67 — Orton Imagery — The Orton Effect — Interview with Michael Orton and Darwin Wiggett

Pho­tog­ra­phy pod­cast #67 dis­cusses how to use Orton Imagery (AKA the Orton effect or the Orton Tech­nique) to give your pho­tographs an ethereal/painterly feel. This tech­nique was invented by Michael Orton in the mid 1980’s using 2 pieces of over­ex­posed slide film sand­wiched together. The prin­ci­ples of this tech­nique can also be used in graph­ics pro­grams like Pho­to­shop to achieve a sim­i­lar effect. This pod­cast con­tains 2 inter­views; one with Michael Orton dis­cussing‚ the technique’s his­tory, and one with Dar­win Wiggett,‚ dis­cussing his method for cre­at­ing Orton Imagery using Pho­to­shop and other graph­ics pro­grams. Darwin’s step-by-step is out­lined below and his Pho­to­shop action is also included. Thanks a ton Michael and Darwin!!

Image by Michael Orton - click to enlarge

Orton Imagery by Michael Orton — Click to enlarge

NMP2823 - Non-Orton image by Darwin Wiggett - Click to enlarge

NMP2823 — Non-Orton image by Dar­win Wiggett — Click to enlarge

NMP2823 - Orton image by Darwin Wiggett - Click to enlarge

NMP2823 — Orton image by Dar­win Wiggett — Click to enlarge

NMP9058 - Orton image by Darwin Wiggett - Click to enlarge

NMP9058 — Orton image by Dar­win Wiggett — Click to enlarge

NMP6435 - Orton image by Darwin Wiggett - Click to enlarge

NMP6435 — Orton image by Dar­win Wiggett — Click to enlarge

Here’s how to cre­ate Orton Imagery Using Pho­to­shop. Por­tion reprinted from from Orton Imagery — A …œHow to‚ guide for Pho­tog­ra­phers by Dar­win Wiggett. Thanks to Nature Pho­tog­ra­phers online mag­a­zine for allow­ing me to reprint this.

Dig­i­tal Tech­nique to Cre­ate Orton Images

Here, there are many ways to sim­u­late an Orton slide sand­wich. You can do it the same way as out­lined above for slides over­ex­pos­ing two sep­a­rate images and then in the com­puter stack­ing the images together in soft­ware and blend­ing them. Per­son­ally, I pre­fer to take my exist­ing dig­i­tized pho­tos (either from film scans or dig­i­tal cam­era files) and run­ning them through the process below to see if they work as …œOr­ton Images‚.

Here is the step-by-step recipe for mak­ing Orton images in Photoshop:

  1. Open any image you wish to try the tech­nique on. Make a dupli­cate of the image (Image>Duplicate). Close the orig­i­nal image.
  2. Lighten the image as fol­lows: Image>Apply Image‚¦ then in the dia­log box that comes up change the bend­ing mode to …œScreen‚ and the Opac­ity to 100%. This will give you an appro­pri­ately over­ex­posed image.
  3. Dupli­cate this over­ex­posed image (Image>Duplicate).
  4. Blur this sec­ond image (Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur‚¦ and in the dia­log box use a Radius set­ting of 15 to 50 pix­els ‚” the higher the pixel set­ting the blur­rier the photo and the more ‹“painter­lyž the image‚¦ but you can go too far!). Exper­i­ment with dif­fer­ent set­tings, for my tastes and for the size of my dig­i­tal files (50–100 megabytes) a radius of about 25 pix­els works perfect.
  5. Now select the move tool from the Pho­to­shop tool bar (or just press …œv‚ on your key­board for quicker access to the move tool). Hold down the …œshift‚ key and use your mouse to drag and drop the blurry image onto the sharp one (donžt let go of the shift key until after you release the mouse but­ton or the images wonžt be in per­fect alignment).
  6. Bring up the lay­ers palette in Pho­to­shop (F7 is the key­board short­cut). Under the word …œLay­ers‚ in the lay­ers palette will be a menu box of blend­ing modes. Change the blend­ing mode from …œnor­mal‚ to …œmultiply‚.
  7. Now …œflat­tenž the two lay­ers by press­ing …œCTRL+E‚ or by click­ing on the side­ways tri­an­gle in the lay­ers palette to select ‹“flat­ten imagež.

There, you now have an Orton image — if you like your new mas­ter­piece save the file!

Copy­right Dar­win Wiggett and Nature Pho­tog­ra­phers Online Mag­a­zine — All rights reserved.

Dwayne Oaks from our pho­tog­ra­phy forum also lists the way he uses the Orton effect using NX2 soft­ware. Thanks Dwayne.
1-use mid­tone (lev­els) slider to brighten photo (2.04)
2-select gauss­ian blur, set radius slider to (15.85)px and opac­ity to (100)%
go to blend­ing mode and select (mul­ti­ply)
3-readjust (lev­els) slid­ers if nec­es­sary
4-in the case of my work to get the muted col­ors just turn down
the saturation

Links /resources men­tioned in this pod­cast:
More of Dar­win Wiggett’s work on Timecatcher.com
Pho­tograph­ing Cre­ative Land­scapes: Sim­ple Tools for Artis­tic Images and Enhanced Cre­ativ­ity by Michael Orton
Dances with Light by Dar­win Wiggett
Down­load Darwin’s Orton Action
June’s low shoot­ing angle assign­ment on the Photography.ca forum
See and vote on May 2009’s mem­ber images

If you are still lurk­ing on our forum,
feel free to join our friendly :) Pho­tog­ra­phy forum

Thanks as always to every­one that sent com­ments by email about our last pod­cast. Although ALL com­ments are appre­ci­ated, com­ment­ing directly in this blog is pre­ferred. Thanks as well to all the new mem­bers of the bul­letin board.

If you are look­ing at this mate­r­ial on any other site except Photography.ca — Please hop on over to the Photography.ca blog and pod­cast and get this and other pho­tog­ra­phy info directly from the source. I Sub­scribe with iTunes I Sub­scribe via RSS feed I Sub­scribe with Google Reader I Sub­scribe for free to the Pho­tog­ra­phy pod­cast — Photography.ca and get all the posts/podcasts by Email
You can down­load this pho­tog­ra­phy pod­cast directly by click­ing the pre­ced­ing link or lis­ten to it almost imme­di­ately with the embed­ded player below.


  1. Allain Pelletier says:

    many thanks for the tip it does work very well .

  2. Bambi says:

    I’ve been work­ing my way through the pod­casts and this one was fan­tas­tic! I found that it really helped clar­ify the process for me.


  3. Wendy says:

    thanks for the sim­ple expla­na­tion. I tried a few oth­ers places, but could not get the right result until I fol­lowed Dar­win Wiggetts instruc­tions. A very nice result. I agree that the one thing that will alter from pic to pic is the amount of Gauss­ian blur. I did 3 pho­tos, and the amount of blur I used was dif­fer­ent on each one.

  4. meredith says:

    thanks sooooo much… the pic looks great

  5. Syd says:

    Great Pod­cast! Great guests! So that’s how it’s done. Excel­lent! I’m hav­ing a blast going through my image archives to find the ones that are “Orton-worthy”.

  6. Ed Kriz says:

    Would be a great assign­ment for July!!!!

  7. Kent Wilson says:

    Another excel­lent pod­cast, Marko! Very use­ful info pre­sented in an engag­ing way.

    Thanks, and thanks again.

  8. TJD says:

    Hi Marko,

    I almost fin­ished lis­ten­ing on my com­mute this morn­ing. I thought it would be inter­st­ing to see the accom­pa­ny­ing mate­r­ial. So here I am and writ­ing a com­ment.
    The tech­nique for me was com­pletely new and never heard off. (But that is noth­ing strange for a rel­a­tive new­bie…)
    I loved the whole pod­cast and it is great that you find these peo­ple and inter­view them for every­body to learn from.
    The tech­nique itself I will cer­tainly exper­i­ment with it. That said, I am less on the artis­tic side at the moment and more on the pho­tog­ra­phy tech­niques. (Tak­ing a basic Good Shot)
    Nev­er­the­less thanks for what you are doing here and I am already wait­ing for the next show to be available.


  9. Marsha says:

    Love the pod­cast. I’m using Light­room & have never used Phot­shop. Would you please keep this in mind and include any links so we can try out this and other things on your podcasts.

    Thank you!

  10. Kat says:

    Just tried it out!! Thank you! Won­der­ful infor­ma­tion and the steps were easy too! No more quess­ing how now!!



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