by Lora Swinson
This is a little effect that I love to use on some of my images if I feel they are a little flat. It is similar to The Orton Effect, but I’ve changed a few of the blending modes to switch it up a little bit. I like rich colors and tones and this helps me bring my style out more. It works on some images better than others, but when it works, it’s magical!
1. After doing my basic editing (color pop and skin smoothing) I start the process of adding a little more depth to the image by duplicating the layer. Layer > Duplicate Layer.
2. A box will pop up prompting you to name the duplicate layer. Name this one Soft Light.
3. You will repeat step #2 to add a 3rd layer. Layer > Duplicate Layer.
4. Name this layer Multiply/Blur.
5. Next, select your ‘Soft Light’ layer and change its blending mode to ‘Soft Light”. You won’t see any changes take place because you’re working with the middle layer but don’t worry, you will see changes later.
6. You will be doing essentially the same thing as step 5, but this time you will select the ‘Multiply/Blur’ layer and change its blending mode to “Multiply” (see how creative I am!). Here is where you will see the change to your photo.
7. While still working on the ‘Multiply/Blur’ layer you are going to add a Gaussian Blur filter to help give the image more depth. Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur.
8. A dialog box will pop up and you will want to increase the radius number to around 15. Each photo will be different but I find that I stick to 15-20 depending on the details of the image. Remember, you are still working on the ‘Mulitply/Blur’ layer.
9. Now you will add layer masks to both the ‘Multiply/Blur’ and ‘Soft Light’ layers.
10. Using a soft, black brush at 100% opacity you are going to select the layer mask of the ‘Multiply/Blur’ layer and mask back in any important details such as skin. I masked back in the little girl as well as the bucket.
11) Now, select the ‘Soft Light’ layer mask, similarly like step 10, and using a soft black brush at 80% opacity I masked out the little girl’s face. I like the very light contrast left from the soft light layer on her skin (from reducing my brush opacity to 80%).
12. This step is going to depend on your personal preference but I feel like the background is a tad too dark. So I select the ‘Multiply/Blur’ layer and reduce the overall opacity to 70%.
13. I am finished editing my layer so I am going to flatten my image so I can sharpen and save. Layer > Flatten Image.
14. Now to sharpen. I am a creature of habit and I know there are a million ways to sharpen, but unsharp mask is what works for me. Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask.
15. Every image is different, so I adjust as needed, but these numbers are where I typically start. Once I am done sharpening I save and am done!
Here are a few more examples of some ‘before/after’ images from the same session:
-Don’t be afraid to mess with the opacity of your layers. Sometimes you may need the ‘Soft Light’ layer and sometimes you may not. Experimenting and making it your own is a good thing!
-This won’t work for every image. I always find that I love this effect more on back light images.
-Once you feel like you’ve got the hang of it, record it and turn it into an action!
Thanks Lora for this incredible tutorial! I know I can’t wait to give this a shot; will you be trying out this out too? Let us know in the comments below and even share your images using this method with us!
Lora Swinson, Colorado
CM Mentor | CMU Instructor
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Happy wife and mother of two young boys, Lora enjoys life in the quiet state of Colorado. As a sophomore in high school, she began her photography journey with a roll of film and a darkroom. Her style has evolved over the years into the natural, timeless, and heartfelt photography that it is today. She is a Canon girl at heart shooting with a 5d mark II and both 50mm and 135mm lenses and loves to help others learn which she does in her Shooting 101: Posed For Success workshop. And although she proclaims to spending her days off as being lazy, Lora loves crossfit and running. Reading, music, and coffee are among some of her other favorite things.