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The Brenizer Method: Bokeh Panorama (Updated)

by Philippe Dame on June 7th, 2011

Would you like to create a photo like the one below? What you’re looking at is a real photo with near-unrealistic depth of field. A photo that wide is never that shallow. It’s not a new technique but read on to learn about bokeh panorama, a.k.a. the Brenizer Method.

Depth of Field and Bokeh

Depth of field relates to how much of your photo is in focus. Many people really enjoy a shallow focus as it makes your subject pop – as you can see above. Bokeh is the term for the quality of the out-of-focus areas. Soft, mushy, smooth bokeh is highly desirable but tough to achieve in certain circumstances – especially shooting wide angle.

Technically, it’s worth knowing that achieving a shallow depth of field is not solely produced by the aperture of your camera. Certainly a fast lens (e.g. f/2.8 or lower) is a must but so do the sensor size and angle of view. If this is new to you, be sure to read this helpful post by B&H, Selective Focus: Tale of Two Formats.

Creating a Bokeh Panorama

Now to create the photo above, you need only educate yourself on a simple method popularized by Ryan Brenizer. In essence, you take multiple photos with a wide aperture (e.g. f/1.4 or f/1.8 ideally) and then stitch them together. Just four pictures on an APS-C camera can recreate the depth of field of a full-frame camera. If you shoot more photos, you start to approach the focus capabilities of medium format cameras (i.e. $20,000+ cameras with huge sensors).

Rather than write some exhaustive tutorial post, I’m simply going to point you in the right resource. There’s already so much on the Web about this method. I highly recommend you follow the links and then try it yourself. I will definitely be trying it out soon.

Note that you don’t need Photoshop. Any software that can create typical panoramas will do.

Start Here!

More Examples

To see more examples, checkout Ryan’s blog and Flickr…

Photos in this post are copyright Ryan Brenizer. If you create one, please share it here! Any tips are welcome!

Update December 2011

Recent interview of Ryan Brenizer by David Brommer for B&H:

Update January 2013

Von Wong, a fellow Canadian and professional photographer, posted a fun blog post where he shows off the Brenizer Method with a 400mm f/2.8 and just two iPhones for lighting. The results are stunning. Thanks to Danny Garside for bringing this post to our attention.

Copyright Von Wong

He also created a video documenting the experience. Checkout this blog post on the subject.

Update September 2013

Ryan Brenizer is now offering a video tutorial he’s calling, “The Ultimate Guide to the Brenizer Method“.

From conception to advanced shooting to processing, I’ll take you from neophyte to expert of making great images with bokeh panoramas.

In 2008 I developed a method to take the shallow depth-of-field of images taken with a fast telephoto lens and apply that to any sort of frame of view you want. I called it bokeh panoramas; the name that largely stuck was The Brenizer Method.

I knew that there is nothing new in a photographic world filled with tens of millions, so I figured that this had been done before. But I wanted to make it interesting, useful, and achievable in day-to-day shooting. I figured out how to consistently do panoramas of moving objects (like people). I figured out how to use lighting, even flash, in multi-image photos. And, perhaps hardest, I figured out how to pre-visualize and keep dynamic compositions during a shooting process that can take 15 seconds or more.

This method has caught on with countless thousands of photographers across the world, which is an incredible honor. But for every photographer that’s “got it,” I see tens or hundreds who can’t figure it out. And compelling compositions are too rare.

That means I haven’t educated well enough. There are guides out there, even ones I’ve been involved with, but none of them seem good enough to me. I wanted to create a fully comprehensive guide that takes you step by step to go from a complete neophyte to someone who can consistently shoot and process these, and make them part of your metaphorical toolbag. I want to see you go out and take photos with this method that are so good, they make me wish I’d taken them. That is my goal as an educator.

In other words, this is the only 35mm f/0.4 lens you’ll ever be able to buy for $10.

Available for $8

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  • Indiablue

    why can’t this be created with a nice telephoto? Specially the second photo. I was always under the impression that this can be created by a good quality telephoto lens.

    • Philippe Dame

      Perhaps it can be done with a 200mm f/2 (or similar) on a full-frame camera but for most of us that’s prohibitively expensive. With this technique, you can effectively “add” more angle of view at no cost to the depth of field.

    • Joe Bowers

      A telephoto would make you feel like you are farther away. By using a wider lens, it pulls you into the shot making you feel closer. Also, to get the same shallow depth of field you would need something like a f/0.8 lens, which doesn’t exist.

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  • Dodo

    can’t be done, the sensor is just too small. at 200mm, you won’t ever get this wide a view with that sort of out-of-focus background.

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