One of the reasons I rate image effects programs so highly compared to traditional image editors is the way they open your eyes to effects you wouldn’t have thought of.

Like applying the Lith Border effect in Alien Skin Exposure X3 to this early morning shot of a country church. There’s already a lot of contrast in this shot, with the sun shining through the leaves towards the camera, so you’d have thought a high-contrast black and white treatment would be the last thing it needs.

Alien Skin Exposure X3 lith border effect

Not so! A browse through Exposure X3’s B&W Misc Effects category offers a wide variety of black and white looks, and this one really stood out. In fact, the high contrast ‘Lith Border’ effect combines with the high contrast lighting to produce a really rich and striking image.

Alien Skin Exposure X3 lith border effect

This effect, incidentally, uses an ‘orthochromatic’ preset to simulate the spectral response of early black and white films, a border and texture effect, an exaggerated contrast curve and a grain effect.

No doubt I could have achieved something pretty similar in Photoshop, but the point is that I’d never have thought of it. In Photoshop you have to apply a whole series of adjustments before you get to see a result, whereas with Exposure X3 I can see dozens of possible results before I start.

There is a mysterious alchemy between images and image effects which means you can not always predict how they’re going to combine – so a program that shows you what your pictures can look like is a wonderful thing.

Alien Skin Exposure X3 lith border effect

This also reminds me just how different black and white is to colour. You’d never get away with this kind of ultra-high-contrast treatment in colour, but black and white and its more graphic appearance lets you take far more liberties with light and tone.