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A Tuesday tutorial

Almost as is.  (Sharpened and resized.)
Almost as is. (Sharpened and resized.)

Learning is finding out what you already know.  Doing is demonstrating that you know it.  Teaching is reminding others that they know just as well as you.  You are all learners, doers, teachers.

~ Richard Bach

Edited in Picasa using the Orton Effect.
Edited in Picasa using the Orton Effect.

Recently, Carol mentioned in a comment that my photos are “always so smooth, yet sharp,” and asked how I do it.  I promised a tutorial, something I’m not particularly good at because I don’t understand half of what I do, and I rarely write it down.  I play and push buttons, but every now and then I do the same thing often enough that I can repeat it.  If you are completely unfamiliar with how to use Photoshop, this tutorial is not for you.  I honestly don’t know enough to teach it, but I can walk you through the steps I take.  Make sure you save your image as a copy so you don’t mess up your original.

I use what is probably considered an ancient version of Photoshop (CS2).  Newer versions might do with the click of one button what I do in several steps.  I also use Picasa when I’m feeling lazy.  Online editors such as Pixlr and PicMonkey are pretty handy, too, and you can get some spiffy effects using them.  You can even pile on effects.

Sharpened and resized for the internet.  Otherwise, no enhancements.
Sharpened and resized for the internet. Otherwise, no enhancements.

The effect that I most like to use with my photos, the one that makes them smooth and sharp or soft and sharp, is the Orton Effect.  There are a lot of different ways to achieve the Orton Effect.  I’ve combined different steps from a couple of methods in order to get the look that I prefer.  I don’t use it all the time, but when I do, it’s usually with flowers.  It is sometimes great for portraits of people, too, at it will smooth out skin tones (and wrinkles, if you’re worried about such things).

Edited in Photoshop to achieve the Orton Effect.
Edited in Photoshop to achieve the Orton Effect.

You should also know that you can almost achieve this effect in camera with the right lighting (usually the morning Golden Hour works best) and underexposing your images so you capture the light and shadows just right.  Here’s an example:

Sharpened and resized.  Otherwise, no enhancements.
Sharpened and resized. Otherwise, no enhancements.  I could have brought it closer to an Orton Effect by turning up the highlights a little.

Mist, fog, and humid air help to naturally tweak the effect.  If you can’t get the right light, humidity, and exposure, you can take the following steps in Photoshop:

  1. Open your file (photo).
  2. Create a duplicate layer.
  3. If you want to crop your image, now is a good time to do it.  You can also adjust the contrast if you like, or wait and do that at the end.  If you do it now, you might find you want to do it again at the end.  It depends on the image and the look you prefer.
  4. Press and hold Ctrl + Alt + Shift + n + e.  This creates a new copy layer, whatever that means.  (Don’t press the “+”.  You do need to keep holding each key as you press the next.  When you get to the “e,” let go.  It’s a little awkward at first, but good exercise for your fingers.)
  5. Press Ctrl + j.  This creates Layer Copy 1.
  6. Go to Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur.  Set the Radius until the image is blurred enough that you can’t make out the details, and click on OK.  Usually I set it somewhere between 40 and 50.  Once you’ve done the entire effect a few times, this is a good place to play around with the setting.  You might like more or less blur than I like.
  7. Now you will set the Blending Mode.  You have several options, and this is another good place to play around.  Try Multiply to start.  You can use pretty much any of the blending modes to get a different look.  Lighten and Shade will significantly lighten your image and sometimes give you a sparkly effect.  Multiply darkens the image, saturates the colors, and makes some of the highlights stand out.  Soft Light and Hard Light will have less blur.  If you don’t like the first blending mode you try, simply back up (Step Backward) and try another.  You can also mess with the Opacity levels.  Pick your Blending Mode and then slide the Opacity level around to see if that creates a better look for you.
  8. When you’re satisfied, Flatten Image.
  9. Create a duplicate layer.
  10. Sharpen your image.  The Orton Effect creates a bloom around the edges of the objects in a photo.  Sharpening can help you get rid of some of that bloom (or at least make it less obvious).  If you use the Orton Effect in Picasa, it gives you a slider to use to lessen or enhance both the bloom and the brightness.  Using this Photoshop method, you’ll have to fix it on your own.  Using the Opacity level as suggested in Step 7 will help, too.  Use whatever method you usually use to sharpen an image.
  11. If you need to tweak the contrast, brightness, or color saturation, do it now.
  12. If you’re resizing, do it now.
  13. Flatten Image, and Save As whatever you want to name your new and altered image.
Hydrangea.  (I walked myself through the above steps using this image.  Blending Mode was set to "Multiply.")
Hydrangea. (I walked myself through the above steps using this image. Blending Mode was set to “Multiply.”)

Confused yet?  Yeah, me too.  Hopefully I didn’t miss a step or make a mess of things.  There are simpler methods of achieving the Orton Effect in Photoshop, but I’ve found this gives the image more depth.  Or something.  I’m not sure what it is I like about this method over the others.

Blending Mode set to Multiply.  This is overdone for my taste.  I would normally tone down the color and contrast, but wanted to show you what the image looks like without additional tweaks.
Blending Mode set to Multiply. This is overdone for my taste. I would normally tone down the color and contrast, but wanted to show you what the image looks like without additional tweaks.  I didn’t adjust the opacity, either.

If you do a search for Orton Effect, you will probably find plenty of easier, and perhaps better, ways to go about it.

Same Zinnia image as above, but this time I set the Blending Mode to Screen.
Same Zinnia image as above, but this time I set the Blending Mode to Screen.

I think I’ve confused everyone enough for one day.  Thank you so much for visiting.  I hope that was helpful to someone.  I know there are a few of you out there who are much more proficient with Photoshop and photo editing programs.  Please feel free to step in and offer suggestions (and corrections!) in the comments section.

The original, no effects.
The original, no effects.

Be good, be kind, be loving.  Just Be.  🙂

Just Bee.  (No effects.)
Just Bee. (No effects.)

Today’s joys:  Using my brain to figure out what I do by rote now; air conditioning to keep me cool on another hot day; time to play; cold soba noodle salad for lunch; sunflowers!

Orton Effect, blending mode set to Lighten.
Just Bee II.  Orton Effect, blending mode set to Lighten.


Robin is... too many things to list, but here is a start: an artist and writer; a photographer and saunterer; a daughter and sister and granddaughter; a friend, a partner, a wife, a mother, and a grandmother; a gardener, a great and imaginative cook, and the creator of wonderful sandwiches.

12 thoughts on “A Tuesday tutorial

  1. Since I asked that question, I wondered if the Orton Effect played a part – PSE (Photoshop Elements) has a preset for that. I play with blending modes a fair amount, but it’s been a long time since I’ve done very much experimenting in the editor until last month when I started the One Four Challenge. Thank you for the tutorial.


  2. Cool! I’ve enjoyed your photos too…noticed there was something different, something more clear, about them. I’ve never heard of the Orton effect. I’ll go research it. I think I’ll have to print this out and then try it on something of my own.


  3. I always admire your photos and now I know why. Not only are you great at capturing, you edit well, too. 🙂
    I think I would have to take a class in order to understand all the details of editing. I do basic stuff, but feel overwhelmed with the technical side of things. I bought PS more than 10 years ago and couldn’t figure it out. They keep updating it, so there is always more to buy & learn. I am not fond of learning curves! Forgeddaboutit! 😉


  4. I used to use Photoshop back near its beginnings, but then it got far more complex than I wanted to deal with. I find Lightroom (another Adobe product) to be far more user friendly and meets pretty much all of my needs.
    Having said that, I DO love your images no matter what you use…… ❤


  5. I’m saving this, too. I use Paint Shop Pro and I think I can do all of this in that. But I don’t have it installed on the new laptop so I’ll have to wait to try it out. Looks good, though!


  6. I use Picasa occasionally, but usually all I do to my photos is crop if necessary, and perhaps play around with the colour a bit. I like seeing how some photos look in black and white too. I have Photoshop installed on my computer, I just don’t know how to use it! I should go through your step-by-step process with Photoshop some time and see if I can work it out! I’d like to be able to add the duplicate effect, that looks like it could be fun. 🙂


Comments are delightful and always appreciated. I will respond when I can (life is keeping me busy!), and/or come around to visit you at your place soon. Thank you!

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