The Brenizer Method makes the full frame vs crop sensor debate pointless. Well, even more pointless. Fake medium format on a crop sensor!
As I knelt there, clicking away with my shutter, I wondered if this image would ever work out. You can picture what you want in your head, but you won’t know if you’ve got it until later.
It’s only after I merge the panorama together that I can see how unlike any of my other photos it is. I’m always amazed and I want more of it!
Why Use The Brenizer Method
Maybe you only have one lens and you want a wider field of view
You have a crop sensor and want to emulate full frame or medium format (shallow depth of field with wide viewpoint)
You love the look of 85mm portraits and want to bring that to landscapes
When I first tried the Brenizer method (AKA Bokeh Panorama, bokehrama), I couldn’t get it to work. Images were warped, they had sections missing or things just wouldn’t line up. I’ve used the wrong lenses, the wrong scenes and forgot to turn off auto white balance.
It takes a little practice and experimentation, but it is all worth it in the end.
What’s It NOT Good For?
Anything with fast action. This is a landscape and portrait technique. It can be done with one fast subject, but it is tricky. Also, remember that technique isn’t everything when it comes to great photos! Check this article out to find out why.
Why’s It Called The Brenizer Method?
Originally, it was a landscape technique known as a bokeh panorama. A type of panorama that had a shallow depth of field.
Then a photographer called Ryan Brenizer, adapted the technique to shoot wedding portraits. This is where it got its name. He didn’t invent it, but he was one of the first to apply it to shooting something other than landscapes.
The Brenizer Method
A camera that is capable of recording shallow depth of field. Compact cameras will struggle as part of the character of the look is a wide view with a shallow depth of field.
Lens choice is also important. Using a mid-telephoto like an 85mm is perfect. Especially if it has a wide aperture. You don’t need to go crazy on an f1.2, anything that allows you to create a shallow depth of field will work.
If you use a wider lens (50mm, 35mm, 24mm, etc) you will find it harder to get the shallow depth of field and you will also have more lens distortion. Making the stitching process harder.
You will also need a (relatively) steady hand. This comes with practice, but it is not essential. To start out, you can use a tripod with a pan and tilt head to keep things lined up.
WHAT SCENE TO LOOK FOR
This applies to a lot of photographs, but it is especially true for Brenizers. A scene that has elements of depth. A foreground, midground and background, some leading lines, framed subject, etc.
Brenizer photography has an unnatural feeling of depth to it and anything that we can do to boost this will boost the effect.
Try to fit your main subject into a single frame. We don’t want to get a stitching error through it. Anywhere else, we can deal with.
We are trying to minimize the depth of field, so we:
Open your aperture as wide as you can
Get as close to your subject as you can (whilst keeping them in a single frame)
Use a lens longer than 50mm. I use an 85mm which is perfect for me. Although I haven’t tried using a 200mm, it just isn’t as convenient. You have to stand so far away from your subject!
I’m just trying to explain the things that build up the look of Brenizers. These are how you maximise the effect. You might not want your photos to be eye-popping 3D freaks all the time. So feel free to dial back any of these settings.
Frame up your subject, get focus and take the first shot. The hero shot.
For your first few, limit yourself to 9 frames only. Otherwise, you spend your entire life waiting for Photomerge to return a pile of catastrophe. You will still see a great effect with 9 frames. (once you’re more comfortable with the process, you can start building up the number of frames)
Shooting 9 frames gives you a 3 by 3 grid to capture, which is also easy to visualise.
Capture the rest of your grid and make sure to overlap each frame slightly. I try to overlap about 25% on each edge.
If you are using a tripod, this is pretty easy to set up. If you are going handheld, try not to move the camera position.
Any large movement forwards, backwards, up, down or left and right will increase your chances of stitching errors. Try to swivel and pivot your camera holding hand in front of your face. You are a human tripod! (but not in a dodgy way).
The workflow looks something like this:
Colour grade your main subject shot (no local adjustments).
Copy the grade to all the other frames.
Export smaller DNGs (1500 pixels on the long edge). This helps to check if the images will merge. It will still produce a large image. You can always export larger files once you know it will work. It just saves you processing time.
Bring them into Photoshop and use Photomerge. Auto align, check blend images together.
If successful, select a crop you like.
Fix errors with the healing brush.
Save and return to Lightroom.
Final colour grade with local adjustments (gradients, etc).
Save, export and publish.
Use a camera that can capture a shallow depth of field.
Use a mid-telephoto lens. 85mm is perfect for me.
Open up your aperture
Frame your hero shot
Lockdown camera settings (white balance, focus, ISO, aperture, shutter speed)
Take 9 frames, to begin with
Overlap each by about 25% on all sides
Minimise camera movement be swivelling your hand or using a tripod.
Colour grade your hero shot and then apply to all other frames. (No local adjustments yet)
Export smaller files to test stitching (1500 pixels on long edge, 250 ppi)
Photomerge in Photoshop
Save and return to Lightroom for final grading.
Final grade with local adjustments
Export and save
Ever since I found out about the Brenizer method and saw the quality of the images it produced I’ve wanted to shoot it more and more.
I’ve been playing with this technique for over 18 months now and it is starting to pay off. I can pre-visualise the final image and know what will work out. It just takes time, but it is worth it.
There is no substitute for practice so go out there and create many failures so you can eventually something awesome!
Thanks for reading this far and I hope you found something useful. If you use this method, please tag me on Instagram or let me know on Twitter so I can see it. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments below or DM me on Instagram and I’ll see what I can do.
Thanks again, have a great day, watch less, create more,