Two of My Boys: Bokeh Panorama

Two of My Boys: Bokeh Panorama 50mm, f/1.4, 1/640s, ISO 100,14 frames...sort of

[Update: Here’s another try at it]

This evening I photographed my youngest boys in the backyard with the goal of trying out something called the Brenizer Method, or bokeh panorama.  I first heard of it in a post by Brandon Brasseaux. The goal of the Brenizer Method is to create an image with extremely shallow depth of field.  If I were to take the shot above using a single frame I would either (1) use a very wide-angle lens or (2) use a “normal” lens and stand far back from the scene.  In either case it would be difficult to get much bokeh in the image.  I’ll let you consult a depth-of-field calculator for the exact details but suffice it to say that the wide-angle lens — even at an aperture of f/1.8 — doesn’t result in much bokeh when focused at any reasonable distance.  A lens like I was using in this shot — a 50mm f/1.4 — would require such a long focus distance (i.e. I’d have to stand so far back) that the depth of field would large enough to eliminate a lot of bokeh.  The Brenizer Method uses multiple frames to form the image — using a much shorter focus distance resulting in much shallower depth of field than if you shot one frame standing further from the subject.

The process goes as follows: Instead of standing far away, stand close (I roughly filled the frame with the two boys).  I used an aperture of f/1.4 to get the shallowest depth of field and set a shutter speed in manual mode to keep the exposure consistent in all the frames (I also set the camera to daylight white balance).  I prefocused on the boys and switched the lens to manual focus.  The first frame I took was the one with the boys in it (took many tries to get something decent).  I then let them run off and proceeded to shoot overlapping frames (with the camera in the same location) of the rest of the scene you see above.  I used 14 straight-out-of-the-camera frames to stitch the panorama in Photoshop but in the end I cropped the image quite a bit. It took all of two minutes to shoot the frames, even with the boys’ goofing off.  Since my goal was to try out the method itself, I didn’t stress about background, lens flare, etc.

After stitching I warmed the image a bit, added vignette, tweaked the exposure/clarity on the boys, and removed some of the color fringing on the branches so it wasn’t *so* prominent.  Pretty simple stuff.  I want to try more of these but next time I’ll find a prettier background.  I believe I’ve given enough info for one to start playing with it but if not, an internet search will turn up a lot more information in a hurry.

Here’s a link to posts by the man behind it all:

17 responses

  1. Nicely done! My first thought was – how did he get those kids to sit so still for this method?! But I guess it really doesn’t matter once you get the initial capture. Great one.

    February 21, 2012 at 11:37 pm

    • Well, thanks to you for alerting me to this way of doing things! I’ve seen some very cool images done with this and maybe it’s my imagination but they just seem better than the post-processing jobs some people do. I suppose that’s b/c in post many people effectively blur in a vignette fashion as opposed to factoring in the true focus plane like this does. As far as the boys holding still — one frame was my only hope 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

      February 22, 2012 at 12:13 am

  2. Ian Beattie

    Not hear of this method before, will have to give it a try. Thanks for sharing

    February 22, 2012 at 6:50 am

  3. Interesting technique! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    February 22, 2012 at 7:16 am

  4. Thanks again to Brandon for getting it out there — look forward to seeing your pictures if you try it out!

    February 22, 2012 at 8:28 am

  5. Nice idea and very effective result. I’ll have to try this though I wonder if just creating the effect in post would be easier?

    February 22, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    • Dave, I do think it would be “easier” but whether it’s more pleasing or not may depend on a lot of factors. To oversimplify for an example’s sake, the way I’ve seen it done typically looks like someone blurred the whole scene and masked the subject back in. It’s often not done well — kind of obvious around the edges of the subject, etc. due to bad masks and/or the homogenous blur applied even to things just off the plane of focus. To actually do it well may not be all that easy in the end for some of us. Additionally, that simple method often will blur things which are *in* the actual plane of focus away from the subject itself (that may or may not be desired). All that to say “I don’t know — just depends on how well the post work is done and how it looks in comparison (ie how “natural” lens blur compares to what the software does).” This process was really simple too — completely handheld (no tripod head leveling), quick set of shots. One could run into problems with the stitch in some situations of course…

      Try it out and post some pics!

      February 22, 2012 at 2:28 pm

  6. This is a very interesting effect – I like the way it seems slightly disconcerting, at least for those of us who spend a lot of a time looking at photos.

    February 24, 2012 at 8:47 am

    • I like this effect from what I’ve seen of it — disconcerting is a good way to put it :-). One thing I want to try in is a scene where there are lots of elements throughout the image which are in the same plane of focus as the main subject (but not necessarily right next to it).

      February 24, 2012 at 10:44 pm

  7. Pingback: More Experimentation With The Brenizer Method « Michael Tuuk Photography

  8. This is extremely cool. It’s so simple you feel dumb for not having thought of it yourself, yet also really brilliant and elegant. I can’t wait to try it.

    March 1, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    • Glad you like it, Mark! I thought the same thing about its simplicity. Make sure to post your results (or send privately if you’d rather). I’m anxious to see what people do with it and also to get out and do this myself in a nicer setting.

      March 1, 2012 at 2:50 pm

  9. Thanks for the encouragement Mike. One question: you say you took the overlapping frames “with the camera in the same location.” Was this on a tripod with the camera rotating (ie literally in the same spot but with its plane changed with each rotation)? Or did you try to keep the camera on the same plane while you moved it slightly for each frame? Or something else I’m not thinking of? Thanks again.

    March 1, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    • I did not use a tripod but I effectively did the same thing as if I were on a tripod/ball head. In this case I started with the shot of the boys then panned (via rotation as if on a tripod) the camera up/down/left/right to grab frames — handholding but staying in my semi-crouch and keeping the camera in roughly the same position as I did so. Does that make sense?

      March 1, 2012 at 5:45 pm

  10. That helps. Thanks. I would have thought I needed to keep the camera in a single plane to avoid distortion. Rotating is easier.

    March 1, 2012 at 6:22 pm

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