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The notrO Effect

Have you ever gone through your post-processing workflow (particularly when it includes HDR generation), looked at the final image, and found that it was still lacking the vibrance and clarity that you remembered seeing whilst capturing the original photograph? I had this problem after working with the following image from my shoot at the Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens yesterday, during which the capturing the vibrant autumn colours was one of my main goals… and found the solution by adapting what I consider to be a derivative of the Orton effect!

Alfred Nicholas' Boathouse - Original HDR

Alfred Nicholas' Boathouse - Original HDR

The Theory

When we apply the Orton effect (blending an over-exposed copy of the image with the original), the resultant image takes on a ‘dreamy’ feel… the colours tend to wash out a bit (that is, vibrance and saturation are reduced), while the highlights creep into the shadows to brighten up the overall image at the expense of clarity. For the sake of comparison, the image below shows Alfred Nicholas’ Boathouse with the Orton effect applied:

Alfred Nicholas' Boathouse - HDR with Orton Effect

Alfred Nicholas' Boathouse - HDR with Orton Effect

I figured that, if the Orton effect actually emphasizes the traits that I didn’t like in the original image, applying the opposite of the Orton effect would fix them…

The Result

In the image below, I blended the original HDR image with an under-exposed copy of itself:

Alfred Nicholas' Boathouse - HDR with notrO Effect

Alfred Nicholas' Boathouse - HDR with notrO Effect

As you can see here, the colours are a lot richer, while emphasizing the shadows rather than the highlights yields greater clarity and gives the image a more ‘moody’ feel rather than a ‘dreamy’ one. This is much more like the scene that I remember capturing whilst on location!

A Word About Levels

Just as the image’s levels must be carefully adjusted after applying the Orton effect to avoid losing too much detail in the highlights; so too must the image’s levels be adjusted after applying the notrO effect to avoid losing detail in the shadows!

Examples

I found that I needed to use this technique on a couple of the images that I brought home from my shoot yesterday. Click any image below for a larger view…

Alfred Nicholas' Boathouse #1

Alfred Nicholas' Boathouse #1

Autumn Colours at Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens

Autumn Colours at Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens

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