Exposure X5 Review. True Lightroom Alternative? Last Updated on October 9th, This article is a logical extension of my initial attempt to answer one of the most common questions I receive from the PhotoTraces community: What is the best Lightroom alternative? I created a simple quiz where, after answering a series of simple questions about your photography, you will receive a few of my recommendations.
Today, I want to go deeper by reviewing one of the top Lightroom contenders: Exposure X5. What is Exposure X5? I find it amusing that a company with a distinctive and fun name like Alien Skin transitioned into a such a boring and faceless corporate name and logo. Exposure X5 is positioned in direct competition with Lightroom. When Apple discontinued Aperture in , Lightroom became the main player in the realm of RAW editors by not only capturing a segment of the professional photography market but attracting amateur photographers and even the occasional hobbyists as well.
Today, newcomers trying to compete with the biggest name in the industry face a tough, uphill battle. There are two ways that companies try to compete with Adobe.
The first strategy is to create a program that is drastically different from Lightroom by using unique tools and workflows. The best example of this strategy is seen in Capture One. The second strategy is to create a RAW editor similar to Lightroom that addresses the main shortcomings of the program. If you are a Lightroom user and want to try Exposure X5, the learning curve is minimal because Exposure X5 mimics Lightroom in many ways.
The layout of the program, name of the editing panels, and even the organization of the editing sliders is very similar to Lightroom. They took the best features of Lightroom, the features photographers liked and utilized the most, and either fixed or removed the annoyances or features photographers hated in Lightroom.
Speed and Overall Performance As a Lightroom user who started using the program when it was in its beta state, my biggest critique of the program is its sluggish performance. It is slow.
Out of all the programs, Lightroom was the slowest and Exposure X5 was, by far, the fastest and most responsive. The program never slows down even after hours of work or being open for 24 hours or longer.
It simply flies. Eliminating the Complexity of the Import Process As an educator, the most difficult part of teaching Lightroom is explaining to new users why they cannot navigate to any folder on their computer, select a photo, and begin editing.
Instead, they have to go through the import process, which is the most confusing and complex part of the program. The import module scares the hell out of new photographers. Exposure X5 addresses this issue by eliminating the import process. To start editing, just add a folder with the images to the program as a shortcut and you are ready to go.
You can even work while the program processes new photos! Layers Support As a lifelong Photoshop user, I believe that the concept of layers is what made the program so powerful. In Exposure X5, you can have multiple layers that do not slow down the program but make the complex editing process so much more organized and streamlined.
I can have all my gradients, brush adjustments, and healing adjustments on separate layers that I can turn on and off individually in Exposure X5. Plus, I can create a unique mask for each layer.
I really like the Photoshop-like editing workflow. It is more logical and simpler. Opacity The opacity function is another feature missing in Lightroom. Opacity is the ability to dial down any editing effect, which is the cornerstone of graphic design and photo editing.
First, you have the Overall Opacity slider on the top right of the editing panel. This allows you to dial down the overall editing effect. The ability to adjust the opacity of the individual layer is probably the most useful feature of the program. Streamlined UI Design Another issue that drives me insane in Lightroom is the multi-module structure. There are certain things that I can do only in the Library module or only in the Develop module.
This means that I have to switch from module to module upwards of times a day. Did I mention that this drives me crazy? I always dreamed of a single module interface where I could customize the UI according to my needs. Guess what? Exposure X5 made my dream come true. The program uses a single module interface. The Metadata panel is positioned at the bottom right of the editing panel and the Folders panel is permanently featured on the left panel.
There is no jumping from module to module. Plus, I can customize and reposition the different panels however I want! Customizing User Interface 6. You can buy a perpetual license for a one-time fee.
At the same time, I hate not having the ability to opt-out of the subscription. For people who only use the editing program occasionally, it does not make sense to pay a monthly fee for a program they do not use.
Exposure X5 is a great alternative if you want to ditch the Adobe subscription-based model. Learn more here. They had simulations for hundreds of different film brands and models, the ones you could further customize. They transitioned all these simulations to Exposure X5 in the form of presets. The program comes with nearly presets that are organized into 29 collections.
The Exposure X5 cones with 29 preset collections Exposure X5 has different types of preset collections: What is closest to my heart is that Exposure X5 has the most advanced and well thought out Presets Panel. It has four different views: This means that, regardless of your workflow, you can adopt a Preset Panel that matches your specific needs. I always use the list view.
I have my Style and Adjustment preset collections open so that when I move the mouse over any individual preset, the selected photo displays the effect in real-time. It is fast and responsive. Overlays Panel The Overlay Panel allows us to apply visual effects to an image in the form of borders, light effects, and textures dust, scratches.
I applied the Borders, the Light Effect and the Texture to the image. The Overlay Panel offers plenty of preinstalled presets that you can further customize. Bokeh Panel The Bokeh Panel offers some advanced controls to creatively use the blur effect. For example, you can use a circular blur with portraits and a plane blur with landscapes and cityscapes to create a miniature effect.
Lens Correction and Defringe Panels My biggest complaint about the previous version of Exposure X4 was the lack of tools available to remove chromatic aberration. At this point, I shoot with high-quality Fujifilm lenses and chromatic aberration is less of an issue.
But when I open my older photos from my Canon and Sony days when I shot with lower quality lenses, chromatic aberration has to be addressed. Since the previous version of Exposure X5 did not have defringe tools, I had to jump to another application. Strong chromatic aberration produced by Sony mm lens In Exposure X5, the company introduced the most advanced defringe tool I have ever encountered.
In total, there are three levels to deal with chromatic aberration: Profile Correction. The program automatically tries to fix the chromatic aberration based on the lens profile. Manual Correction. You have the option to separately remove blue and red fringing.
Defringe Panel. Finally, if the previous two steps are not enough to eliminate chromatic aberration, you have a dedicated panel where you can control the fringing by any color.
Advanced Masking My favorite and probably the most powerful addition to Exposure X5 is advanced masking. Let me explain. I am a big proponent of the luminosity masking technique in Photoshop.
I use a dedicated luminosity masking panel in Photoshop called Raya Pro , which was created by travel photographer Jimmy McIntyre. Now, with the addition of advanced masking found under the Color Constraints Panel in Exposure X5, I have a more powerful tool than luminosity masking in Photoshop. Plus, I can create different advanced masks for every layer individually and I am not limited to what tools I can use.
Negatives To be honest, there are not many negatives. The only complaint I have is that the UI design looks outdated like it was created 20 years ago. It is possible that, as a former graphic designer and UI designer, I am too picky.
Adobe spoiled us with the possibility of creating panoramas and HDR images without leaving the RAW editing workflow and without the need for dedicated HDR and panorama programs. I often use a standard lens to create wide-angle images.
I take four to six shots and combine them into a wide-angle panorama during the editing process. I use panorama tools often. I do not want to go back to the old days when you had to rasterize RAW images to create a panorama photo.
I will include some videos that I found very helpful as I navigated the interface and worked on some of my images. At the end of the article, I will talk a little about the next version of the software, which will be called Exposure X4. Exposure X3 First Impressions If you are a longtime Lightroom user like me, I think you will feel comfortable with many aspects of the user interface inside of Exposure X3.
The software can be run in standalone mode, as a Plug-in inside of Photoshop, or as an external editor in Lightroom or a number of other applications. I chose to run it in standalone mode by launching the application from my Applications folder , and it was up and running in just a few minutes.
One of the things that took time for me to get my head around was that there is no catalog needed to use the editor, but it acts very similarly to Lightroom, which requires a catalog. I recommend just dragging and dropping a folder that has images into the main editing window, and it will appear under the Folders panel. Because of this, I highly recommend not dragging in any files directly from your desktop. Instead, place them in a folder first, since the application will be adding the files it needs to a new folder inside the folder that is holding your RAWs, JPGs, PSDs, etc.
Below is a very good 6 minute overview of how to edit using Exposure X3: I also really liked this portrait-based tutorial of Exposure X3: And for many more video training tutorials from Alien Skin Software , visit this page. Here are just a few of them: The Layers feature allow you to try different effects on different layers and use masking to adjust parts of an image.
However, because RAW files can generally handle big exposure moves, you can place the same image on two layers, make adjustments to areas like skies or foregrounds on the top layer, and then mask out a section so that you get the best parts of each layer or you can add the layer, then create a mask, then make the edits, as I did in the example I describe below.
You can also add lighting effects to a layer, including radial or linear gradients. That makes turning the effect on or off just a simple button click. And I really like the tool tips that come up warning you, for example, that the mask needs to be inverted on a layer to see the effects of the color filter. Imagine being able to set up your workspace much like you can do in Photoshop with its windows and panels.
And with a simple click, a line will go through the name of the panel and it will be hidden from view. The main sections are Border, Light Effect and Texture. I would think that in addition to photographers, designers especially book cover artists would love using these effects for a wide range of different uses.
In Exposure X3. This 18 second slide show shows how my image started out I chose a version in which the sky was well-exposed, so the rocks and road were too dark. I then created a new layer and a layer mask the mask is shown in red. I then brightened the rock and road using the tools in the Basic panel. After that, I had fun creating the images you see above. Did I mention that there are a lot of Presets that come pre-loaded with Exposure X3? They are absolutely fantastic, and greatly increase the value of the software in my opinion.
Many Presets emulate the look of black and white and color film types, and I got lost in them for quite a while. I should also note that in addition to exposure, color, etc. This is heaven for any designer or photographer who loves the look of distressed images like those that have scratches, or the look of platinum-palladium prints that have been created by hand coating papers or other substrates.
Once you find a look that you like, you can tweak it and then save it as a Preset. Another nice touch re: That allows you to have multiple Presets on multiple layers. You can turn them on and off, and you can dial the opacity of any of them to reduce the effect. This is similar to having multiple Virtual Copies, but without having to keep track of multiple images inside of the application.
I should note that you also have the option of making Virtual Copies if you like. There is another excellent way to see multiple presets applied to the same image and placed side-by-side a maximum of 6 different presets can be shown in this way. IR stands for Infrared, and the tool emulates the glow that you often see when using infrared films. These can be very helpful and save a lot of time and disk space when you need to export your work out to a folder before uploading to one of those services since the resolution and JPEG compression is already set for you though you can edit the settings and save a new Preset.
Blow Up is an incredible application that can enlarge your images quite a bit while retaining good detail and minimal or no visible artifacts. Snap Art is an application that focuses on transforming photos or other artwork in many different ways. For example, you can make a photo look like an oil painting, watercolor, etc. For more on Snap Art, visit this page. The company also announced that it will be sending free copies of Exposure X4 to anyone who purchased Exposure X3 or the Exposure X3 Bundle on or after July 1, Perspective and keystone correction to minimize or eliminate optical distortion.
Enhanced light effects that you can move and rotate freely anywhere in your image. Smart collections that automatically populate based on photo criteria that you choose. Faster file exporting and launch times. Lightroom migration tool that brings your Lightroom organizational metadata over into Exposure.
Monitored folders that support tethered shooting workflows. New printing presets. Support for new cameras and lenses. Expanded workflow options for image copying and exporting. I can definitely see people using this application as a replacement for other RAW editors and organizers.
Will I be giving up Lightroom? No at least not for now. I can see a lot of Lightroom users doing the same. Apart from being provided a license code for the Exposure X3 Bundle, I was not compensated in any way for writing this article.
I plan to purchase Exposure X4 when it is released, and look forward to sharing my experiences with it. If you would prefer not to use my links, just visit your favorite search engine and type in: