The Orton Effect is a very popular technique used in landscape and nature photography. The technique was developed by photographer Michael Orton in the mid-1980’s using slide film. To simulate a watercolour-type image, Michael Orton would overlay two or more slides of the identical scene. In order to achieve a “proper” exposure, the images would be overexposed. One image would be sharply focused while the others would be distinctly out of focus. When combined, the resulting image would have a soft, romantic glow.
The technique is often replicated today digitally with photo editing software. Follow the steps below to create this effect using Affinity Photo. If you like the effect, download the marco I created. Then, double-click on it and it will be imported into Affinity Photo’s library.
The image below is the original, unedited capture of a rural scene. Though nice, I think adding a soft glow to the landscape will impart a more dreamy feeling.
As we don’t want to alter the original image, start by making a copy of the layer (⌘ + J on Mac, Ctrl + J on PC) and calling the new layer “Base”.
Now, make another copy of the “Base” layer (⌘ + J on Mac, Ctrl + J on PC), and call the new layer “Blur”.
At this point, in keeping with the original technique used by Michael Orton, some people lighten, or over-expose, the “Base” layer. It’s a matter of preference. However, I like the end result without the over-exposure on this layer.
You can now group the “Base” and “Blur” layers (⌘ + G on Mac, Ctrl + G on PC), and call the group “Orton Effect”.
Select the “Blur” layer and add a Gaussian Blur adjustment layer using the menu bar. I use an adjustment layer as opposed to simply applying a Gaussian filter so I can go back and adjust the blur later if I don’t think it is enough or is too much.
Set the radius of the blur to about 10px, and don’t forget to check “Preserve Alpha” to ensure the edges of the image are not lightened. Adjust the blur radius as desired. The result if greatly affected by the original size of the image. The larger the image, the higher the radius needs to be to achieve the same affect.
Change the opacity of the “Blur” layer to about 60%. This amount can be a more or less depending on your taste and the affect on the image. I found for this particular scene, a value of 40% works well.
As you may want to have less of an effect in certain areas of the image, add a mask layer to the “Blur” layer. On this image, I ended up masking out some of the effect on the house and flowers in the left foreground.
See the two images below for the difference between the unmasked and final result.
Hope you found this simple tutorial useful. Download the marco I created and enjoy.