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Lose Focus

Lose Focus

Assignment L47

For this assignment, we want you to lose focus! The “Orton Effect” is a popular creative style that gives images a bright, dreamlike glow. Abstract photographer Michael Orton first developed the technique in the 1980s in an attempt to imitate watercolor paintings. He did this by sandwiching two slides together of the same composition-one in focus and overexposed, another out of focus and underexposed-to create ethereal results. Today, we can easily replicate this effect using either in-camera multiple exposures, or with computer software. 

Although it is easier and more precise to apply the effect post-capture, it is far more fun doing it in-camera. Simply select your camera’s Multiple Exposure mode-this is typically found in your camera’s Shooting Menu. Switch on Multiple Exposure and set the number of shots to two. Now, take your two frames. The first should be focused sharply as normal, but, for the second image, manually defocus the lens. The camera will then blend the sharp and blurred frames together to create one file. You will need to experiment with just how much you defocus the lens. 

Enjoy this assignment. Apply the technique to a number of scenes, in different lighting conditions, to select the image where the effect works best. 

The Process

  1. Select a suitable image and open it in Photoshop. Create a duplicate layer.
  2. With your new layer selected, click Image – Apply Image. From the Blending dropdown menu, select Multiply and click OK. Your image should darken.
  3. With the new layer still selected, alter the layer blend mode within the Layers window to Screen. Your image will return to its original brightness.
  4. Click Filter – Blur and from the dropdown menu select Gaussian Blur. User the slider to apply a medium amount of blur – in the region of 40-75 pixels. You will probably want to experiment with the level of blur, depending on the scene and the effect you want to achieve. Click OK to apply.
  5. You will now see a dreamy softness and slight overexposure of the image’s highlights. You can moderate the Orton Effect by adjusting the layer’s Opacity in the Layers window. You may also need to readjust the exposure by clicking Image – Adjustments – Levels.

View the images

Technique

  • The ethereal soft glow created by sandwiching sharp and blurred images together, particularly suits back-and side-lit scenes, including mist, woodland, and any scene containing lots of foliage.

Special Kit

  • Post-processing software, such as Adobe Photoshop

Field Notes

  • If you are using your camera’s built-in multiple exposure mode, set the overlay or blending method to “average” (or similar, depending on the camera make and model) to ensure the combined exposure is correct.