Using the Brenizer Method

I’m sure you’ve heard of Ryan Brenizer. He created a technique that he’s been honing for quite a while. The Brenizer Method seeks to create an optically impossible shot. By using a (relatively) long focal length at a large aperture, you can “cheat” physics and create an image that is optically impossible with current lenses. The technique involves shooting a bunch of photos at a long focal length, then combining the images in software such as Photoshop like a panorama to get a wide angle field of view with a super shallow depth of field and compression of a much longer lens.

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Here is an example of a Brenizer method I shot recently at a wedding. I was using LensProToGo’s 200mm f/2 dream lens wide open with a full frame Canon 5DIII. I was standing quite a ways away from the couple and instructed them to be still just for the first shot, then they could relax a bit while I finished the panorama. It’s important to keep the lens in manual focus, so the camera doesn’t try to refocus on something other than the couple. I also locked in my white balance and exposure so those would be consistent throughout the photos. Start with a shot of the couple then move outward to get the entire area you’d like in the final shot.

I took a total of 45 shots at full size raw, 5760 x 3840 pixels each. Once I imported the files into Lightroom 5, I adjusted the first photo to my liking; the normal exposure, white balance, contrast, etc. adjustments. I then synced my changes to the other 44 images in the series. Then I selected all the images in the group and chose the “Merge to Panorama in Photoshop” from the right click menu. I left all the settings in auto once they opened in Photoshop. Now, this next step is the most important one… I took a nap. I knew the computer would take a while to crunch through all the data and I didn’t feel like watching and waiting. So I slept for 20 minutes and had an awesome zombie apocalypse dream instead where I killed, like, 100 zombies.  No big deal.

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Anyways, once I awoke and went back to my computer, I found the massive file, 2.9 GB, completed. In my experience, the auto panorama settings do a pretty good job stitching everything together. I didn’t run into any problems with this particular one so I was happy. Even if everything looks great at first, it’s still a good idea to zoom in tight and scroll through to make sure there aren’t any oddities. I cropped the image into a square to get rid of all the excess and came out with a file 14378 x 14378 pixels! That’s 48” x 48” at 300ppi!!!

According to this awesome Brenizer method calculator found online here: http://brettmaxwellphoto.com/Brenizer-Method-Calculation/ the final shot would have been a focal length of 68mm with an aperture of 0.7 !!!!!!!! That is just crazy.

I’ve found that shooting images that have a strong foreground really helps these images pop. Scenes with branches, buildings, etc. in the foreground really help add the depth.

Has anyone else had success using the Brenizer method? Post links to your shots!!!

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  • http://www.urboiphotography.com/ Lindsey Epps Tucker

    Nice work, I never thought about trying it but after reading this entry and seeing your results I may just have to plan something out. At least I can rent what I need from you guys!

  • Mike Fountain

    Thanks for the tutorial! I’m looking forward to trying this technique at an upcoming wedding.

    • Meg

      Post some images for us to see if you end up doing it! Would love to see what you come up with!

  • PhotoDr

    I do this kind of thing a lot using AutoPano Pro, which is slightly faster than PS :)