Friday, April 25, 2008


"Fotografi" is Swedish for-- well, I think you can figure that one out for yourself. ;o) (I think they also call it "fotografering", but I'm not sure why they need two words for it or how they may differ slightly in meaning.)

Warning: If you aren't interested in photography, this won't be of much use to you. Sorry. . . I'm writing about it partly just to remind myself of what I've done, what I've read and some links I've found.

I've been playing around with a different style of photography, lately. (Or maybe that's the wrong way to put it. It's really more a different style of post-processing photos than of actually taking the photos.) Donald gave me some pointers on how to use Photoshop to get a "dreamy" effect I've admired on Flickr, and I've been experimenting with that for a few weeks. Then today I discovered that there's a special name for this style/technique. It's called "Orton" imagery / effect / photography. Wow! It has a name!! (g)

The Orton effect (or whatever you call it-- seems like there are several variations) is named after its creator, photographer Michael Orton. He started using the technique back in the days when you needed film for your camera. (Thank goodness for digital! I don't have to feel guilty for taking a hundred photos at a time!) Back then, you had to take two slide photos to achieve the Orton effect. One was purposely blurred and the other one sharp, but both were overexposed. Once the slides were developed, you took them out of their slide mounts and sandwiched them together. The result was a dreamy photograph with rich colors.

Of course, these days most of us prefer digital to slide photography. (It's a whole lot cheaper, for one thing!) Turning a regular digital photo into an Orton image is pretty easy, if you have a good photo editing program. You can take two photos, as in the slide process, but the way I've been doing it (and I'm happy with the results, so far) requires only one photo.

Here's how I've been doing things, so far:

I start by playing around with the color on the photo-- usually lightening it, because the process tends to darken and saturate the image. Experimentation is key. Once I'm satisfied, I copy the image onto another layer. (This is Photoshop talk. Ctrl-j is the shortcut I use.) Next, go up to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur.

At this point, you have some choices to make. I sometimes go back to this step a few times until I get things set the way I like them. In the Gaussian Blue box, pull the slider to determine the degree of blurriness in the photo. I sometimes find that the less blur I put on a photo in this step, the more blurry it seems in the end. (shrug) Try a couple of different settings on the same photo-- and go through the remaining steps to see the final result-- to get a feel for it, then fine tune to get it just right. Once I've selected the degree of blur I want (and clicked "OK"), I look at the Layers palette. It's automatically set to "Normal", but there's a drop down menu. You can play around with these settings to get different looks. Usually I end up choosing "Overlay".

Ta-da! ;o) Now the blurry image is sitting on top of your original (color-adjusted) photo. Sometimes I like it just like this and move on to the saving process. However, it may profit from a little tweaking. You can lessen the effect by adjusting the opacity and fill settings (also in the Layers palette).

And that's pretty much it. You may want to readjust the colors, brightness, etc., but sometimes it's not necessary. Just be sure to "Save As" (or "Save for Web") and not "Save". Otherwise, you won't have access to your original, unblurred photo.

This page I found today has different instructions. I may try those, next time, to see how much difference it makes. (Honestly, I think "my" version looks faster and easier, but maybe the results are worth the trouble.) Here's another version (and I imagine there are still more out there). Flickr has at least two groups devoted to Orton, and on one of them I found this-- a link to a tutorial for a 3-layer Orton effect.

I have a feeling this may be the sort of thing-- well, hey, maybe everything in life is!-- that people either love or hate. Obviously I'm a fan (g), but there may be people who wonder why anyone would want to ruin a perfectly focused photo by blurring it. ;o)