What is the Brenizer Method? In this tutorial we show you how to shoot and stitch a bokeh panorama to achieve a shallow depth of field.
‘bokehrama’ is a series of images stitched together to create a scene that’s far bigger and more detailed than could normally be achieved.
It’s similar to the conventional panoramic photograph, but instead of only stitching images horizontally to form a wider-than-normal scene, images are also stitched vertically to create a final image that’s both wide and tall, effectively increasing the sensor size of the camera.
This ingenious technique, developed by wedding photographer Ryan Brenizer, enables you to create an image with the intimacy and natural-looking perspective of a wide angle of view combined with a really shallow depth of field for beautiful blur in the foreground and background, which is impossible to achieve in a single shot taken with a wide-angle lens.
Our image was created from nearly 100 images, each shot at 200mm with a wide maximum aperture of f/2.8.
To show you how effective this technique is we stood in exactly the same spot, at the same distance from our subject, and used the same 200mm focal length to take a single shot, and only captured a small portion of our subject.
And while switching to a 24mm wide-angle lens achieves roughly the same crop as the bokehrama, the scene is far more sharply focused, losing the beautiful blur that only shooting wide open with a telephoto lens can achieve.
How to shoot a bokeh panorama using the Brenizer Method
01 Depth of field
We used Canon’s EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, at 200mm and wide open at f/2.8. The narrow angle of view, combined with a wide aperture, gives a really shallow depth of field for the beautiful bokeh effect.
SEE MORE: Make the ultimate bokeh portrait
02 Manual mode
It’s vital your settings remain the same for each shot to ensure a smooth stitch, so switch to Manual mode and set the widest aperture. Meter the exposure and increase ISO for a faster shutter speed, if required.
03 File size
There’s no need to shoot large Raw files as the final output will be high-quality anyway, and big files mean dramatically longer processing times. Select one of the small JPEG options in the Image Quality menu.
04 White Balance
The white balance also needs to be consistent so the colour temperature doesn’t shift. So avoid AWB and select a white balance preset from the options available to suit the conditions. We set ours to Cloudy.
Focus on your subject’s face for your first shot. The focus needs to remain the same for all the images, so switch to MF to lock the focus. It’s also vital you don’t move from your spot, as otherwise the focus will shift.
06 Sequence shooting
To ensure you capture every aspect of the scene, shoot in rows from top-left to bottom-right (many frames will be out of focus, which is fine). Ensure that each frame overlaps by a third for smooth stitching.
How to blend your portrait panorama
01 Photomerge tool
Photoshop does all the really hard work for you with its Photomerge tool. This is available in Elements, CS and CC, but are all located in slightly different menus. In Photoshop Elements 13 go to Enhance> Photomerge>Photomerge Panorama.
SEE MORE: How to make a bokeh effect in Photoshop
02 Open files
Click the Browse button and navigate to your files (or click Add Open Files to use all open files if you’ve already opened them in the Elements editor). Select a layout, we found Auto works the best. Ensure Blend Images Together is checked and click OK.
Each file becomes a separate layer with its own layer mask where it’s been blended to create the bokehrama. If the tool hasn’t done an accurate job, you can edit the layers and masks to fine-tune the stitch. Finally, crop ragged edges for a tidy finish.
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