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"]

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  • kevin mcgovern
    18th October 2018 at 10:45 AM

  • onbecomingmaria
    21st April 2017 at 10:42 AM

    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!

    • Khürt Williams
      28th April 2017 at 1:08 PM

      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.


      • onbecomingmaria
        28th April 2017 at 7:41 PM

        this is excellent! thanks so much khurt, i appreciate your thoughtful feedback. i will definitely save these links for future reference 🙂

      • onbecomingmaria
        28th April 2017 at 7:53 PM

        this is excellent, khurt! thanks so much for your thoughtful response. i will definitely save these links for future use 🙂

  • Sherry Felix
    20th April 2017 at 3:21 PM

    I have a recipe for this somewhere. Your version looks easier. I'll give it a try. Thanks.

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