The Orton Effect

I recently learned about a landscape photography technique called the "Orton Effect". The Orton Effect is a post-processing technique has been around for about thirty years that has become a trend. The technique is used to add a subtle (and sometimes not too subtle) glow to photographs. The technique creates an image that is simultaneously sharp and out-of-focus. The resulting image can be difficult to analyze or describe.

The Orton Effect is the creation of abstract landscape photographer Michael Orton who used it extensively in his film photography. The effect can be quite easy to reproduce with a DSLR and Adobe Photoshop. Here’s how.

Dirck Gulick House, House, Field
Original Image
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screenshot, photoshop, Orton effect
Open your image in Photoshop and duplicate the layer:
screenshot, photoshop, Orton effect
Select the top layer, and from the Photoshop menu, click Image and then Apply Image.
screenshot, photoshop, Orton effect
For the “Apply Image” blending mode, click “Screen” and then hit enter.
screenshot, photoshop, Orton effect
Duplicate this new layer, then click the “Multiply” blending mode. In the Photoshop menu, click Filter, then Blur, then Gaussian Blur.
screenshot, photoshop, Orton effect
Adjust the blur radius to suit your taste.
screenshot, photoshop, Orton effect
Merge the two top layers (Command+e on macOS or Control+e in Windows) and create a mask to decrease or increase the Orton Effect in different portions of the image.

The Orton Effect darkens the shadows of a photo. You may want to adjust the exposure or shadow slider in Lightroom. The result of applying a heavy Orton effect to the original image.

Dirck Gulick House, House, Field
Exaggerated Orton effect.
[exif id="26647"]

Author: Khürt Williams

A human who works in information security and enjoys photography, Formula 1 and craft ale.

8 thoughts on “The Orton Effect”

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  2. gorgeous picture! i dabble in photography too, but i am still pretty novice. eventually i plan on acquiring a better camera. right now i use my iPhone and a small samsung digital camera. love your blog!

    1. Hi, Maria. Before you acquire a “better” camera, push the limits of the current equipment you own. Learn what works and what does not. Then you will know why and what you need in your next camera.

      But, good photography isn’t about the equipment; it’s about emotion and story. From reading your posts, it seems that you are an emotive person. You can bring that emotion to your photography.

      When you are ready to buy new gear, read these articles first.

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