Tips / Articles

Creating Slide Sandwiches or giving your photos the Orton Effect

by Sharon E. Lowe

Slide Sandwiches

A slide sandwich, sometimes called a slide montage, is a technique film photographers have used for years to create a dreamy look in their images. Thanks to the computer darkroom, digital shooters can also duplicate this effect.

White Poinsettas
White Poinsettas

Film Slide Sandwiches

Start, of course, with your camera loaded with the slide film of your choice. Then, choose a good subject. Flowers work well but this technique can be used on almost any subject. A tripod is essential too because you need the exact same composition for several exposures.

Now, shoot one exposure using a small aperture at +2 (2 stops overexposed). For example, you might want to use f/22 to get everything into focus but if it is windy, you might have to use a wider aperture and shorter shutter speed so that your subject is sharply focused. Then, set your camera to the widest aperture for your lens, set the exposure to +1 (1 stop overexposed), and *defocus* the image. You should shoot several defocused images, using varying amounts of defocusing, so that you have several options when you sandwich the slides. Typically however, more defocusing works best.

Once the film is processed and you get your slides, take each blurred image and place it behind the sharp image and decide which combination you like best. Take those two slides out of their mounts and remount them into one slide mount.

White Poinsettias is an example of a film slide sandwich.

Assign 13/x2-20
Assign 13/x2-20

Digital Slide Sandwiches

There are several ways to create digital slide sandwiches but these are the ways I prefer. I use Photoshop CS so these techniques are designed for it but they can be duplicated with other image processing software too. The first method works for any file, tif, jpeg, psd, etc., but I always work with tif files so that is what I’ll discuss. The second is for people who shoot in RAW mode and have Photoshop CS or earlier versions with the Adobe raw image processor add-in. The pink lilies image is an example of a digital slide sandwich, created from a TIF file.

Here's what you do if you start with a TIF file:

(1) Open your image file, copy the background layer (either Layer/duplicate in the menu bar or drag to the Create new layer icon in the layers window), and rename it - I usually call it Bright 100. Then, in the menu bar, select image/adjustments/brightness-contrast and up the brightness by 100.

(2) Copy the *original* background layer and name this layer blur. Set the mode to multiply and apply a gaussian blur (Filter/blur/gaussian blur) to your liking. Since I like to keep track of what I do, I then rename the layer to “Blur xx.x” with the xx.x representing the amount of blur I applied.

(3) Add a brightness/contrast adjustment layer (Layer/new adjustment layer/brightness and contrast on the menu bar or press the “create new fill or adjustment layer” icon in the layer window) and up the brightness to a level you like. In my example, I upped it by 20.

(4) Finally, select all on the blurred layer. Then select edit/transform/scale from the menu bar and change the dimensions to 110% for width and height. Decide if you like the change - you might not always need it. And, of course, save this file. I always recommend you save it as a new file even though your original background layer is preserved.

White Lilies
White Lilies
Contest Winning Photo

If you shoot in RAW mode with your digital camera, here’s what you do.

(1) Open your raw file in PS CS and up the exposure by 2 (assuming it was properly exposed). Save this file; I tend to call it layer 1 since that is what it will be or you could call it Expose +2.

(2) Go back to your raw file and now change the exposure to +1 and open it. Select all and copy it over to your first file (use the move tool to drag it over to the first file). Change the layer opacity to Multiply. Then, apply a gaussian blur to it - adjust the slider until you see a look that you like. And, of course, rename this layer so you’ll know what it does.

(3) Select all on the blurred layer. Then edit/transform/scale and change the dimensions to 110% for width and height. Again, you have to decide if you like this effect. Once you’re happy with your image, save it. I always recommend you save it as a new file.

White lilies is an example of a digital slide sandwich created with a RAW file. I did not edit/transform it but I did apply the gaussian blur filter (at 40.3) twice.