The Brenizer method - Ultimate bokeh portraits
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 and extremely wide apertures the effect is absolutely staggering..
Brenizer vs Normal Portrait
The image above was shot with an 85mm f/1.4 lens and the image below a 50mm f/1.4 lens – standard lenses for portraiture due to their flattering lack of distortion and great background softness. 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 full body shots while stood way further back, but with reduced background blur. The Brenizer method allows for the soft background of a closeup portrait to be combined with full body photography by stitching overlapping photos together.
How to use the Brenizer Method
The Brenizer Method uses a series of stitched together overlapping photos to make up a lager image. The extreme subject-background separation is achieved by using a standard or longer lens with a wide aperture, and standing 'too close' to your subject.
1. Use a wider aperture 50mm+ lens.
A 50mm f1.8 or 85mm f1.4 is perfect and won't break the bank.
2. Stand close to your subject.
For a shot like above, stand close enough so the head 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. For example, if your maximum aperture is f/1.4, stop down to f/1.8 or f/2.8.
If your camera wont focus take a step back and try again.
4. Lock down your settings.
Ensure your focal length, focus, white balance, and exposure are locked in before shooting. Turn off auto focus and auto white balance, and use manual exposure only.
5. Start photographing at your subjects face and body and spiral outwards.
- Ask your subject to stay still and relaxed
- Starting with the subjects face take a single photo.
- Photograph any moving hair, followed by the shoulders and torso etc.
- This order will minimise any issues caused by accidental movement from your subject.
- Photograph the background after your subject. Spiraling out from the centre so you don't loose your place.
The correct technique is important when photographing a panorama or Brenizer method portrait.
- Pause very briefly between photographs to prevent blur.
- Overlap every photograph.
- Rotate at your hips and neck to minimise camera movement - do not move your feet.
6. Prepare your photos.
Before stitching your photos, it is recommended to remove any vignetting and correct any white balance issues.
Note: Photoshop includes vignette removal as part of Photomerge.
Some older PC's may run into problems handling over 100 megapixels of photograph so you may also have to export smaller .DNG or .TIFF versions of each photo for stitching. You can use JPEG files, however they will not be as editable after stitching compared to raw, DNG or TIFF.
7. Stitch the images in Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom.
- Go to File – Automate – Photomerge.
- Make sure Auto Layout and Blend photos together are selected.
- Optionally select remove vignetting - recommended if you haven't done this step in preparation.
- Click Browse, and select all the files. Then click OK.
Adobe Lightroom users will find Photomerge when right clicking more than one selected photo in the thumbnails (Shift-click to select more than one photo).
8. Crop and edit your 'Brenizer photo' to taste.
Use all of your usual editing techniques to finish the photo how you like.