Anything Photoshop or Photography


Image of the Memorial Gardens, Ormond Beach, FloridaFor a long time I have heard about the Orton Effect, but did not really know what it was. This week I thought I would do a short blog on what it is and how to apply it in Photoshop. Michael Orton created the effect in 1980, and it involved using two photos of the same place, one in focus and one out-of-focus. The result is a dreamy surreal look. It is mainly used on landscapes, but there was a time that it was popular to use with portrait shots.

Two different images can be stacked as layers in Photoshop after processing in Camera Raw or Lightroom, or just one image and adding a duplicated layer can be used, which is what was done with all these images. On method uses the Image -> Apply Image command to accomplish this effect. The image of Memorial Gardens in Ormond Beach, Florida, used this effect on two different duplicated layers to get the dream-like quality in the image. Once the Apply Image is done, the result is supposed to be set to Screen blend mode. I decided it looked better with one layer was set to Multiply blend mode at 44% layer opacity and the other Screen blend mode at 31% layer opacity, so experiment with the blend modes. A layer mask was used on the top layer to remove the effect in the middle of the image where the focal point is. Jimmy McIntyre, one of my favorite landscape photographers, made at his Shutter Evolve website a very short video called Quick Photoshop Secrets 7: How To Create A Dreamy Orton Effect which shows the steps to apply it manually. In one of his blogs (How to Create the Orton Effect), the Orton Effect action can be downloaded. It also contains these two great tips:  Try to be selective in how you apply the Orton Effect as it tends to soften important textures and fine details; and watch the color effect as the result will become strongly saturated, especially the greens. By adding a layer mask and using a black brush set to different opacities, paint away where the effect is too strong. Jimmy also has a free Easy Panel for CS5 and above that contains an Orton Effect button and does the same thing as the action.  He has a great weekly newsletter. For this image a Selective Color Adjustment Layer was added and the Reds, Yellows, and Neutrals were adjusted just a little. A Blue Solid Color Fill Adjustment Layer was placed on top and set to Luminosity blend mode at 25% layer opacity to tone down the yellows a little more. I really wanted a softer look in this image.

Image taken at the Viera WetlandsHere is another example of the Orton Effect using OnOne’s (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Effect 10 (was called Perfect Effects) plug-in used on an image taken at the Viera Wetlands. The Glow Filter called Orton Hears a Who preset with changes to the Warmth slider (92), Saturation (-4), Amount (88), and Halo (33). Also the Tone Enhancer Filter Midtones Lighter preset was applied on another layer (Tone 19, Contrast 48, Blacks -22, and Highlights -20, and then the Big Softy Vignette. (There is also an Orton Clean preset that was not tried.) On a New Layer above, my free SJ-Clouds 14 was added at 45% layer opacity into the sky. Obsidian Dawn’s Grouping 5 birds were also added to the scene (then highlight bird layer, go to Select -> Color Selection and select Shadows -> OK, add layer mask to add selection,  then right click to apply layer mask). Now a Gradient Fill layer was clipped (ALT+Click between the layers) to add some softer tone to the birds. I believe OnOne did a good job of creating a nice Orton Effect and it was much easier to do.

Image of a Palamedes Swallow Tail ButterflyThis time this beautiful Palamedes Swallow Tail Butterfly from my front yard was brought into Photoshop Elements 10, which actually has an Orton Effect filter effect. So this is how it was done since it is not obvious where it is in Elements: Go to Edit -> Guided -> Create Orton Effect. There are three sliders – my setting were: Increase Blur to under the “n,” Increase Noise set to under the “c,” and Apply Brightness under the “i”. Apply Orton Effect and then Done. Go back to Edit -> Full. A Layer Mask was added to the blurred layer and the butterfly and near flowers were gently painted out with a black round soft brush set to 15% brush opacity. The layer was then set to 85% layer opacity. Next a Levels Adjustment Layer was added to increase the contrast a little bit. A light pink Solid Color Fill layer was added on top and set to Color Blend Mode at 20% layer opacity to offset the overwhelming green color. That was it. A real dreamy effect that is pretty nice on something other than a landscape.

This is definitely a rather nice effect, although I am not sure I would want it on every image. It is actually hard to really understand what it does until you run the action or follow the “Apply Image” steps. I am more into the sharper look, but it still is nice for a change and fun to try. Hope you enjoyed this and try it on some of your images. Until next time, keep smiling!…..Digital Lady Syd


5 responses

  1. These are really beautiful, Syd!
    I think the butterfly is my favorite.
    I have a couple of actions for the Orton Effect, but have never done it manually.
    You have inspired me to give it a try.
    Thank you!!
    Have a wonderful weekend.

    01/16/2016 at 12:28 pm

  2. A very interesting effect! Worked brilliant on your pictures.

    01/16/2016 at 4:32 pm

  3. Hi Syd,

    I got out PS and did this lesson. What exactly am I doing when I choose apply image? Am I applying the image to the image? When you talk about blending modes do you mean when you choose apply image. I noticed I could choose a blending mode then. Thanks, Syd.

    01/23/2016 at 5:35 pm

    • Hi Kerry – I guess I was not real clear about what the Apply Image Command does. It is actually just a tool for blending two images or layers. This command can be used to create other looks (See my How to Use the Apply Image Command for a Cross Processed Look blog.) To create the Orton Effect, two layers were blended together, not two images. Apply Image must be set as follows to get this effect: go to Image -> Apply Image and inside the dialog set the Source to the file name, Layer set to Merged, Channel RGB and leave Invert unchecked, Blending to Multiply, Opacity to 100%, and the other boxes unchecked. Say Okay and your image will appear darker. Now you can change the blend mode to Screen in the Layers Panel, not in the Apply Image dialog. Next a Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur is run and the Radius set fairly high like 7.8 – use larger amounts for higher resolution images and lower for smaller. Now you have an Orton Effect. Jimmy’s action or Easy Panel does these steps automatically for you. Hope this helped you out…..Digital Lady Syd

      01/24/2016 at 11:03 pm

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