Orton Technique

Orton Technique
2006-07-01 Berkeley Rose Garden_MG_4444-02

Tonite, I am deeply touched by Terri’s recent post. Terri authors Wind Lost, a blog, about her struggles with chronic tension headaches which she handles with grace and courage. Terri is also a gifted photographer. Her posting has inspired me to try out some new techniques with my black and white photography, called the Orton technique.

I attended a Freeman Patterson/Andre Gallant workshop recently and both use the Orton technique regularly. The basic idea is to combine two shots together of the same scene. Both are overexposed. The first shot is overexposed by 2 stops and sharp (think f/22). The second shot is out-of-focus with the lens wide open and about 1 stop overexposed. If you shoot slides, you sandwich the slides together. If you are digital, you combine the images into a single Photoshop file. Place the out-of-focus layer on top of the sharp layer and change the blending mode to Multiply. See here for a Orton Photoshop action.

You can simulate the Orton technique using a single image. Open and image. Add a Level Adjustment Layer. Move the midtone slider to something like 1.50 (this you can play with later). Copy the background layer and place it above the adjustment layer. Now, change the Blending Mode of copy to Multiply. Apply Lens Blur onto the copy of the background layer. If your version of Photoshop does not have Lens Blur, go ahead and use Gaussian Blur. The more blur means the stronger the effect. Finally, add a second Levels adjustment layer on top of your blurred layer. Adjust the level’s midpoint to something like 125. From here, you can experiment with the level adjustments, amount of blur, etc.

If you would like more inspiration, Andre Gallant has a book called Dreamscapes.

If you are considering taking a photographic workshop, I would wholeheartedly recommend the Freeman Patterson-Andre Gallant workshop. I had a fantastic time and loved Canada. I have never met nicer people. As a bonus, I met many wonderful photographers.

3 thoughts on “Orton Technique

  1. aww…thanks dorothy. now we can start our fan club! 🙂
    your orton is lovely..soft pinks are so beautiful blurry! i will have to try that with some similar stuff. never thought of applying it to a really close-up macro photo but the effect is so soothing.


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