Shooting and Editing Panorama Portraits aka Brenizer Method Photos - Complete Tutorial

15 frame panorama portrait - 50mm f/1. 1/200 ISO 3200

What is it

The Brenizer method is a technique made popular by NYC wedding photographer Ryan Brenizer. Using fast lenses and panorama shooting and stitching, you can create scenes with incredibly shallow depth of field that simulates lenses much faster than physically possible. The final images have a similar effect to that of a tilt shift, making subjects really stand out and skewing the scale of the scene, but in a more natural way since the focus plane is still flat. The combined image above, for example, has a simulated focal length of 11mm and aperture of f/0.4! 

A single frame of the image above - 50mm f/1.8 1/200 ISO 3200

How to shoot it

Shooting a panorama portrait isn't much different from other panoramas, but there are a few things to be mindful of that are unique to them. Since you're shooting at such a narrow depth of field, be sure to get your focus accurate. You can use live view and zoom in to confirm the focus is where you want it. 

Next, lock the focus and exposure using either manual focus and manual exposure mode, or using your camera's ae/af button. You don't want the exposure to be adjusted between frames, and you don't want your focus shifting around throughout the scene. 

I always shoot the first frame on my subject, to ensure the exposure and focus are correct for the most important frame of the panorama. I then shoot left to right, bottom to top. You can see a sample of the frames below and how I shot the above in sequence:

The individual frames before stitching

Three things to consider

The three things that will affect panorama portraits the most are focal length, aperture, and number of frames. To keep a realistic look, shooting at 50mm with around 12-15 frames will work well. Shooting longer or adding more frames will exaggerate the effect greatly, as seen below: 

20 frame panorama portrait at 85mm f/1.8 - 1/160 ISO 800

How to edit it 

Gone are the days of manual stitching or needing special software to handle panoramas. Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom can both merge panoramas now, and even combine them into one editable RAW file, which is incredibly useful. 

Load all of your images into Lightroom and select them all using CTRL+click or Shift+click. Right click and select Photo Merge > Panorama.

After the photos are merged you will be given the options to select a projection method and auto crop/boundary warp options. Auto-select will usually work best for projection method. For the second options, Auto Crop will simply crop the image down to the largest size with no blank space on the edges, whereas Boundary Warp will fill in the edges using content-aware fill like photoshop. Depending on your scene, it may work extremely well and give you a larger scene in the end. If it looks unnatural or distorts your edges, you may want to stick with Auto Crop.

Boundary Warp did a great job with this image. It filled in the edges and gave me a larger final image, which is always a plus with panorama portraits and printing. 

Put the final touches on your image. I leveled the horizon and applied some adjustments in the develop module before exporting. 

More examples

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