Give Your Photos a Healthy Glow

You might not know his name, but you've almost certainly seen photos influenced by a technique he pioneered for film photography. I'm talking about Michael Orton, the creative force behind a breathtakingly gorgeous style. Here's his process, in a nutshell: Take two photos of the same scene (one in focus and the other out of focus, both somewhat overexposed) and combine them. The result is a photograph with a beautiful, almost eerie glow, like this.

Here's the rub: I only had a single shot to make that image, so I used a digital shortcut. It took me about a minute to do it, using Corel's Paint Shop Pro--though you can use almost any image editing program. This week I'll show you how.

Layer Your Photos

Let's start with a bland photo of my son sightseeing near a lighthouse (or substitute any photo of your own).

Open this photo in Paint Shop Pro and duplicate it in a second layer by choosing Layers, Duplicate from the menu bar. You won't see a difference in the photo itself, but you should see a second layer appear in the Layer Palette on the right side of the screen. (If the Layer Palette isn't visible, toggle it on by choosing View, Palettes, Layers.)

Next, make a second duplicate layer in the same way. You should now see three layers in the palette. To keep them all straight, right-click the first layer (the one called "Copy of Background") and choose Rename, then type in Sharp and press Enter. Then rename "Copy (2) of Background" to "Blurry."

Overexpose Your Shot

Next, we'll simulate overexposing the photo. Click on Sharp in the Layers Palette and change the blending mode from the default of Normal to Screen. You can find the blending mode in the Layers Palette menu, right above the three layers. Again, you won't see a difference, because you just screened the middle layer. Then right-click Sharp and choose Merge, Merge Down. The Sharp layer will disappear, having just been merged into the original background layer.

Add the Blur

Now it's time to make the top layer blurry. Click the layer you named Blurry to select it, then choose Adjust, Blur, Gaussian Blur. The amount of blur is controlled by the Radius setting and will depend upon the size of the photo. For the fairly small sample I provided, try a setting around 9. If you're working with a larger image, say 6 megapixels, I'd start around 14 or 15. The key is to add a significant amount of blur without completely obscuring the detail.

The final step? With Blurry still selected, change the blend mode from Normal to Multiply. You should get something like this.

Feel free to experiment with alternative blur levels and blending modes. You might also want to vary the opacity of the top layer to fine-tune the effect.

Hot Pics

Get published, get famous! Each week, we select our favorite reader-submitted photo based on creativity, originality, and technique. Every month, the best of the weekly winners gets a prize valued at between $15 and $50.

Here's how to enter: Send us your photograph in JPEG format, at a resolution no higher than 640 by 480 pixels. Entries at higher resolutions will be immediately disqualified. If necessary, use an image editing program to reduce the file size of your image before e-mailing it to us. Include the title of your photo along with a short description and how you photographed it. Don't forget to send your name, e-mail address, and postal address. Before entering, please read the full description of the contest rules and regulations.

This Week's Hot Pic: "Framing the Moon," by Chic Blinn, New Castle, New Hampshire

Chic writes: "I'm always amazed at the sight of the full moon rising over the ocean's horizon. I was in a perfect location to capture this shot through the frame of a statue dedicated to artists who come to this site in New Castle to paint scenes of the ocean. I had to sit on the ground to center the moon in the middle of the frame."

Chic captured this photo with a Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W1.

Hot Pic of the Month: Each month we choose one of our weekly winners to be the Hot Pic of the Month. For March, we chose "I Dare You," by Ian Hendry, from Memphis, Tennessee.

Congratulations to Ian and to everyone else who won a Hot Pic of the Week last month. Keep those entries coming!

See all the Hot Pic of the Week photos online.

Have a digital photo question? Send me your comments, questions, and suggestions about the newsletter itself. And be sure to sign up to have the Digital Focus Newsletter e-mailed to you each week.

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