This look, called the Orton Effect, was named after Michael Orton a photographer who was the first to use this technique by merging two images together; one in focus the other out of focus. Michael pioneered this method before the days of Photoshop. He originally used slide film to get his results. Now it can be done with a few simple steps in Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, or GIMP. This tutorial posted by is written for Photoshop Elements 5.0.

The Orton Effect – Digital Photography Tip of the Week

  1. Open your image (Image 1)
  2. Duplicate the background layer (Right click on the background layer and choose duplicate) and name that layer Sharp
  3. Create another duplicate of the background layer.
  4. Change the Blending mode of the Sharp Copy to screen
  5. With the Sharp Copy layer selected, right click and choose Merge Down (Image 2)
  6. Right click on the Sharp layer, choose Duplicate and name this layer Out of Focus
  7. On the Filter Menu, choose Blur – Gaussian Blur (Image 3)
    Depending on the resolution of the image you are using, the amount of blue needed will change. Use enough that the shapes are still visible, but detail is not. For this 6.1 Megapixel image, a value of 15.9 was sufficient.
  8. Change the blending mode of the Out Of Focus layer to Multiply. (Image 4)

This effect does a great job on portrait photography as well.