The Orton Effect is a technique that was developed by Canadian photographer Michael Orton in the 1980s.
This effect gives photos a soft glow and dimension and is commonly used when editing landscape photography.
After applying this effect, the image looks both very detailed, but at the same time soft and mesmerizing, resulting in a distinctive style. The pictures come out like illustrations for magical fantasy books.
Initially, the effect was achieved by layering several pieces of film together, one in focus and one out of focus.
Nowadays, we can easily reproduce the Orton effect with Adobe Photoshop in a few simple steps.
Step 1 Duplicate the Background Layer
Cmd+J on Mac or Ctrl+J on PC duplicates the background layer. A copy is needed in order to then blur this layer. That being said, we still need the original background image to show through.
Step 2: Gaussian Blur
Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur (Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur) and set the radius to the number of megapixels in the image. If you don’t know how many megapixels, try a value between 25–50 pixels. Most likely, this will be enough.
Step 3: Switch The Blend Mode To Soft Light (Blend Mode > Soft Light)
In the layers panel, switch the blurred layer to Soft Light (Soft light). Your image should now look very dark and contrasty. However, we will refine this with a mask to hide the high contrast areas in the shadows where we don’t want to create a glow.
Step 4: Use The Color Range To Create The Layer Mask
Go to Select > Color Range (Select > Color Range). Change the setting Select at the top of the window color range on the Highlights (Light).
Now you can adjust the blur and its range as you need. Keep in mind that all white will show the Orton effect and all black will not show the adjustment.
You can leave Fuzziness to 100% and adjust the range as you like for each image.
Step 5: Apply The Layer Mask
After you adjust the Color Range, wait for the settings to be saved. Then you need to press the button layer mask (Layer mask) in the panel Layers (Layers), to apply this as a layer mask to the blurry layer.
Button layer mask is a rectangle with a circle inside to the right of the button FX. Once you have applied the layer mask, you can use the Brush paint over areas where you do not want the effect to work.
You can also reduce Opacity (Layer transparency)to reduce the effect.
What to pay attention to
While the Orton effect makes many photos look amazing, it won’t work for every photo.
Here are some conditions:
- strong backlight;
- strong side lighting;
- illuminated vegetation;
- light breaking through the fog.
As you can see, each of these criteria revolves around the world. If your photo does not have light that falls beautifully on clouds or an object, the Orton effect will only make the image blurry.
It’s important to refine the layer mask so that the effect only works where you want to apply it. Otherwise, the light may “leak” to places where it should not be.
And most importantly: do not overdo it with the effect. Try lowering the Opacity after applying the effect for a more realistic look.
If you leave Opacity 100%, then the picture will look fake and unrealistic, it’s just that your blurry eye will not see it right away.
Proper use of the Orton effect can add depth and dimension to images, as well as create a beautiful, realistic glow that is the perfect finishing touch to light-filled landscape shots. It is especially good for sunset and sunrise photos.