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Tutorial: Orton Effect using GIMP

The orton effect is a very special effect created by photographer Michael Orton where he created what is called the Orton Slide Sandwich. He used photographic slides to overlay a photograph with an out-of-focus shot of the same scene. This created a very special effect that was named after him.

Today when the darkroom is a lightroom created by electrons and photons stored in a computer core memory instead the Orton effect can easily be simulated by using software. This tutorial will show you how to create the Orton effect using a single picture. You can of course still shoot an out-of-focus picture just in the original version of the Orton Slide Sandwich but there is no real need for it since software today can create lens blurr that you can have even more control over.

This tutorial is based on GIMP version 2.6 and I used it in MS Windows XP service pack 3.

Photographs suiteable for this effect are macros of flowers, landscapes and so on. You should select a photograph that have contrasts and rich tones, they seem to work best with the Orton effect.

  1. Open the photograph in GIMP and go to the layers window pane where you will find one layer called ”Background” presently. This is the picture you have chose.
  2. Start by lighten the picture about 1 EV (one f-stop) this can be done from the menu by selecting brightness and contrast and then moving the brightness slider upp substantially. Exactly how much you need to experiment.
  3. Duplicate the background layer by right clicking on it and select duplicate.
  4. Select the new layer and change the mode to multiply. You will now see a picture with a rather harsh contrast. If it is too harsh you need to go back to step 2 and lighten the starting picture even more.
  5. Select the top layer, your background copy because the next step is only applied to this layer.
  6. Find in the menu Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur
  7. Adjust the filter setting to something around 30 points works well for me. This depends a bit on how large your photograph is. Experiment. If your first attemt is not okay use the undo function and apply a different value and try again.
  8. When you are satisfied, flatten the layers from the layers menu.
  9. Adjust levelscurves and saturation to your liking.
  10. Save the photograph under a new name.

That was not too difficult was it? Here below is a step by step how the picture will look after each step in the tutorial above.

After step 1 has been applied

After step 2 was applied

After step 3

After step 3

After step 6 the picture looks like this.

After step 6 the picture looks like this.

When finished adjusting the final picture looks like this

When finished adjusting the final picture looks like this

I should add that the orton effect created here is a bit exaggerated with more blurring than necessary just to show the principle. In reality you would probably want to apply a little less blur than what I used here. But it is of course all up to you :)

Anders Pettersson

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