Simple Orton Effect

In this tutorial I’m going to show you how I generally apply a soft focus trick known as the Orton Effect after it’s creator photographer Michael Orton. In the film days, this effect was achieved by overlaying two or more images of an identical scene with different exposures and focus on slide film. To do this, you had to use a tripod so your images would align perfectly.

Nowadays, you can achieve the same results with just a single image using Photoshop. This technique will add a vintage dream like feel to your images very suitable for portraits, weddings, landscapes and children photography.

Let’s get started!

STEP 1: The first thing you are going to do after opening your image in Photoshop is to duplicate your background image in your layers palette. You can do this easily by right-clicking on you background image and selecting “Duplicate Layer..” or by simply dragging the background layer to the “Create a new layer” icon  Create New Layer Icon  at the bottom of your layers palette. Give this layer a Blend Mode of “Soft Light” in your layers palette. This will boost your image contrast a bit but don’t worry about it. The next step will bring it back down.

Orton Effect

Blend Mode

STEP 2:Next, you are going to convert the original background layer to a Smart Object by right-clicking on it and selecting, you guessed it, “Convert to Smart Object”. This step is important because by using smart filters you will be able to correct and modify the degree in which you apply the blur filter giving you more control over your final image.
You will notice a small icon has been added to the preview image of your layer indicating that it is indeed a smart object.

Smart Object Layer

STEP 3: Still on your original background layer go to the filter menu, choose Blur and from that menu Gaussien Blur to bring the the Gaussian Blur window to the screen

Gaussien Blur Window

I try not to go overboard with the amount of blur because it will just end up looking really hazy. Instead try to keep it in a range where you can still make out most of the image in your preview window.

Orton Effect

STEP 4: You can go back and modify your Gaussien Blur by simply double-clicking on the Gaussien Blur filter layer. This way, thanks to the smart filter, you can gradually dial-in the amount of blur and see how it affects the overall image.

Gaussien Blur Layer

STEP 5: Finally, What I like to add to the blur layer (your original layer) is a Black and White adjustment layer  Create New Layer Icon  found at the bottom of your layers palette. What this will do is desaturate the color thanks to your “Soft Light” blend mode giving your image a soft vintage look. This also helps to bring the high contrast down to a more natural level.

If you find you lost a little too much color, don’t forget to use the opacity to dial some color back in!

Gaussien Blur Layer

End result: That’s all there is to it. No tripod. No hassle. No wasting film. Hope you find it useful for your images!

Simple Orton Effect