So what is the Orton Effect? According to Wikipedia ‘Orton imagery, also called an Orton slide sandwich or the Orton Effect, 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 originated by photographer Michael Orton in the mid 1980s.’
When I first used it some years ago, I mainly applied it to my flower photography but never thought about using it for anything else. Recently I read an article about landscape photos using the Orton effect. The article is from Photography Life and you can read it here if you haven’t already. In the article there’s also a tutorial on how to implement it in your own images – and why you may not want to. The writer of this article felt it was possibly taking over landscape photography. I neither agree nor disagree with him. Yes, it can be over done on images; any editing technique can. The idea is to find that fine line of just right versus over done or barely done – your image, your taste.
It had been a long time since I “Ortoned” any images so I decided to give it a try and see how I liked it for a landscape photo. I had an old PS action that did the work for me as compared to my doing all of the layers and blending modes. Doing it myself would’ve afforded me more control over aspects of the technique but this was just an experiment so I went the hard and fast action route. I picked this image from our visit to Sedona, Arizona in 2013. The first image is a typical edit with just the usual levels and clarity adjustments. The second was edited using the Orton Effect. While I like the soft glow and the vibrancy of the Orton image, it’s that very thing that made the row of green trees look like steamed broccoli to me. You could say the first image has a bit of that going on too but there is more detail in the trees which makes for a bit less cooked veggies resemblance. To me, the Orton Effect comes close to resembling the painterly effects you can get when using a program like Topaz Simplify for example.
My opinion is that with the right image and a not so heavy hand, the Orton Effect can give you a great finished photo with an artistic twist. Will I be using it more? I don’t know. As with all of my edits it depends on what I am trying to convey with the photograph. Which image do you prefer and why? And have you or will you use the Orton Effect on any of your photos?