Saturday, April 5, 2008

Orton Imagery

Thursday night I went to my camera club, Photochrome, and as always, I enjoyed viewing and was inspired by a wide range of photographic talent and styles. ChrisK displayed a lovely example of Orton Imagery that provoked a good deal of discussion within the group. Orton Imagery is a technique pioneered by Michael Orton for slide film. Two images are taken of the same scene, the first in focus, tack sharp and over exposed by 2 stops. The second image is out of focus and overexposed by 1 stop. By sandwiching these two image in the same slide mount the final image appears properly exposed with a dreamy, painterly quality.

If you shoot digital don't fear, this look can easily be recreated in Photoshop. Once you have opened your image in Photoshop select Image --> Apply Image. In the dialog box which appears change the Blending Mode to Screen and leave the percentage at 100%. This will give you the properly over-exposed sharp base image. Next, in the Layers menu, right-click on the background layer and select Duplicate Layer. Apply a blur to this duplicate layer by selecting Filter --> Blur --> Gaussian Blur. Experiment with the pixel radius between 2 - 50 pixels depending upon your taste. I usually settle somewhere in the 30 pixel range. Change the blending mode of this layer to Multiply and the lovely impressionistic image will be revealed. Flatten the image and you are ready to debut your new work of art.

Orton Imagery is typically thought of as a landscape technique I have used it on some of my wildlife photos to varied levels of success. The main trouble with using it on wildlife is that the eye needs to be sharp and bright or the resulting image looks more like the product of a taxidermist than a living breathing creature. I solve this by cutting the eye onto a separate layer above the blurred layer.

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