What is it? Orton imagery, also called an Orton slide sandwich, is a photography technique which blends two completely different photos of the same scene, resulting in a distinctive mix of high and low detail areas within the same photo. It was invented by Michael Orton.
Orton did it with film. Today, we do it in Photoshop. Much easier, much faster. In fact, I can apply an Orton technique to a photo in less than a minute.
We start with a good photo, one that has nice contrast and interesting light. I love this photo! Look at the detail on the tree, in the wall, even down in the grass. The shadows do wonderful things in that grass.
Now I apply the Orton effect to the photo. Immediately, contrasts are more obvious and colors are richly saturated.
Which one do you prefer?
When using this technique, I caution you to be careful. It’s very very easy to overdo it and come up with something odd. Here’s how I did it:
In PS (any version will do), open a photo. This is your background layer. You will not mess with that one. Create three copies (Ctrl+J three times). The layer above the original you will ignore.
On the third layer, in the layer window, change blending from Normal to Screen. In the final, top layer, change blending to Multiply. You may have to use levels to bring back some of the light on this layer; I almost always do.
Making sure you’re on that top layer, go to Gaussian Blur and set to around 2.5. Play with it, see what raising it will do to the photo. I’ve gone higher at times, but 2.5 to 3 seems to deliver the best, most pleasing results.
Merge the top three layers. By clicking between the two remaining layers, you can see the difference between the photo with Orton and without it.
I was a huge Heroes fan and when I came across the following still from an episode featuring Sylar, I had to see what I could do with it. The original photo is nice. That’s about it: nice. You know, flat, like you’d find online. But after I did my usual adjustments and slapped the Orton technique on it, the photo came alive. The colors glow, they’re so vibrant and deep. This is still a fave of mine, simply because of the light. Look at that table! Look at the wall!
When applying Orton technique to photos with people in them, make sure to mask to the original to bring back detail in face, hands, and other flesh. Orton tends to blur them in a way that is, to me, unsatisfactory. In this photo, I also masked to the original newspaper so the print wouldn’t be blurred.
If you ever have questions about photography you think I can answer, email me: fenraven at gmail.com
A final note: While I love posting to this blog every day, it takes a lot of time. Also, stats tell me a lot fewer of you stop by on weekends, when we are all busy with family, friends, errands, and the like. Starting next week, I’ll be posting only on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Thanks for reading! I appreciate you!