The Orton Effect was invented by photographer Michael Orton, who experimented by sandwiching two shots of the same subject, one with sharp detail and one blurred.
This gives an image with a very atmospheric soft ‘glow’ but with sharp underlying detail. This can now be carried out digitally with a lot more control, and the result can be soft and dreamy or dark and surreal, depending on the technique used and the blending settings.
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Normally, the Orton Effect is created using image layers and blend modes, but Skylum Luminar has a dedicated Orton Effect filter which sidesteps this complication and offers a simple set of sliders for recreating this popular effect.
01 Selecting the Orton Effect filter
The best way to see how Luminar filters work is to use them in isolation, and you can do this by opening the drop-down Workspace menu and selecting Clear Workspace. Now you need to click the Add Filter button and select the Orton Effect filter from the Creative category.
02 Orton Effect Type 1
The Luminar Orton Effect filter offers two modes: Type 1 and Type 2, selected via a drop-down menu. This is the result in the Type 1 mode, with the Amount slider pushed up to 50 so that the effect is visible. Type 1 mode seems to give a darker, more intense and saturated image.
03 Orton Effect Type 2
The Type 2 mode appears a little less intense, with lower contrast and saturation and a slightly lighter look – again, this is with the Amount set to 50 and no other changes.
04 Creating a high key look
There are differences between the two modes, but with the Softness, Contrast, Brightness and Saturation sliders, it’s possible to create almost any effect. This high key look has been achieved using the Type 1 effect, with the Amount pushed up to 100, increased Brightness and reduced Contrast and Saturation.
05 More intense
This is a darker, more intense look, achieved with the Brightness set to zero, increased Contrast and reduced Saturation. It’s also worth experimenting with the Softness slider, as this is equivalent to the degree of defocus in the blurred layer of the original Orton Effect. A low value can give a less attractive ‘HDR’ effect and a high value can make the ‘glow’ less apparent, so you need to judge this on an image-by-image basis.
06 Masking the eyes
The key to any portrait is the eyes, and while the Orton Effect is great at smoothing out skintones it also softens the detail in eyes, so they may not stand out with the intensity you would have liked. One easy solution in Luminar is to use the masking brush to ‘paint out’ the Orton Effect just over your subject’s irises. That’s what we’ve done here, and while it might sound like a subtle change, it does make a difference to the impact of the picture.
There are many different ways to add a soft and ethereal glow to your photos in Luminar and the Orton Effect filter is just one of them. It does offer a lot of control for portrait shots, though, and it would work equally well in light and airy landscapes or dark and mysterious interiors.