A photographer friend recently sent me this extraordinary collection of color images shot during the Depression. One of the things that’s fascinating about looking at them is that we simply are not accustomed to this subject matter being in color. It’s a fine example of McCluhan’s “medium is the message” idea. Your choices of black and white or color, grungy or sharp, saturated or muted – all of these have a huge impact on the reaction the viewer will have. For film photographers, many of these decisions are determined by film choice, and the ability to choose specific films to achieve a particular look or feel is one of the great advantages of film shooting. Alien Skin Exposure, a sophisticated film-simulating Photoshop plug-in, gives this same power to digital photographers.

With version 3, Alien Skin has dramatically improved the performance of the plug-in, added aging and vignetting, and increased the number of presets to an astonishing 500. With the new version, you’ll be able to create everything from realistic simulations of a huge assortment of films to lo-fi renderings that look like they were shot with a toy camera. At the very least, you’ll want to consider Exposure as an alternative to Photoshop’s built-in black and white conversion tools.