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The Brenizer Method – Before & After Examples

Brenizer Method Photography Technique - Image by Lisa Mark Photography

Hi Guys,

This is going to be a bit of a photography nerd-type post today, so if you aren’t interested in the technical photo stuff please disregard.

When you’re a photographer for as long as I’ve been, it can sometimes get a little routine.  The best thing to do when that happens?  Try new things, of course!

I stumbled across the Brenizer Method recently and I happen to think it’s pretty neat.  I’ll give you a basic summary.  The Brenizer Method is a photography technique recently named for a very talented photographer named Ryan Brenizer who has now perfected this method in his work.  Basically, you have wide lenses in the world (think 35mm f/1.4) and long lenses (think 85 1.4).  These two are great prime lenses, and are highly sought after for their image quality, contrast and particularly their speed and therefore shallow depth of field.  When shooting wide open at 1.4, these lenses produce beautiful bokeh (the blurred out bits behind your subject).  However, a longer lens like the 85 1.4 will ALWAYS produce much more gorgeous bokeh than the 35mm lens, even though they are both wide open at 1.4.

As a result, if you shoot a close-up with that 85mm f/1.4 lens you get a great tight portrait with beautiful bokeh…but what if you wanted to shoot a larger scene and still get that soft background?  It doesn’t work if you just move back from your subject – you need to maintain that close position for the nice bokeh, so what now?

Well that’s when you use the Brenizer Method!  You ensure you take an initial exposure of your subject (who is holding very still) and then from there (on manual settings) you take a series of images all around them.  Afterwards, you stitch together these images in Photoshop (or any other panorama program) and create a giant composite.  If it works out, not only have you achieved a tack sharp subject, beautiful shallow depth of field, but also a wide field of view, previously impossible to achieve in-camera.  Also, it just happens that by stitching together so many images, you get an image that is crazy high in resolution!

Now I say IF it works out, because I am not going to lie to you.  It’s not super easy and takes some practice.  Honestly, sometimes I try to merge in Photoshop and the images just don’t line up like I wanted.  I find I’m successful at it like 50-60% of the time.  I tend to do my safe shots first and when I know I’ve got my “fall back” images, I experiment a little.  I like to think that’s why my clients like to work with us – because we like to try new things and keep it interesting creatively!

Moving on, when I was first researching this method I could find lots of examples of finished Brenizer Method images, but none comparing what it would have looked like if a wide angle lens, single exposure, were used instead.  So here are a few examples for you!

USING THE BRENIZER METHOD

Shot with Nikon 85 1.4 wide open, panorama using the Brenizer Method

Shot with Nikon 85mm f/1.4 wide open, using the Brenizer Method, about 30 images stitched together.

 

NOT USING THE BRENIZER METHOD

Shot with Nikon 35 1.4 wide open, single exposure only

Shot with Nikon 35mm f/1.4 wide open, single exposure only.

 

As you can see from the above example, by shooting with a longer lens wide open and then stitching together in post-production you can achieve that dreamy, surreal sort of look.  The first image above is comprised of around 30 different images.

Here’s another example:

USING THE BRENIZER METHOD

Shot with Nikon 85 1.4 wide open, panorama using the Brenizer Method, about 50 images stitched together to achieve super shallow depth of field.

Shot with Nikon 85mm f/1.4 wide open, using the Brenizer Method, about 50 images stitched together.

 

NOT USING THE BRENIZER METHOD

Shot with Nikon 24-70mm at 24mm, f/2.8 wide open, single exposure only.

Shot with Nikon 24-70mm at 24mm, f/2.8 wide open, single exposure only.

 

I hope this has been helpful!  I’ve loved experimenting with this method, it’s a lot of fun.  If you want to learn in depth how to create a Brenizer Method image, the man who finessed the technique has created his own educational video which you can buy for a total steal of $10!  Here’s the link:  http://brenizermethod.vhx.tv

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  • LauraAugust 14, 2014 - 9:54 am

    I have been working on the Brenizer method for a while now. I love that you showed a photo with and without the method. ( A picture speaks a thousand words) Thanks for the share and explanation. Lovely work all around. Cheers, Laura

  • Ottawa PhotographerAugust 14, 2014 - 11:49 am

    Thanks so much for posting how to do the brenizer method. I was pretty clueless. I will have to try this out.