Understanding Exposure’s Nondestructive Workflow

Project Description

After watching this video, you will understand the significance of non-destructive editing, where Exposure stores its edits, how to backup those files, and how to work remotely.

Photo: Barbara Havrot


Exposure is a nondestructive editor. Your original photos are precious, so Exposure never modifies them. After you make edits, you can always get back to the original version.

I’ll start by navigating to some images. We can just jump in because Exposure doesn’t require you to import photos.

I have a portrait here that I have applied a black and white treatment to. I want to experiment with some color looks.

Click the reset button to go back to the original version. Now I’ll choose a preset.

The edits that you make are only visible in Exposure, not other applications. To get a finished photo out of Exposure, you’ll need to export it. The next video in this series talks about how to do that.

Exposure’s edits are kept in sidecar files stored near your photos. The edits are sets of processing instructions and are much smaller than a finished photo. Changes are saved automatically as you use Exposure, and are retained across sessions.

Let’s take a look at where the sidecar files live. Normally you don’t need to look at or move these files. We just want to show you how Exposure works.

Right-click on the photo and choose the Reveal in Finder option. Now I see a Finder window with my image selected. Windows users will choose the ‘Show in Explorer’ option to do the same thing.

Notice that there is an Alien Skin folder next to my photos. Inside is a sidecar file for each image that was edited in Exposure.

Every folder with photos that you edit in Exposure has its own Alien Skin folder.

We recommend using Exposure’s file management functions to organize your photos. You can move, copy, and rename files right in Exposure’s interface. You can learn more about these functions in our Managing Image Files video.

Exposure will usually notice if you move or rename files and folders using another tool. This is an improvement over organizers based on catalogs, which easily lose track of photos.

Exposure makes backups easy and safe. Since Exposure’s edits are stored with your images, you can back up using any tool that copies an entire folder.

I’ll demonstrate a simple backup to a USB flash drive. This is also how you would take a folder of images on the road. To start, I’ll insert a USB drive in my system. And then navigate to it in Exposure. I’ll select the folder I have been working in and drag it to the USB drive. Here are my photos, with the edits I made earlier.

Exposure’s design makes it easy to sync your work. You can sync your edits using cloud storage like Dropbox. Saving your files to a shared Dropbox folder allows Dropbox to upload and sync the files between multiple computers, so you can work from different locations. This works great for editing from the road, and for collaborating with professional photo retouchers.

To sync your edits, use Exposure to move or copy photos to your Dropbox folder. Dropbox will automatically upload and sync the images and the sidecar files that store Exposure’s edits.

You can also sync your presets to multiple computers. This is handy if you edit photos on both a desktop computer and a laptop. To set this up, navigate to Exposure’s Preferences, choose General, and then set your User Folder location to your shared Dropbox folder. You’ll need to do this on each computer that will share presets.

We don’t recommend sharing your cloud accessible presets folder with anyone else. You can share a preset with someone else by exporting it from the Presets pane in Exposure. In addition to Dropbox, there are a number of reliable cloud syncing providers to choose from, including Microsoft OneDrive.