Exposure for Portraits

On our Facebook page Dave Butler asked this question. We get this often, so it’s worthy of a blog post.


Which combination of films in Exposure 3 or 4 could work to emulate Vericolor, either Print or Slide?


Vericolor was a portrait film, like Portra NC. That means that it had relatively low contrast and saturation. Low contrast makes blemishes and wrinkles less noticeable. Low saturation makes skin look more uniform. To see the dangers of high contrast and saturation, try Fuji Velvia on a portrait. Ouch!

In Exposure 3 or 4, try the presets for Kodak Portra 160NC in both the Color Films – Print and Color Films – Print – Low Contrast folders. The low contrast version is especially good for a calm feeling and healthy skin. It has low grain, but you may want to completely turn grain off. Also try other films in that Low Contrast folder.

Look in the Color Focus folder for the Glamour Shot presets. Don’t be turned off by the silly name. Yes, some of them are over the top, like mall portraits, but the low intensity versions are useful. These presets use a semi-transparent blur, like putting a silk stocking over the lens. The presets with Halation in the name use a blur found on the IR tab that only affects bright areas. The other presets use a blur on the Focus tab. In Exposure 4, try Glamour Shot – Halation (-Contrast) and Glamour Shot – Low. You can easily tone them down with the Overall Intensity slider found at the top of the Color tab.

Look at Ektachrome EES – Subdued in the Color Films – Slide folder. EES is a little darker and more grainy, which some people like because it is “moody”.

Now I’m straying pretty far from the original question, but it’s worth mentioning Black and White films. Many of those are great for portraits. Try ones in the B&W Films – Low Contrast folder, especially Agfa Scala 200 and Kodak Technical Pan. Also try the Glamour Shots in the B&W Focus folder.

Split toning is more artsy, but sometimes I love it for portraits. Look in the folder B&W Split Toning for Gold Split. Even better, look in the B&W Misc Effects folder for the High Key and Toning presets. You can see some beautiful uses of High Key in Shabnam’s article.

Speaking of portraits, I recommend Brian Mullins’ article on natural lighting.


About Jeff

Jeff Butterworth is the founder of Alien Skin Software. He used to create the products, but now he does marketing and gets coffee for the programmers.
This entry was posted in Exposure, Photography, Tutorials and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Exposure for Portraits

  1. Kevin Livesey says:

    I took a look at all your film suggestions, and soon realized that there is a lot more in the
    Exposure 4 program then I was aware of. I need to work out how to combine different effects into a preset, so I can use it when I need it. Your depiction of both Black and White films, and Colour films is as close to what they were like when I use to use them. With more practice using
    Exposure 4, I am sure to get the portraits, as close to perfect as is now possible. Thanks for the great article.

  2. Seth says:

    Hi Jeff, first of all, just want to say that I love this Exposure program. I use it practically for all my photos now to get a base look. Supposing we create a new effect like the portait one above, but the effect itself is too intense, but the effect is too much. Right now, I would use the Overall Intensity slider, but that reduces the opacity on the resulting layer. The problem is that this reduces the grain effect, and the sharpness too. So I have to run two passes to get what I want in the end. Is there a way in Exposure 5, to reduce the color intensity while keeping the grain and sharpness intensity?

    • Jeff says:

      If you want to reduce just part of an effect then you will have to adjust the sliders that pertain to that topic. So, for color issues, look at the Color and Tone tabs. You’ll be moving sliders closer to zero. If there is a tone curve then you will have to move the control points toward the neutral position.

      Also explore the group presets found in the pop-up menu at the top of each block of related controls. The first entry in each group preset list is Neutral, which let’s you turn off just those related controls.

  3. Michael Liggett says:

    You mentioned black and white portraits and that brought to mind one of my favorite presets for a unique portrait which is the Selenium Warm/Cool toning. It really makes a great addition to the tool box for our studio-

  4. Pingback: Lighting for Exposure | Alien Skin Software

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