Orton Effect: Sharp but Blurry – Photoshop Challenge Part VI

The Orton Effect

I first heard about the Orton effect from  Nick Page in one of his Landscape Photography Podcasts. The effect itself has been around for a few decades already though. Its creator, Michael Orton first experimented with it in the 1980's by sandwiching two slides on top of each other. One of these slides would be sharp while the other one out of focus. Resulting in a painterly effect that has both sharpness and a dreamy blur. Nowadays it is of course much easier to do in Photoshop where you can precisely adjust the blur and opacity of the second layer without taking several rolls of film. And it is possible to do from just one exposure, even if some still prefer to do more.

The ease of doing it in Photoshop has made it quite popular, especially among landscape photographers. Since it is easy to apply, it becomes very easy to overdo aswell. Like I did with the picture above to illustrate the effect. This way of over-processing has become more and more popular and soon it might even become known as the "New HDR". In the meaning that photographers use it as a crutch for bad composition and general lack of photographic skills. After learning about it I've started noticing it a bit everywhere and I'm not always convinced it is being used that well. On the other hand, Orton use of the effectvery uniquely. His painterly and abstract work is very different from the typical landscape photos. Definitely go check it out!

Giving it a Try

I wanted to keep an open mind to Photoshop techniques I'm sceptical about and I decided to give it a try. The effect is quite easy and fast to apply in Photoshop, I followed this guide to try it. One of my recent images, which was made in very soft light, seemed like a good candidate. This type of light is supposed to work better for this effect than contrasty light.

Now, after trying it, to what extend will I use this effect, or will I use it at all? Used very subtly it does add an interesting effect. On the other hand it is very easy to get carried away and one have to be careful to not enter another "HDR-phase". I will try it a few more times on pictures similar like this, to learn more. But I might not post them anywhere though. Just for the sake of I will also try it on some of my foggy pictures. I don't think it will improve them but it is worth a try to see if it can enhance fog or not. As with any effect it is good to first be quite moderate with it.

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