One of the questions I get asked very often is; how come some of your photographs have such a dreamy look to them? Well, I am always searching for the magic that was so apparent when I was a little kid that sometimes I want my photographs to reflect that magic. To do this, I use something called the Orton effect. The Orton effect gives the illusion of soft focus while retaining most of the detail and sharpness of the photograph. Creating the Orton effect is very easy and it can be applied to either landscape- and portrait photographs. In landscape photography, it will create bloom lighting, make light softer and colors more intense. In portrait photography it will make the skin and the light softer. I will show you an example for each.
Orton in landscape photography
Let’s create a dreamy landscape! For this example I have chosen a photograph that I took of a young boy that was running into the sea.
Begin by opening the photograph.
Make your adjustments in Camera Raw as you see fit. For this example, I have upped the light temperature to approximately 5600K.
I want to create that dreamy effect in this photograph. Press CTRL+J to duplicate the background layer.
If done right, you will see layer 1 appear, meaning you now have two of the same photographs on top of each other. The next step is applying a Gaussian blur to the top layer. To do this, make sure you have the top layer selected.
Go to Filter à Blur à Gaussian blur.
In the popup window, select how strong you want the effect to be. You will have to try different settings until you reach the effect you want. In this example I have set the blur to 30 pixels (I have done this one before so I know what is best. It is kind of like cheating J).
You will now have a very blurry photograph! The next step is to set the screen mode to “soft light”.
The result varies on the blur you have added.
In this case, I have just the right amount of contrast, colour and bloom lighting. If your photograph is too dark or too saturated, you can use the opacity slider to adjust the top layer.
Orton in portrait photography
Now we know how Orton effect works, we can apply it in different fields of photography. I use it a lot on portrait photographs as well. When you apply the Orton effect to a portrait, your will soften the skin and the lighting on the model. The process is the same, with the example that you might want to mask out the effect on the eyes and the hair.
As always, start by opening your photograph.
Next, follow the instructions for creating the Orton effect. Press Ctrl+J to duplicate the photograph.
With the top layer selected, go to FilteràBluràGaussian Blur
In this example, the gaussian blur is set to 20 pixels.
Now change the screen mode to “soft light”.
Oh my, what happened there? The photograph has way to much contrast and saturation.
To adjust this, you can either go to “New Layer” and select “Vibrance”, or you can adjust the Opacity of the blurred layer (that is what I mostly do!).
In this example, the opacity is set to 50%, making her skin and the light softer. Make some further adjustments as you see fit. In this case, I did lower the vibrancy a bit.
- Open the photograph
- Duplicate the background by pressing ctrl+j
- Select FilteràBlurà Gaussian Blur
- Set desired amount of pixels
- Press OK
- Select screen mode “soft light”
- Set opacity
- Further adjustments
Well there you have one of the Photoshop tricks I use often. I hope you enjoy trying it for yourself! Until next time!