The Brenizer method - Jaw dropping portraits in 10 steps.

The Brenizer method, also known as a Bokeh Panarama (Bokehrama), named after Ryan Brenizer is a method used by a few advanced photographers to create stunning portraits and with exaggerated depth of field and a wider view than otherwise possible. Simulating much larger formats than 35mm film/sensors. The effect is absolutely staggering as seen in this example I created to demonstrate.

The Brenizer Method - Panaramic and extreme bokeh portraits.

The Brenizer Method - Panaramic and extreme bokeh portraits.

How to use the Brenizer Method

The Brenizer Method uses a series of stitched together photos to make up a lager image. The extreme bokeh and subject-background separation is achieved by using a longer than normal lens with a wide aperture, and standing 'too close' to your subject.

Brenizer method - With a longer lens, starting with the subject and overlapping the photos, without moving your feet, quickly shoot a series of photos covering the scene you want, plus a little extra. 

Brenizer method - With a longer lens, starting with the subject and overlapping the photos, without moving your feet, quickly shoot a series of photos covering the scene you want, plus a little extra. 

  1. Take a standard - long lens.
    A 50mm f1.8 or 85mm f1.4 is perfect (and cheap).
  2. Stand close To your subject.
    For a shot like above, stand close enough so the head and shoulder fills the frame. For a full length portrait, stand a little further back to avoid perspective issues.
  3. Set your aperture so the subject is in focus but the background is blurred.
    Find the widest aperture that gives sharp results, usually this is one stop off it's widest.
    If you find it hard to get your whole subject in focus at your lenses best wide aperture you may need to take a step back.
  4. Lock down your settings.
    Ensure your focal length, focus, white balance, and exposure are locked in before shooting (not on auto) so that all of the images will match up correctly.
  5. Plan your overlaps.
    When taking each image, ensure a good amount of overlap so your stitching software can correctly align each image.
  6. Shoot from the same position.
    Do not move around during the process as this will create strange issues when stitching the photo’s together.
  7. Pause between shots.
    A brief pause before clicking each shot will give the sharpest photos by avoiding movement.
  8. Start at the subjects face and work your way out. 
    Photograph subjects face first to ensure the subject doesn’t move too much during the most important part. The whole process shouldn’t take more than 30 – 45 seconds but he or she can relax a little as soon as you get to shooting the surrounding scenery. 
  9. Stitch the images in Photoshop. 
    Go to File – Automate – Photomerge. Make sure Auto Layout and Blend photos together are selected.
  10. Try to limit each images size
    The final output will be HUGE, and most computers will struggle with large images, I recommend no larger than 2000px wide/high per image unless you have loads of memory.

Brenizer vs Normal Portrait

The image above was shot with an 85mm f/1.4 lens – a standard lens for portraiture due to its flattering lack of distortion. The wide aperture gives a pleasing blur to any background and foreground areas, helping to isolate the subject. This lens is great for head-shots and while stood further back, full body. However by stepping back away from the subject the stunning blur or ‘Bokeh’, and some of the intimacy is lost in the image.

Alternatively a wider angle lens can be used, such as a 24mm. However, wider angle lenses loose some of the blur boosting effect unless you get extremely close. At these extremely short distances, distortion starts to become a problem.

The photo below is an example of the best possible portrait with great background blur from a single shot. 

The Brenizer method takes that best shot, and adds the bits that are 'outside' the frame by stitching together many images.

At 50mm + focal lengths your subject looks proportional, but to get the smooth bokeh (blur) you'd need to move in very close. What if we could get the bits outside of the frame into our picture too without having to step back or zoom out?

At 50mm + focal lengths your subject looks proportional, but to get the smooth bokeh (blur) you'd need to move in very close. What if we could get the bits outside of the frame into our picture too without having to step back or zoom out?


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