you to select only the images you want to import.
  • Configurable keyboard shortcuts allow you to assign an editing organizing or navigating function to your preferred keystroke. A Lightroom keyboard shortcut preset is included and can be reset using the default settings.
  • There are more freely moveable light leak overlays, including new categories for Lens Flare and Haze.
  • Collection membership now appears in the Metadata panel, so you can see a full list of the collections to which a photo belongs.
  • Support for additional cameras and lenses from tFujifilm, Leica, Panasonic, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, Canon, DJI.
  • User-requested workflow refinements that include new photo sizing options when exporting, new keyboard shortcuts and more.


We're glad to see you can select which images on your card to import but we don't use any editing software to import our images so we didn't test that new feature extensively.

But we did spend some time with the LUT support and keyboard configuration features. And we very much appreciated those two new tools.

We can't actually use a custom keyboard configuration when writing about Exposure, however, because it would seem strangely arbitrary to reference an undocumented keystroke. But we think it's a terrific addition for anyone coming to the program from another editor and very helpful for old hands who want to optimize their time. And it just happens to be very well implemented.

Let's take a closer look at LUTs and the keyboard configuration features.


To test the new LUTs feature described in Jimmy Beech's tutorial above, we downloaded Frank Glencairn's free K-Tone LUT, which applies a Kodachrome look to an image.

Installation was as simple as clicking the Browse option in the LUT panel (with an image open) and navigating to our unzipped download. Exposure can import any .cube LUT file you have.

You can assign a default color space to the LUT on import or just select one when you apply it.

There are three options to set in the LUT panel: the LUT itself, its intensity (we used a light touch) and the color space.

At 50 percent intensity, the LUT makes a dramatic change to the color rendering of an image. But lowering the intensity reigned it in. In our rollover example below, we applied the Hard B&W LUT supplied by Alien Skin at 33 percent to bring back some color. And in the Kodachrome LUT we downloaded from the Internet, we set intensity to 15 percent.

The effect above is therefore subtle but during the edit you are aware that you are grading the color. In the rollover below we show the LUT's intensity set at one-eighth strength (25), quarter strength (50) and half strength (100) for comparison:

Those were all too strong for our taste but you can see what a difference applying a LUT makes compared to the original image on top. And that's just showing the effect at no more than half strength.

Which makes playing with LUTs a lot of fun. And when you consider how many are available at no charge, there's no end to the fun.

So what's the difference between a LUT and a preset?

A LUT confines itself to mapping its color range to that of the image and restricting the tonality to its own range. A preset, on the other hand, may do all that and more, incorporating other common edits that might include changing exposure, sharpening and even vignetting.

What we found fun about LUTs is that they didn't fool around with our other settings but just the color and tone of the image.

Copy Photos from Card

Exposure X4.5 adds checkboxes to the thumbnails it displays of image on your mounted memory card.

Copy Photos from Card. Now you can copy just selected images.

The import feature can add selected fields like copyright information to the image header and apply a preset. Keywords and collections can also be set. And it can save a backup copy of the images imported and rename them, too.

It's also smart enough to import only new images, ones that haven't yet been imported. Considering that Exposure X4.5 doesn't use a database to track your images, that's a nice touch.

Our own import process doesn't quite fit that model, converting proprietary Raw formats into DNG and applying copyright metadata, importing the images into a slugged folder that is, in a separate step, copied to three other locations for backup. We can select images from thumbnails displayed in Image Capture but we rarely do.

But Exposure X4.5 gets the basics right and being able to import only a selection of images may be a productivity enhancement in some workflows.

Keyboard Configuration

For an initial release, the keyboard configuration feature is thoughtfully and comprehensively implemented.

You can define (or redefine) a keyboard shortcut for many commands, simply by clicking on the command listed in the Shortcuts Preferences within Exposure. Commands are grouped in four categories: Creative Editing, Navigating, Organizing and Tools. That makes them pretty easy to track down.

Conflicts bring up warnings so you can edit the duplicate before adding it. And you can add multiple shortcuts to the same command, even indicating which should appear in the tooltip.

You do have to click on the Add command before clicking OK to assign the shortcut. That may seem less than efficient but because you can assign more than one shortcut to a command, it makes sense.

Lightroom Compatibility. The set of shortcuts is included with the update.

Sets can be saved under a new name and printed out for reference.

Exposure also comes with a set that mimics Lightroom's keyboard shortcuts. Applying a set is instantaneous and you can revert to the application's default set just as fast.

Even if you don't need to reinvent the wheel, there is inevitably one shortcut or another you'll want to define either to avoid retraining yourself or just to make some task more efficient.

We wish every application we use had a shortcut configuration feature as good as this, in fact.

Move Freely

Among the other enhancements in this update, we'll mention just one. But it's one we really enjoyed working it.

The Light Effect panel has a new trick. You can select a new Alignment option called Move Freely. When you do, you can click on the images and a circular target with a handle orbiting it will appear on your image with the effect.

Move Freely. A much more versatile option.

This lets you reposition the effect, change its direction with the small handing orbiting the effect's point and reset it with a double-click. Hoover over the effect to see a tooltip reminding you what you can do with it.

You can't enlarge the effect by dragging on the circle but you can adjust the opacity as well as the blending mode, making the effect something of a toolbox in itself.

Exposure X4.5's Borders, Light Effect and Textures are among its many pleasures, adding immensely to the editing experience with the ability to turn a discard into a winner.


Exposure X4.5 can be run standalone or as a plug-in. System requirements include:

  • Apple Mac: OS X 10.10 Yosemite or newer
  • Microsoft Windows: Windows 7 64-bit or newer
  • An Intel Core 2 processor or compatible
  • A monitor with 1280x768 resolution or greater

As a plug-in, Exposure X4.5 requires one of the following host applications:

  • Adobe Photoshop CS6/CC 2015 or newer
  • Adobe Lightroom 6/CC 2015 or newer


The update is available now for download from the Alien Skin site and is free to owners of v4. New licenses are available for $119. A 30-day fully-featured free trial of Exposure is available.

For more information see the news release below.


We continue to be impressed by Alien Skin's design concepts behind Exposure as well as the quality of its software.

We found only one software issue in our testing of pre-release versions and when we promptly reported it, we learned it had already been fixed. That's just not the norm these days.

Exposure distinguishes itself for its special but credible effects that we tend to think of as design solutions. It is, in short, a creative partner in many projects.

It's also very easy to work with, with a better user interface (including larger fonts) than the competition.

We're giving it four photo corners but we may have to rethink that. It's broaching a mythical fifth corner with this release.

Alien Skin Software Announces Major Feature Update for Exposure X4 Raw Photo Editor

Exposure X4.5 adds LUT support, new image copy and organizing tools, configurable keyboard shortcuts, enhanced metadata options, new light effect overlays

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Alien Skin Software has announced the release of Exposure X4.5, a major update to Exposure X4, their award-winning, non-destructive Raw photo editor and organizer. Exposure's speed, stability and unmatched editing and organizing tools make it the standalone solution that photographers rely on to master their workflow and create beautiful images.

Exposure X4.5, which is free to all owners of Exposure X4, further expands Exposure's capabilities with significant new tools.

LUT support opens up new creative possibilities for photographers. LUT effects, available freely on the Internet or produced by other photo and video apps, may be imported into Exposure, where they can achieve striking looks. These effects can be further enhanced using Exposure's advanced editing and layering tools.

The redesigned Copy Photos from Card function displays visual previews of images at the source location, allowing photographers to quickly select the images they wish to copy, as well as select a variety of flexible source and destination options. Exposure's unique design differs from traditional photo editors by removing the need for slow imports, enabling photographers to begin their creative edits immediately after the image copy begins.

Configurable keyboard shortcuts allow photographers to assign an editing organizing or navigating function to a selected keystroke. For those migrating from Lightroom to Exposure, an included Lightroom keyboard shortcut preset eases the transition.

Further enhancements in Exposure X4.5 include the following:

  • Additional freely moveable light leak overlays, including the new categories of Lens Flare and Haze
  • Collection membership now appears the Metadata panel, enabling photographers to see a full list of the collections to which a photo belongs
  • Support for additional cameras and lenses from these manufacturers: Fujifilm, Leica, Panasonic, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, Canon, DJI
  • User-requested workflow refinements that include new photo sizing options when exporting, new keyboard shortcuts and more

"Exposure X4.5 delivers features that are among the most requested by our customers and that make Exposure an even more powerful and complete editing and organizing solution," said Alien Skin CEO Finley Lee.

About Exposure

Exposure began in 2005 as a film simulation plug-in for Photoshop and was immediately embraced by digital photographers of all genres seeking to recapture the organic look of film. Exposure has since grown into a standalone, non-destructive editing and organizing solution that handles every stage of the photography workflow.

Exposure's editing capabilities include a complete set of creative editing and retouching tools, outstanding Raw processing quality and an extensive library of customizable presets that include authentic analog film looks. Full-featured organizing tools -- collections and smart collections, keywords, virtual copies and more -- make it the ideal photo management solution. Its catalog-free approach provides photographers with a fast, intuitive approach to their organizing work.

Photographers can also use Exposure as a creative editing plug-in with other editors such as Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom.

Pricing and Availability

Exposure X4.5 is available now from for $119. It is free for current owners of Exposure X4. Upgrade pricing is available to owners of previous versions of Exposure for $79.

Exposure X4.5 is also the central app in the Exposure X4 Bundle. This integrated collection bundles Exposure X4.5 with Alien Skin's award-winning Blow Up and Snap Art tools to add high-quality image upsizing and natural media special effects. It is available for $149. It is free for current owners of the Exposure X4 Bundle. Owners of one or more of the current apps in the Exposure X4 Bundle can purchase it for $89.

A 30-day fully-featured free trial of Exposure is available. Visit to learn more and download the trial.

Host Requirements

Exposure X4.5 may be used as a standalone program or as a plug-in to other programs. When used as a plug-in, it requires one of the following host applications:

  • Adobe Photoshop CS6 or Adobe Photoshop CC 2015 or newer
  • Adobe Lightroom 6 or Adobe Lightroom CC 2015 or newer System Requirements
  • Apple Mac: OS X 10.10 Yosemite or newer
  • Microsoft Windows: Windows 7 64-bit or newer
  • An Intel Core 2 processor or compatible
  • A monitor with 1280x768 resolution or greater

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