The funny thing about adding the popular Orton effect to your photos is that it’s so easy to overdo. Odds are, if you’ve ever seen a landscape photo with that ethereal, dreamy quality to it—almost as if it has the tiniest bit of soft focus—it has had some form of the Orton effect applied to it. Some photographers call it a Soft Focus Look or Dreamy Feel, but I prefer giving credit where it’s due. The look itself is credited to photographer Michael Orton, but he first developed it (pun intended) decades ago when he was shooting film.
The technique itself was modernized with digital post-processing and it truly can elevate a photo with its dreamy effect. The key is to use moderation. Moderation in how often you use it, how much of its strength you apply and where within the photo you keep it and where you remove it. It’s like salt. You start with a pinch, taste and move on from there. You can always add more, but it’s far more troubling once you add too much. That’s why I created the video below, outlining my Orton effect process. There are thousands of ways to apply this technique, and I don’t think one is better than another. My process is likely a fusion of several, which I then refined to suit my taste. The key is to experiment and figure out what works best for you.