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Feb 26, Editor Rating: Excellent 4. Terms of use. In fact, the program bears a striking resemblance to Lightroom. It's notable for a raft of interesting presets, layer support, a blur tool, and overlays including borders and light leaks. However, it lacks Lightroom's auto-correct tools, chromatic aberration correction, and strong geometry tools. That said, it also lacks Lightroom's subscription fees, which are anathema to many photo software users.

No subscription is required or even offered. View All 9 Photos in Gallery Interface At first glance, Exposure's interface resembles that of Lightroom, but there are some important differences. First, there are no modes for different operations like organizing, developing, and sharing. The program resembles Lightroom with its dark gray interface, however, featuring a panel on the left for the source and on the right for adjustments and metadata.

Exposure even uses the same exact triangle arrows for collapsing these panels. Zooming is a simple matter of spinning the mouse wheel, which makes me happy. Split views for before-and-after viewing are always an option. A thorough set of keyboard shortcuts eases getting to many editing and viewing tasks. The full-screen view omits the title bar and taskbar, and you can use a two-monitor setup, as well as customizing panel locations. Import and Organize The term import doesn't appear in the Exposure interface, but you can choose Copy Photos From Card from the File menu, or just navigate to a folder on your computer.

When I first opened the program, it already displayed a grid of images from my Photos folder, and you can have it watch folders for any added images.

Rating and editing images is possible before the whole import finishes. One problem I ran into here was that only my main system drive's Photos, Desktop, and Pictures folders were accessible.

I couldn't get to a backup drive or my OneDrive cloud storage until I discovered that the unintuitively named Add Bookmark option was how you add folders. Exposure doesn't put you through a separate raw conversion process when you open a raw camera file the way Serif Affinity Photo does—the images are just there, ready to be worked on. The software supports raw files from most popular current camera models—over in all. My raw import quality looked more natural but less detailed than that of Adobe Lightroom.

You don't get Lightroom's choice of rendering profiles Color, Portrait, Vivid, and so on , but there's a choice of process version or and a slider for intensity. Changing either of these didn't affect my image, however, and there's nothing about it in the program's Support.

Longtime users may know the difference, but new users are likely to be puzzled here. Alien Skin Exposure on the left, Lightroom on the right. Click to zoom. You can categorize your pictures with star ratings, color labels, and flags. You can also search based on camera model, lens, and shot settings—something not found in all photo workflow software, including Lightroom CC. Keywording is basic and is found down in the Metadata section of the right panel.

I am impressed the Exposure recognized my keywords and keyword sets from Lightroom. The program lets you create Collections and can create Smart Collections for you, based on criteria such as ratings, camera, lens, f-stop—basically anything you can search for in the file. You don't get any face-recognition or geo-tagging for organization, as you do in CyberLink PhotoDirector and Adobe Lightroom. Adjusting Photos Exposure's Basic adjustment panel is nearly identical to Lightroom's: Clarity, Vibrance, and saturation adjustments are also available.

One big difference: There's no auto-correct. Many pro photographers would say that that doesn't matter, but Adobe data has shown that far more photographers use automatic corrections than admit to it. The Tone Curve tool lets you finely adjust each brightness level for each of the RGB color channels separately or all at once.

This lets you either correct an image's lighting very accurately or produce wacky, psychedelic color effects like that below. Noise reduction works similarly to how it does in most other photo editors: You adjust a slider to reduce brightness and color noise. It works, but, also as in most apps, the result loses detail, and sliding the Detail slider doesn't improve the situation.

Like Lightroom, Exposure includes profile-based Lens corrections, and it had no trouble finding my popular Canon lenses, though it didn't correct a fisheye image from an 8mm Samyang lens very effectively. A slider lets you adjust the geometry correction, but for the 8mm, even that was not effective. A more important omission is the lack of any chromatic aberration or fringing correction.

Nor is there a dehaze tool, as offered by several competitors. Finally, the profile corrections don't include vignette correction, though there is a separate Vignette tool group. The Transform group of tools let you change a photo's vertical and horizontal axes, rotate but not automatically , and adjust X and Y offsets.

But it doesn't have an equivalent of Lightroom's Upright tool, which automatically corrects skewed lines and even lets you draw a line that you want to make vertical or horizontal. Effects and Layers Exposure is loaded to the brim with effect Presets. These can turn your image into a Kodachrome with scratches, a heart-shaped selective-focus shot, or a tooth-whitened and skin-softened portrait.

Some of the presets add multiple layers to your image, and you can go in and tinker with any of them. You can also add layers to stack multiple presets. Other things you can do with layers include selecting gradients, both circular and linear, and using brushes.

For the latter, you can choose from typically needed presets like burn, dodge, blur, clarity, and contrast. Gradients let you use any of the program's adjustments for lighting, color, and details.

There's no luminosity aka luminance gradient tool that selects photo areas based on brightness, like those found in Lightroom and Skylum Luminar. Along with the abundance of presets, however, there are a few sections on the editing panel that you won't find in Lightroom: Overlays applies borders and light effects such as light leaks, and textures in layers.

These will be welcomed by those who like to get artistic with their images. The Focus controls let you apply blur, sharpening, and presets such as Glamour to entire images. Lightroom has a Grain slider, but Exposure's offers more control and 16 presets. IR is a single effect that can add halation and fog.

Performance and Help Like Adobe, Alien Skin puts its help on the web, something I'm not crazy about, since you can't access it offline. Even worse, there's no full help reference, and you may find yourself reading support articles for a product other than Exposure. During testing Exposure was reasonably responsive and completed most editing tasks without much delay. For this test, Alien Skin Exposure took 3: Lightroom Classic took 4: For lots more control, the full Export dialog presents a full selection of file formats, renaming, resizing, and metadata options.

It also lets you add a watermark, choose a color space, and set output sharpening. Also included are presets for contact sheet layouts as well as other commonly needed sizes—5 by 7, 4 by 6, and so on.

You can also create custom layouts and watermarks. Down-to-Earth Photo Editing Alien Skin Exposure X4's very familiar and attractive interface which could easily be mistaken for Lightroom's , wealth of effects and adjustments, and lack of required subscription fee will appeal to some photographers.

But Lightroom Classic, the PCMag Editors' Choice for professional photo workflow software beats it out with better organization tools, superior raw file conversion, and more effective lens-based geometry corrections.

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When I reviewed Alien Skin Exposure X3 , I noted several features that make it unique among other photo editing and organizing applications, such as its extensive library of professional presets, a quad-layout interface option for reviewing multiple similar shots at once, and a novel way of storing nondestructive edits on disk.

The changes in this release address some prior rough edges, add features and refine the experience of processing your photos Although the new Exposure X4 version 4. The changes in this release address some prior rough edges, add features that are now expected for this class of software, and in general refine the experience of processing your photos without feeling like the software is getting in the way. Using the brush to paint adjustments was like watching a movie with dialogue out of sync: The improvement between that experience and Exposure X4 is noticeable: The Shadows control, which was oddly heavy-handed in the previous release, now behaves as you would expect, manipulating just the tones in shadow areas instead of lightening or darkening the entire image.

New Organizing Features When importing photos from a memory card or camera, Exposure X4 now includes image thumbnails so you can choose which photos to copy - a seemingly essential feature that was missing in previous versions. That fills out the Copy Photos from Card dialog, which also allows you to select multiple cards or directories at the same time, make backups to a separate location during import, and assign metadata to the images. Preview and select which photos to import.

The new Smart Collections feature displays photos based on criteria you set, such as revealing all photos captured with a 50mm lens rated three stars or higher.

When defining capture time as a criterion, you can enter only specific dates. Lightroom, by contrast, requires any file management be done within the app, or else it loses track of where photos are stored.

Exposure X4 is quick about updating folders when new images are added to them. Monitoring a folder lets you assign metadata and rename files as they arrive via a tethered connection. I also discovered, by accident, that Exposure X4 does a good job of keeping edits and metadata together with original files if the images are moved on disk.

When I moved some images to a different folder in the Finder on my Mac, Exposure X4 automatically moved the associated sidecar files to the new location. You can apply color lookup tables LUTs to affect how colors are translated and to apply distinct looks. The application includes nearly a dozen sample LUTs, with the ability to import more.

Get different looks by applying LUTs. Now some of those effects can be freely moved, scaled, and rotated. With controls for zoom, opacity, and blend mode, you can make an effect as dramatic or as subtle as you wish. But now you can remap every shortcut in the preferences if you want to, or just see which keys perform which actions.

Still, metadata, color labels, and ratings all transfer. Odds and Ends Review similar shots in quad-layout mode. Also helpful are export presets for generating photos formatted for social networks; Exposure X4 now also includes print presets. One item on my feature wishlist remains unchanged: You can remap every shortcut in the preferences if you still have years of Adobe muscle memory I also ran into a weird problem that ate up several hours of diagnosis.

Sometimes, the Folders panel—and therefore, my library—would not appear when I launched Exposure X4. It turns out to be part of a feature, but one which looks like a bug. Conclusion Exposure X4 is a solid update that shores up some areas that needed attention and builds on a photo editor that already stands apart in interesting ways. And most important, Alien Skin improved the performance in areas that make a difference.

Upgrade pricing for earlier versions of Exposure is also available, and you can try the software for free during a day trial. What we like:

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