The Orton effect is named after photographer Michael Orton. It is a unique expressive photo technique that creates a dreamy artistic feel in the photos with the combination of sharp and blur elements. The original effect was created using two slide transparencies stacked together. The same effect can be easily created using digital photography techniques and tools readily available today. If you are not familiar with this technique already, there are many excellent resources on the Internet.

Today, I am going to show you how to create the Orton Effect using Nikon Capture NX. It is probably easier than any other photo editing software.

Follow these easy steps

  1. Open the photo in Capture NX.
  2. Add a Levels & Curves adjustment (got to Adjust->Light->Levels & Curves…, or use the shortcut Ctrl-L) . In the Levels & Curves settings dialog box, enter “3” into the mid-point value box as shown below. This is not the same as +2EV exposure compensation but it is better because it preserves the highlights better.
    Levels and Curves adjustment.
  3. Add Gaussian blur (go to Adjust->Focus->Gaussian Blur…). Experiment with the radius slider to obtain an appropriate level of blur. It is difficult to judge as this point. So you can just set an arbitrary number around 25px and do the final adjustment later. Open the Opacity settings dialog box, change the blending mode to Multiply.
    Gaussian Blur settingsGaussian Blur opacity settings
  4. Finally, add another Levels & Curves adjustment. Similar to the step #2 above, but enter “2” into the mid-point value box, then change the Opacity blending mode to Multiply.

That’s it! You may wish to adjust the blur radius to get the effect you’d like. Just a reminder: if you change any settings of a previous editing step, Capture NX will un-check the ApplyBox in the editing steps performed after that step. So just re-check these. Here is how the final Edit List looks like.

Final edit list

Before and after

Here is the comparison of the photo before and after.

2006_04_28 140702

After (Same as the title photo):


Download the Capture NX settings file

If you want to run batch processing on many files, a Capture NX settings file is what you need. Here is mine for your convenience. If you just want to test it on a single photo, simply unzip it to a folder and load into Capture NX with a photo open (Batch->Load Settings->Browse..).

Download link: Capture NX settings file for the Orton Effect

Final words

I hope you enjoy reading this Capture NX tutorial on how to create the Orton Effect using Capture NX. If you have followed along other Capture NX tips and tutorials on DPTnT, you probably have found Capture NX quite capable. If you have any comments or suggestions, please feel free to use the comment box below.

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