There's a technique we used back in the film days of sandwiching slides together to get an enhanced version of a photograph (the film days are still here of course, but digital is ubiquitous and inexorable in its encroachment). The process was one developed by that Vancouver Island photographer Michael Orton, thus dubbed the "Orton Technique."
The method for film consisted of taking at least two shots of the same subject, preferably with your cam on a tripod, with the exact same framing and the subject immobile. That's fine for a still life or landscape, but it's a bit harder to do with a live subject mostly because it requires you to change settings between the shots all the while your live portrait subject has to remain perfectly still or you risk ruining the ability to use the technique. The images must register perfectly for the process to work.
One image was deliberately taken out of focus and overexposed by one stop, the other taken in sharp focus and overexposed by two full stops. When the slides were taken apart and the emulsions layered or sandwiched, the results were sometimes quite magical in its artistry and often had a surreal glow to it. It was hard to get the images to register just right for this to work out, but it was worth it when you nailed it.
That's why it's much easier to use the principles of the technique on your computer from a single image, even if you're convinced that images on Kodachrome are inherently better (they are, they still are).
So we're going to use the technique on a portrait—just for fun, but also to add some pop to the portrait. It's not difficult to do, and requires just a few steps in Photoshop (it should work in Gimp or Photoshop Elements if you don't have access to the enormously expensive full fledged real deal from Adobe, but since I don't have or use Gimp or PE, you'll have to figure out the conversion that will work on those programs...the principles should be the same or similar.)
Here's my friend Harold Bell—he's a great guy and has the best tuxedo rental business in this area. He has a small shop in the exclusive and expensive Park Cities Snider Plaza—he's a friendly welcoming guy and always ready with a story. I only rent a tux once a year to attend the Beat Leukemia Ball, and don't much dress up at all the rest of the year, so he makes getting into the monkey suit all that much easier.
It's an ok portrait, a little off center, but that's ok. (A note on composition: You don't really need to get someone's shoes in a shot. I mean, if they have fabulous Manolo Blahniks or exquisite peek-a-boo popsicle toes, take a shot of them. When you're doing a portrait, take a step closer...no...closer. You want to get to the person's spirit by looking at their face. So, step closer—I know most cams have zooms, and people more often than not use zoom lenses on DSLRs as well. I think you get better results from prime lenses, in this case it's a 50mm 1.8 lens. The thing to remember when you use a prime lens instead of a zoom is that you frame the image with your feet. Yes, you have to walk closer or take a step back to frame your shot. But trust me, baby, trust me. Using a prime for portraits is way better than using a zoom—unless you're using a pro zoom lens, one that costs north of $1,700.00 or so—get a prime and use it.)
Here we go.
- Ok, the first thing to do is to find the image you want to use and get it opened in Photoshop. (You can practice on mine if you want, download the larger version here. I use Aperture for my photo storage and work flow, but there are many programs you might use instead.
- After getting it loaded into Photoshop duplicate the image. You'll work on the duplicate—it's always a good practice to do this, so make it a habit. Close the original.
- Next, lighten the image as follows: Image→Apply Image. You'll get a dialog box to come up. Change the Blending Mode to Screen and the Opacity to 100%. This will make your image look way overexposed, don't worry.
- Duplicate this overexposed image: Image→Duplicate
- Apply a blur to this second image: Filter→Blur→Gaussian Blur. You'll want to play around with the radius slider setting—you'll need somewhere between 10 to 40 or so depending on the size of your image.
- Select the Move Tool from the Toolbox (or press "V" on your keyboard—know your shortcuts!) Hold down the Shift key and drag the blurry image onto the sharp one. Keeping the shift key down assures that you will have the blurry image align perfectly when you drop it on the first image.
- With the now blurry original image active, go to the layers palette and change the Blending Mode from Normal to Multiply.
- You can now close the second blurry image as we're done with that and will be working on the original.
- You can do whatever you want now to the Ortonized image. For this one, I'm going to desaturate the red channel a bit and adjust the curves as shown in the four images below.
And I'm done. I hope you enjoyed the little tutorial. It's not nearly as complicated or as hard as I've made it sound. It might just add some pop to an image that you already enjoy.
You can see a larger version of the finished image here to check out the detail.
Here are the Ortonized and original side by side so you can more easily see the change:
You can see a larger version of the side by side comparison here.
A shout out to John/designanator for the instigation. He's recently founded the C. W. Post College of Long Island University in Brookville, New York as seen in his post here which is a continuation of his very informative OpenSalonExplorer (OSX) series. I think it goes a bit beyond meta and into the realm of parameta simply because of what is an exemplary service to the community. It's his way of giving back to Open Salon and I'm happy to play a small part in that.
If you're interested in seeing any more PS techniques or actions that I employ in my photography, please let me know in the comments. It's not for everyone, but I hope it's for you. And give John some props.
Another of Harold from the same photoshoot and using the same Orton Technique:
You can see a larger version of this last one here.
Update notice: I've updated the post from its first upload to include the second image of Harold and added the side by side image with links to larger versions of those.
all images copyright © 2009 by barry b. doyle • all rights reserved