You’ve probably heard a lot about the Brenizer Method over the past few months. And in truth, it’s a super fun method that can give you results you wouldn’t have been able to get otherwise. At least you could have done it without a medium format camera, a large format camera, or a wider super-fast aperture lens. In this article, we’ll dive into the articles we’ve written on the Brenizer Method over our years of publishing. We’ll feature photographers who’ve done it, how to do it, the story, and more.
Who is Ryan Brenizer, the “creator” of the Brenizer Method?
Photographer Ryan Brenizer had a great time rising through the ranks nearly a decade ago. His business is still going strong and he richly deserves the success he has had. For the record, he’s been a wedding photographer based in New York for years. And it has always been experimental. The Brenizer Method was born when the focus was on some of his unique portraits. Years ago, he used long lenses with large apertures and then shot panoramic portraits. Ideally, his photos would be nine stitched images.
Ryan didn’t exactly create the Brenizer method, but he resurrected it at a time when DSLRs were actually getting really good to use. The panoramic portrait stitch method had been around for many years before. The proliferation of social media has brought it back.
Which photographers have used the Brenizer method?
Because we believe in the rights of photographers, we credit those who have used and spoken about the Brenizer Method in their work. We’ve interviewed these photographers, and you can see more of their work in our hyperlinked interviews below.
“During my first two years of photography, I relied heavily on Photoshop to create my images with a lot of compositing. These days I like to spend as much time as possible in camera and only play with colors. But I tend to always stretch my images using the Brenizer method as a way to control the whole scene. Sometimes the background itself really adds to a story and I like to think about every part of the picture as a canvas. You have to paint each part individually before it comes together as a whole. -Sarah Loreth
Sarah doesn’t really shoot these days, but her work helps show what’s possible with the Brenizer method. Creating an image like this is next to impossible without the Brenizer method. And in 2015, when we interviewed her, super-fast wide-angle lenses didn’t exist.
Another way to do it is the way Anthony Chang did it. In our interview it was said:
“I love the Brenizer method (or bokeh panorama/bokehrama) because I like shallow depth of field and I like having a wide angle view. Nothing more than that to be honest. I didn’t buy F0.95 lens (I have the Mitakon 50mm F0.95 for the curious) so I can shoot at F8. I want it so I can shoot at F0.95 and get that shallow depth of field. With this method I I can get incredibly shallow depth of field with this wide field of view that would otherwise be impossible Personally I love the aesthetics of a panoramic shot, I love that crop and the framing you get with it.
Anthony really embraces the idea of the panoramic portrait. Instead of just taking nine shots around the subject, it goes completely into the left and right sides. This creates a cinematic look!
Also be sure to check out the work of Mark Sapps.
What is the Brenizer method
Essentially, think of it as a panoramic portrait method. You take a bunch of photos and stitch them together in Photoshop or Capture One. You create the look of a super-fast aperture wide-angle lens. In full-frame 35mm photography, that’s not really possible. But you can create this look with medium format film straight out of the camera.
How to do the Brenizer method?
The photo above will really help you see how the Brenizer method is performed. Sounds like cubism, right? This photo was created in 2014. During that year, Adobe’s panorama point algorithms weren’t so fantastic. Both Adobe and Capture One are very good these days. This specific photo of the Brenizer method is super complicated, however. Here is what I did:
- Start with Adam’s face
- Set the camera to manual mode and set the exposure manually. Do not change the exposure at all.
- Focus the camera. Next, turn off autofocus. This way the focus is locked to one position. This is essential because you need to create the illusion that it is a single image and not multiple stitches. By switching to manual focus, you fix the plane of focus on a point.
- Tilt the camera down, shoot
- Tilt left, pull
- Tilt up, pull
- Tilt right, pull
- Tilt down, pull
- Keep doing this in a circular pattern until I build a scene
- Stitch Photos Together in Photoshop
This specific implementation of the method is quite complicated. In most cases, photographers only take nine photos. The subject’s face will be in the center, then you shoot down, three to the left, three to the right, and one above the subject. However, there needs to be some overlap for the post-production software to know what to merge.
“In color it looked awful, but then when converting the processed image to black and white it looked awesome.” – A panoramic portrait created a happy accident that resembles cubism
Plus, if you want a cleaner look, we discovered back in 2014 that you need to have a vignetting-free lens. Vignettes can help create the look of cubism. Personally, I like the cubism look. But maybe not. So get a lens that has no vignetting, or do some post-production to remove vignetting before stitching.
The main image for this blog post is this exact photo, but redone. Again, in this render above, I get a cubic look. Sounds pretty cool honestly. Some people may hate it and say it’s not clinically perfect. But to each his own. I don’t and have never shot for lab quality. As we noted in 2015, you can achieve this look with smaller sensor cameras. And just for your additional knowledge, here is another tutorial on how to do the Brenizer method.
We’ve reviewed many lenses, so which do we recommend? As always, we only recommend equipment that we have reviewed.
All of these lenses render telephoto, have a shallow aperture, minimal vignetting, focus quickly, and look good. We think you will like them.
Happy shooting, and we hope this helps! The Brenizer Method involves a lot of forethought, and it gets easier the more often you do it. But you must have a creative vision. Of course, there is post-production involved. And honestly, I wish modern cameras could easily do all that in-camera panning. But they are not there yet.