The Brenizer method or the Bokeh panorama as it is alternatively known is a panoramic technique focusing on the depth of field. A portrait lens like an 85mm f/1.2 produces stunning depth of field, especially wide open. But in doing so you minimise the surroundings, thereby rendering a beautiful portrait without as wide a context.
For example, this image below shot at iso 200, f/1.2, at 1/2000th:
But what if you wanted something just a bit grander in scale with a seemingly shallower depth of field giving the portrait a large format quality? Well, you could shoot Medium Format film or the even slower Large Format film. And in the digital era of express everything, there might actually be something to say about slowing everything down and grabbing those larger format film cameras. However, you can recreate the look of Large Format relatively simply with a fast portrait lens and Lightroom or any system that can stitch panoramas.
Below are 17 single images. All of them capturing a slightly different part of the frame. You don’t need as many as 17 images, as few as 4 could work; sometimes upwards of 40 images produce excellent results (obviously, the more images you have the longer it will take in post).
Now the trick to getting the depth of field super shallow is as follows: start by metering, once you have a correct exposure you’ll want to dial these in manually so that each photo has exactly the same exposure settings. Next is focus: you’ll want to focus on your subject and possibly the closest part of your subject (this obviously depends on what your subject is) – in the case of portraits, you’ll want the face to be in focus. Now on the Fuji X-T2 this is really simple, I put the focus in manual, take a quick prefocus, check that the focus is where I want it to be with focus peaking and then I’m done – the focus is in manual, so as long as I don’t knock the lens focus ring my focus will remain constant throughout. I then start capturing my images, starting around the subject first.
A good tip here: have an idea of where you want your final image to finish before you start photographing – generally leave more room than needed to be safe.
Once you’ve got your images, load them into your editing software; in my case, Lightroom. And here’s why shooting in manual is so important: you’re going to edit all the images before the stitch. This is really simple, take your image with the subject, do any editing that you want and then synchronise the edit to all the remaining photos. That’s your editing done.
Then in Lightroom, select all your images and go to Photo Merge Pano. Lightroom isn’t the fastest software to do this, but it does a good job with less complicated panoramas. Alternatively, you can export the images as JPEGs and load them into Photoshop.
If you have a lot of images I’d advise exporting them to JPEGs before merging them – you could even down size the JPEGs at the Export stage (your final image will be big enough anyway, trust me!).
That’s it really, all you need to do is find a post editing workflow that is good for you and don’t rush taking the photos – it’s better to have more photos and not need to use them than not having a vital photo for the stitching process.
Here’s my final image:
Let me know what you think and any examples of your Brenizer Panos!