How we got some new features in Exposure 4…

If you’ve run any previous version of Exposure, one of the first things you will notice when running Exposure 4 is that the Black and White (B&W) and Color Filters have been merged into one filter. Historically all of our products were originally written as Photoshop plug-ins, so we have typically followed the model of creating a different filter for each effect. For example, Snap Art was originally written as 10 different filters; one filter for each artistic media. Starting with Snap Art 3, we have been merging filters. This originally started as a way of being able to get to all of the effects when you launch from Lightroom as an external editor, however there have been some other added benefits too. One really nice thing is that you can get to all of the effects from one place (the settings tree).  However, in order to combine filters we have also needed to figure out how to have two different effects can live on the same user interface. This is necessary because when you switch to a different filter there might be different controls associated with that effect.

When building Exposure 4, we were faced with some decisions on how to combine the B&W Film filter with the Color Film filter. There were a lot of effects in one filter but not the other. For example, B&W Film didn’t have a Color Filter option but Color Film did. We could have simple hidden that feature when you choose the B&W filter but it made more sense to implement that feature for the B&W film effect after all when you are filming in black and white you can still use a color filter to affect the photo. In this article I am going to explain how the “Color Filter” option works.

Let’s explain how it works with an example…

If you were shooting with Black and White film you may want to use a color filter on your lens so you can either brighten or darken certain colors. The way it works is that a red filter will preserve the brightness of red objects but darken other colors by filtering them out. So if you want blues to stay bright then use a blue filter. With people, we usually want to use a red filter so faces stay bright. A red filter will also help to darken skies which is often desirable. One problem is that the shot will be darker overall because the filter blocks light. Usually the photographer will compensate for the overall darkening of the image by using a longer exposure time. This results in some colors brightening and others darkening and is a way to introduce contrast to the photo.

Here is an example of a simulated use of a filter. On the top right I applied a color filter (cyan) to a color image. Then I converted the filtered image to black and white just by using Exposure’s neutral black and white setting (bottom right). On the bottom left I applied the same neutral black and white setting to the original image.

Try to ignore the fact that the bottom right image is so dark. More importantly, you can see there is greater contrast between colors. For example, the umbrella got really dark but the coat, less so. Also, the dogs that were originally red on the coat stand out much more.

Now, I want to show how to do this automatically in Exposure 4 using the Color Filter feature. Here is a screenshot of the control:

You can select a filter from the presets but it is easy just to do it yourself. Just turn the filter density up to strengthen the effect and slide the color slider (along the hue gradient) until you get the look you want! Because it renders in real time, you can see the effect immediately. I usually start with the density cranked up until I get the look I want. Then I dial it down so it isn’t too dramatic.

In case you were wondering why the image didn’t get dark like when we use a real lens filter, the reason is because we left “preserve luminosity” on. When this option is selected, we automatically compensate for the overall darkening effect of the filter. A color that matches the filter will get brightened the most and a color opposite on the color wheel will get darkened the most. Below are a couple options for this photo:

Notice how using a filter can really bring out contrasts. It gives you a lot more creative freedom in a black and white photo. If you want a video demo please check out this general video on Black and White Conversion. It has some other useful tips.

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