How to Shoot Portraits Using the Brenizer Method

Photographers and people love bokeh. There are several discussions on how to achieve creamy bokeh backgrounds in your shot and even recommended lenses to achieve this look. Many will tell you to get an 85mm lens or lenses with a longer focal length, but what do you do when you want to incorporate more environment into the shot?

The Brenizer method comes in perfect as the solution to get those creamy, blurry backgrounds. Not sure how to do it? Eric Floberg demonstrates how he uses the Brenizer Method or the "bokeh panorama" in his portraits from shooting to stitching them together in Adobe Photoshop. Floberg shares that you don't always need to get 20 shots to achieve this effect, and he sometimes only takes two photos. It can be done, but the desired effect won't have as much emphasis as other photos using more shots stitched together. No matter how many photos you end up taking to use this method, just make sure you capture enough overlay so they can be stitched together later.

Even though you are shooting vertically, or in portrait orientation, your end result doesn't have to be. You can create really wide panoramic shots, just make sure you thought out how you want your end result to look so you can capture the required frames.

Have your shot using the Brenizer method before? Typically, how many photos do you take and why? Do you have any other tips when using the Brenizer method?

Lead photo used with permission from Bill Larkin.

Alex Ventura's picture

Staff writer Alex Ventura is a professional photographer based out of the Houston area that specializes in automotive and glamour with the occasional adventures into other genres. He regularly covers automotive related events for Houston Streets & Spekture with some publications in the United States.

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Awesome photo from Bill! Love it.

Thanks so much Ryan!

you forgot to tell your audience to set the camera to manual mode on everything!!. that once that the first photo to use the autofocus on the couple and once that photo is taken to IMMEDIATELY turn the autofocus to manual so the camera will keep the same focus distance and the bokeh not be affected... obviously if it is a manual focus lens or if the lens was in manual from the start ... the above does not apply...
Also in your video you forgot to mention>>>> NO AUTO ISO....<<< for obvious reasons.

The technique is not jus limited to fast 85mm's you can use any prime or zoom lens that is tele... actually you shold experiment with longer teles... the compression makes them even more dramatic.

Except I said that exact thing about autofocus @4:38

As I watched the video, I was going to mention that part as well but later at 4:30 mark when the photos are exporting from Lightroom into the pano, Eric mentions the part about autofocus.

Eric Floberg: you have a great personality. I thoroughly enjoyed the video. Learned something and even laughed a little. Thumbs up from me. Look forward to more from you.

Thanks, Gerald!

Agree with Gerald, make more videos.

Entertaining and informative. Great combo.

I am curious about whats the matter between their legs in that couple photo!

Just water and concrete. Definitely didn't spend time making it perfect.

I've used this method a fair bit for non-portrait work. I usually use more shots (20+), and have significant issues running into a full buffer doing so. You do need to be careful about being too close to the subject and running into distortion and focus issues.

Yep, great tips!

Could you not achieve the same effect by shooting with a 400mm or 500mm prime and standing the appropriate distance away?

Yes. It might be more practical in many ways to do this method though. Saves money, bag space, and carrying weight by not having a supertelephoto. Some locations also don't have the room to just keep backing up more.

I don’t think so.
Compression will change because you are a lot further away with a 400 or 500mm lens if you want the same field of view. F/2.8 (400mm) or f/4 (500mm) is the max aperture, with an 85 you’ll have f/1.2 or f/1.4 (depending on brand) so bokeh will also be different (even with the same aperture bokeh is lens-specific).

No it's not the same.
An 85mm lens will give you an angle of view of about 28°
A 500mm lens will give you an angle of view of about 5°
Using an 85mm lens with the Brenizer methode will give you an angle of view of a 35mm lens which is about 63°
Look at the effect focal length has on the background when keeping the subject the same size.