In this simple tutorial, I’m going to show you how to create a dreamy photographic effect similar to that made very popular by Michel Orton in 1980’s.

The original technique was composed of 2 different photographs of the same scene, one photographed as normal and one blurred and then combined in the dark room to create a very distinct effect of an image that was both in focus and out of focus at the same time which results in a dreamy, ethereal look.

This look has become incredibly popular again and is pretty easy to create using Photoshop. However, Lightroom users are at a distinct disadvantage due to the programs lack of layers to be able to combine the 2 images.

I’ll be covering a method that comes fairly close to the effect, but if you have Photoshop you will definitely have a better and more versatile method of creating the effect.

To start off with, process your image as you would normally to get a great looking starting point. This will still be forming the main part of the overall image, so spending the time now to get a great looking image will save time later.

We’ll be starting with this nicely detailed Autumn / Fall image that is a great candidate for this particular effect. It is full of colour, fine detail and interest.

The Orton Effect

Step 2

As mentioned earlier, we can’t use Layers in Lightroom but we can use Graduated Filters to apply effects to our image. Even though it’s intended to create a graduated effect, we can overcome that by simply creating our filter just below the bottom of the image so that the entire filter is applied to the whole image and the graduation is below and out of site.

Select the Graduated Filter from the Develop Module > Basic Panel (or press M) and take your mouse below the image, click and hold the Left Mouse Button and draw out your filter (holding Shift will keep the filter straight and make things a little easier). It’s not important how large the filter effect is as it will be outside the image boundary.

The Orton Effect

Now with the Graduated Filter in place, set the following values to Clarity & Sharpness:

  • Clarity: -100
  • Sharpness: -40

This is where we start to create the hazy glow in the image. You should immediately notice that the image starts to get a soft glow. Click Done at the bottom of your image to confirm the Graduated Filter.

Remember, everything we do in Lightroom is non-destructive, so if you want to make changes in the future, you have full control over every edit you make.

Step 3

Now, repeat the process of creating a Graduated Filter to create a second instance below the image like we did in the previous step. This will allow us to build the overall effect with a second instance.

This time we’ll set some different values.

  • Exposure: +0.33
  • Contrast: +60
  • Saturation: +20
  • Clarity: -50

There we go, we now have 2 Graduated Filters with different settings. Once again, click Done once you’ve input the settings to apply the filter.

The Orton Effect

If you want to adjust either or both of the Graduated Filters to vary the amount of the effect to taste, you can easily select the Graduated Filter tool and look for the Nodes a (small grey circles) that denote your Filters at the bottom of the image. Select either and then on the Graduated Filter panel on the right click the small triangle in the top right to switch to the Amount Slider and there you can adjust the amount of that Graduated Filter being applied to the image.

The Orton Effect

This is a great way of fine tuning the effect without having to adjust multiple values.

Adjust the Filters to get the effect your looking for and then click Close to exit the toolbox.

That’s it; you’ve now created a pretty cool Orton style effect. You could now either create your own Lightroom Preset to apply this to any future images or you could take it one step further.

The Orton Effect

Bonus Tip

To take the effect one step further and create some additional interest in the image, I like to use the Adjustment Brush (K) and choose the Sharpness effect, ramp up the Sharpness to 100% and then paint back in some detail that’s been lost using the Graduated Filters and the blur and clarity settings. I won’t do this to the entire image. Instead I’ll pick out key items in the image and apply some sharpening and then dial it back a little to make it less obvious.

In our example, I’ll paint back in some sharpness to the building and some of the main tree trunks to make them pop a little.

You can also use the Adjustment Brush in the same way that we have with the Graduated Filter and apply it multiple times with different sharpness values to different parts of the image to get a great level of control over the entire image.

Give it a try and see how good a result you can get.

That wraps up the tutorial. Don’t forget you can grab our Free Lightroom Preset to get a quick, one click head start to creating this cool effect.