How to create traditional sandwich photo effects using Photoshop

Recreate a brace of classic film photography effects at the same time

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  • sandwich final Intro
  • sandwich1 Step 1: Getting started
  • sandwich2 Step 2: Position face
  • sandwich3 Step 3: Start selecting
  • sandwich4 Step 4: Remove background
  • sandwich5 Step 5: Add the pattern
  • sandwich6 Step 6: Remove sky
  • sandwich7 Step 7: Position and fill
  • sandwich8 Step 8: Duplicate trees
  • sandwich9 Step 9: Merge and copy
  • sandwich10 Step 10: Face conversion
  • sandwich11 Step 11: Brush back branches
  • sandwich12 Step 12: Reduce the image
  • sandwich13 Step 13: Brighten it up
  • sandwich14 Step 14: Remove surrounding
  • sandwich15 Step 15: Finishing touches
  • sandwich alt Extra Tip: Orton on landscapes
  • More stories
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Intro

The great thing about working digitally with photos is that you can try things out without any worries about what you’re doing to the original, capture image. In the days of film there was a good deal of experimentation, without any real knowledge of what the end product was going to be. Two of the techniques that did work out for the better were the Orton effect and double exposures. Michael Orton was responsible for the first in the 1980s, taking two shots of the same image, one in sharp focus, the other overexposed and completely out of focus. They were then sandwiched together, giving the result of an image with plenty of details, but also with glowing, vibrant highlights. The other technique also involved two exposures, but this time using different subjects, to create a ghostly composite. The advantage of Photoshop is that how those images are composited can be precisely controlled, retaining the critical elements of each photo. 

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Next Prev sandwich final

The great thing about working digitally with photos is that you can try things out without any worries about what you’re doing to the original, capture image. In the days of film there was a good deal of experimentation, without any real knowledge of what the end product was going to be. Two of the techniques that did work out for the better were the Orton effect and double exposures. Michael Orton was responsible for the first in the 1980s, taking two shots of the same image, one in sharp focus, the other overexposed and completely out of focus. They were then sandwiched together, giving the result of an image with plenty of details, but also with glowing, vibrant highlights. The other technique also involved two exposures, but this time using different subjects, to create a ghostly composite. The advantage of Photoshop is that how those images are composited can be precisely controlled, retaining the critical elements of each photo. 

 

Step 2 of 17: Step 1: Getting started

For this you’ll need two photos. One of a person, with a relatively straight-on shot of their face, the other should be a nature shot, but something more abstract so it adds patterns. Create a new project, size 11”x8.5” at 300dpi. Then drag and drop the portrait onto the background. Click on OK to place.

 

Step 3 of 17: Step 2: Position face

Select the Move tool and show the Transition controls. Then resize and move the portrait so that the head area is more prominent and more towards just above the middle. Apply then right-click on the Face layer and select Rasterize Layer.

 

Step 4 of 17: Step 3: Start selecting

Use the Magic Wand with Tolerance 20 to select the outside of the figure. If the background isn’t a single colour you’ll either have to use Quick Mask or the Polygonal Lasso tool. There’s no point in using the Pen tool since the edge doesn’t need to be that precise. Go to Select> Refine Edge.

 

Step 5 of 17: Step 4: Remove background

Change the View Mode to Overlay then set to Smooth 50, Feather 2%, Shift Edge +50%. This doesn’t need to be precise as most of the edge will be covered, it’s just if you are selecting a face with a coloured background. Click on OK then go to Edit> Clear to remove the background.

 

Step 6 of 17: Step 5: Add the pattern

The second image is of tree branches as they don’t have a focal point of interest and make an ideal backdrop. Drag the image onto the project. Click the tick to accept. Make sure you can see all of the tree image at this point. Right-click on the Trees layer and select Rasterize Layer. 

 

Step 7 of 17: Step 6: Remove sky

Toggle the visibility of the other layers to off. Go to Select> Color Range. Click on the sky to select it and then increase the Fuzziness until all the sky is clear and the trees are highlighted in red. The Selection Preview will need to be set to Quick Mask. Click on OK and then Edit> Clear. Toggle the other layers back on.

 

Step 8 of 17: Step 7: Position and fill

Press Cmd-D to remove the selection and click on the Move tool. You’ll need to stretch this out to fit over the subject. Apply the transformation. Go to Image> Adjustments> Desaturate to remove the colour. You may need to use Curves to darken the tree branches at this point.

 

Step 9 of 17: Step 8: Duplicate trees

Right-click on the Trees layer and duplicate it. Then go to Edit> Transform> Rotate 90 deg CW. Position the layer with the Move tool to fill the left side of the image. Repeat this process for the top and right sides so there are lots of branches all around the head. 

 

Step 10 of 17: Step 9: Merge and copy

With the top layer selected, press Cmd-E three times to merge all the tree layers into one. Make a duplicate of this layer and move it under the Face layer. Toggle the visibility of the top Tree layer off for a moment. Select the Face layer and go to Image> Adjustments> Black and White.

 

Step 11 of 17: Step 10: Face conversion

Select the High Contrast Red filter as a preset and change the Reds to 60%. Click on OK. Set the Blend mode of the Trees layer to Soft Light at 55%. Duplicate this and on the copy set the Blend mode to Multiply at 100%. Add a layer mask to this.

 

Step 12 of 17: Step 11: Brush back branches

Use the Brush tool (B) with black paint at 10% Opacity to paint on the mask and brush away the branches from the face and in patches on the hair. The idea is to reveal the face and figure, but still leave plenty of detail on it. Go to Layers> Flatten image.

 

Step 13 of 17: Step 12: Reduce the image

Duplicate the background later and call it Blur. Go to Filter> Blur> Box Blur and enter a Radius of 100px. Apply this and set the layer Blend mode to Pin Light at 100%. Duplicate the Blur layer and set the Blend mode of the copy to Hard Light at 50%. This gives us the Orton effect of blurred images added to a focussed one.

 

Step 14 of 17: Step 13: Brighten it up

At this point the image is a little too dark so add a Curves Adjustment Layer. Add a point on the curve, just above the middle to hold the highlights in place, then another in the bottom third. Drag this up and left to brighten the shadow areas up.

 

Step 15 of 17: Step 14: Remove surrounding

Flatten all the layers at this point. This next element is very important as it affects the entire look of the image. You need a light paper texture image. Simply drag this over the top of the image and change the blend mode to Hard Light. Lower the Opacity to bring out the face. It’s worth trying Screen for a more subtle version, if the paper texture is darker.

 

Step 16 of 17: Step 15: Finishing touches

Flatten all the layers and go to Image> Adjustments> Color Balance. Move the sliders to the Cyan and Blue ends to give the image a tint. Another option is to convert to Greyscale and then to a Duotone. Then add a use your favourite third-party plug-in to add a white faded out border. Merge all the layers and effects to finish.

 

Step 17 of 17: Extra Tip: Orton on landscapes

The more common application for slapping slides together was with landscape images. To create a similar effect duplicate the background layer of the original image. Select the duplicate layer and apply a 100px Gaussian blur to it. Change the blend mode of this layer to Overlay at 100% Opacity. Duplicate this layer and change the Blend mode of the new layer to Lighten at around 40-50% Opacity. This should give you glowing highlights and a soft foggy feel to the image. It works better with images with plenty of detail in and even lighting, rather than sunset scenes with harsh contrast. For an actual, useful effect that can be applied to all landscape images, don’t bother with the Lighten layer, and tweak the Overlay layer Opacity down a little. This will create stronger colours and deeper shadows, adding much more vibrancy to the image, without softening it.

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