Thursday, February 15, 2007

An introduction to Orton

The Orton method is a way to produce soft-focus photos with saturated colors. The two photos at the right show a normal photo and the same photo with the Orton effect applied.

In the days before computers, the effect was achieved photographically by sandwiching two slide transparencies – one that was overexposed by two stops, and one of the identical scene overexposed by two shops and with the focus thrown off. The same effect can be achieved in a photo editing program that supports layers, such as PhotoShop.

Here’s how to do it:

*Open your image in PhotoShop.
*Go to "Image", then click "Apply Image".
*Set the blending to "Screen", and your opacity to 100%. Click OK.
*Go again to "Image", down to "Duplicate".
*With the image you have just duplicated, go to "Filter", down to "Blur-Gaussian Blur".
*Set the blur anywhere from 20 to 50. Click OK.
*Grab the blurred image with the “Move” tool, hold down the Shift key and drag it on top of your first image.

*Go to "Windows", then down to "Layers".
*Set the blending mode from "Normal" to "Multiply".

You can now adjust the opacity of the top layer and make adjustments to lightness levels and color saturation on either of the two layers. When you are satisfied with the results, select “Flatten image” in the Layers dialog box, then Save your image (or “Save As” if you’d like to retain your original).

Not all photos take well to the Orton method, so experiment and see what happens.

Click on photos to enlarge. Photographs © 2007 James Jordan.

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Anonymous Pops Digital said...


Thanks for the explaination of "Orton." I've liked what you've done with some of your images using it and was getting ready to email you a "How To."

February 17, 2007 at 7:11 AM  
Blogger poojitha said...

cool i love you blog,i'll visit it many times

February 21, 2007 at 9:52 AM  
Blogger Katie said...

I have the poor mans version of's called 'glow effect' in the free program 'Picasa' from google. It will have to do for now! Thanks for your beautiful pictures and helpful tips James!

February 23, 2007 at 11:24 PM  
Anonymous cedarwaxwing said...

I've tried this method (using the Adobe Photoshop at work - shhhh, don't tell anyone) and I get stuck at the step where you say Grab the blurred image with the “Move” tool,...

My second image must sits on top of the other one, they don't mix.

What am I doing wrong?

February 24, 2007 at 5:33 PM  
Blogger James said...

cedar, your secret is safe with me. After copying the photo on top of the other photo, you need to open the Layers dialog box (under Window - Show layers). Select "multiply" in the mode drop-down menu. The top layer will then become transparent. Fidlle with the opacity to your liking with the percentage slider, then select "Flatten image" when you are happy with the results, then Save.

That should do it. let me know if you're still having problems.

February 24, 2007 at 6:23 PM  

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