Shallow depth of field is a powerful tool that photographers use to help a subject stand out from the background of a scene. We love the creamy blurred background or bokeh effect that is achieved by shooting with your aperture wide open. You can increase this effect by shooting with a telephoto lens to further narrow the focus plane and increase the bokeh. 85mm-200mm is a common focal range for portrait photographers.
This is great for capturing close-up portraits, but when shooting at longer focal lengths you lose the ability to include much of the environment that your subject is in. What if you want your composition to include some of the surrounding environment? We don’t want to shoot with a wide angle lens because this is typically less flattering to the subject and it will be harder to achieve the same shallow depth of field.
With the power of photoshop, it’s possible to have the best of both worlds. In this tutorial you will learn how to create a Bokeh Panorama. We’ll use photoshop to merge multiple shots taken at a long focal length with shallow depth of field to extend the field of view to whatever we want! Using this method you can include as much of the environment as you wish while maintaining shallow depth of field.
The Brenizer Method
Photographer Ryan Brenizer is credited with developing this technique, or at least popularizing it in the last five years. The name has stuck and now many photographers refer to the Brenizer Method when talking about creating a shallow depth of field panorama.
Shooting the Images
Find a composition that would really benefit from using this method. What story can you tell by including a wider or taller field of view in your photograph? Pose your model or subject(s) and dial in your camera settings. I like my first exposure to be a solid capture of the main subject, as this is the most important part of the photo. I then try to work from left to right, taking care to overlap each frame a healthy amount so that photoshop will be able to align and merge the exposures. If there are gaps between captures, photoshop will not be able to stitch together the panorama.
You will need to set focus once and then leave focus where it’s at as you move the camera to take the other frames. You can do this by setting focus and then switching your lens to manual focus. Another way is to switch the focus function of your camera to a button other than your shutter release button. Many DSLR’s will let you do this. Search for “back button focusing” and your camera model to see if your camera has this feature. By separating the focus function and the shutter release you can set focus with the back button and then leave focus where it’s at as you capture the other frames.
I found that taking between 9 to 12 frames seems to work well. Other Brenizer Method guides will say that you should set your camera on manual white balance as variations will ruin the panorama. This is probably a good idea, however I’ve found that Photoshop does a really good job of blending those differences when I’ve forgotten to put white balance on manual mode and have had pretty extreme difference in color balance between frames.
Open photoshop and load your images into the photomerge dialog box. This is under File > Automate > Photomerge. The default settings should work fine.
Hit Ok and let photoshop do it’s thing. It’s worth noting here that you don’t necessarily need to use full-size Raw images for this step. I always shoot in Raw, but you can save some processing time if you convert the series of images you are using for your panorama into JPGs and use the JPG copies to create the panorama. You can use Adobe Bridge to batch process your Raw files and save JPG copies in a separate folder.
Once the Photomerge is complete, you’ll see something like this:
You’ll most likely get an odd shaped composite of all of your frames. Crop this to the size and shape that you want.
You’ll notice that I didn’t have the white balance set on manual and that each frame varies quite a bit in color. Luckily, Photoshop is smart enough to fix this. With all the layers selected, click Edit > Auto Blend Layers. Photoshop will process for a while longer and then generate a much nicer composite image having corrected the color and exposure differences between frames.
The resulting image is a massive high resolution panorama with shallow depth of field! From here I will flatten the layers into a single layer. Click Layer > Merge Layers. You can now make any color or style adjustments, resize, and save your final image.
And that’s it! You’ve created a shallow depth of field panorama using the Brenizer Method.