Category Archives: portrait

Measuring out the “Brenizer Method”

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Here’s a shot I took yesterday of Bartow and Tiffany. I’ve been thinking a bit about the “Brenizer method” (or bokeh panoramas) recently, given that finally I have been working on a cogent, well-produced set of instructions (with some great help along the way). As I’ve noted before, the thing that really changes when you create a panorama is the sensor — it’s the same lens, same distance to subject, you’re just essentially making your sensor bigger. But I never thought about how simple that makes the answer to the commonly asked question — “what sort of camera is this emulating?”. Just simple measurement, compared to your original frame. Here’s a sample where one of the original frames have been inverted:

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As that’s a 36x24mm frame, the total image ends up being like it was shot with an 8×9 cm camera — either “large medium format” or small” medium format, since it’s just a little smaller than a 4×5″ frame. Of course you could run out and get an actual 4×5″ frame, and maybe even set it up and shoot it in the middle of the street, but good luck finding a 105mm f/1.8 that will fit it.

Camera: Nikon D3s
Lens: 38-image “Brenizer method” panorama with the Nikon 105mm f/1.8 AIS


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LA Workshop Recap

I’ve been sharing some previews of the shenanigans we got up to at my recent workshop at the Dream Factory in Los Angeles, but it takes a few days for it to really sink in, especially when you’re digging yourself out of two feet of snow in the nearby mountains. California, you so crazy.

The theme of my workshop — “WWMcGD?” — really comes back to the central theme of my life, which is managing thinly veiled chaos. If you simply want to get the best images possible in a portfolio, it’s usually good to carefully plan, be insanely meticulous, or just keep pushing the envelope that you fail spectacularly again and again until you succeed. But shooting for clients, especially as a wedding photographer, robs us of most of those tools. We find ourselves shooting portraits outside at noon on the summer solstice (Yes, I’ve been there); we sometimes are forced into terrible shooting locations, including a surprising amount of photos taken in parking lots, and you simply can’t afford to suck.

I just want to thank everyone for coming, again, despite short notice and a limited announcement (only on this blog). There’s something beyond my comprehension about someone coming from Norway just to see me prattle on … and finding out that he’s a relative local next to the guy that flew in from Australia.

I said I wanted this to be the best workshop ever, and I think it was. I loved the intimate feel of the smaller attendance cap, and will be doing that on all future full-day-plus workshops. I feel like I got to know everyone there, and could make sure everyone had hands-on time. I tell attendees that I’m happiest when people can take the things I’m showing and come up with things that surprise me, and in the free-shooting they did just that, knocking out some spectacular images. Thank you guys!

It’s picture time. A lot more went on than I have pictured here.

On Friday night, we studied night-time and darkness-related portrait techniques with Cameron:

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On Saturday, I showed some of the applications and techniques of mixing continuous light and flash, as well as color temperatures of the lights. I was happy to be joined again by frequent model and friend Stephanie:

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We went over some handy “work a hotel room” tips, such as some ways to modify window light to increase control, contrast, and make it generally more interesting:

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Then we headed over to the most boring place I could possibly find in an otherwise fascinating location — a plain white corner too dirty and cluttered to do simple high key. What to do? Without Photoshop, I can’t make the spot look nice, but with the right subject and lighting, I can hopefully make you not care:

Before and after, then a flash composite.

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I took everyone through how I would conduct an entire portrait session if I only had five minutes, trying to get as much variety as possible. I capped it with a “Brenizer method” bokeh pano, using the clutter on purpose to keep a sense of scale:

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During some free shooting, I took Karen and Kamil to our mock hotel room, and the attendees set up some great scenarios building on what I’d done there with Stephanie.

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The real fun happened when we went on the roof. A free tip: If you’re going to do something that might get you in trouble during a shoot, do it last.

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Thanks so much again, to everyone who helped out and to the attendees. Without you, I’d have to post a bunch of pictures of an empty room.

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(Only one light source used for this picture, even though it appears in the photo twice).


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Rock the Kitchen

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I have a big theory that drives my workshop instruction: When everything is working perfectly, when all the stars are aligned your way, that’s probably not when you wish “boy, I wish I had another person’s perspective on how to deal with this.” So we focus on how to work through bad situations, knowing of course that it’s also applicable to those (rare) times when things just work. This time, our spot was so fantastic that I had to look hard to find boring and bad locations … so we were probably the first shoot in this studio to head straight to the spare studio kitchen for a shoot. When all you have is a fridge and a blank wall, it comes down to posing and lighting.

Of course, a subject like Cameron doesn’t hurt.

Camera: Nikon D3s
Lens: Sigma 85mm f/1.4
Lighting: Litepanel MicroPro through a Lumiquest Softbox LTP


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A different sort of reunion

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For the second time, mixed in with the previous clients and models I’d shot with before, I had a high school classmate join us as a workshop subject — this time the fetching Cameron. I really can’t help it that so many people from my tiny burg in the tundra seemed to scatter out and spread fabulousness. It was great to see her after … well … just a few years, and as you can see she did a great job bringing the old Hollywood vibe to our night-time shooting.

Lens: 35mm f/1.4
Camera: Nikon D3s
Lighting: Composite with the Litepanel MicroPro pulling double-duty.


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We Could Be Heroes (LA Workshop is done!)

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My traveling roadshow workshop at the Dream Factory in Los Angeles is done, and I couldn’t be happier. I am amazed and honored that, even though I gave little notice and only mentioned the workshop on this blog, with no outside advertising, we had attendees come from all over the world — Norway, Panama, Canada, all sides of the U.S., and even a guy who flew back and forth from Australia just for the weekend. That’s just crazy, and crazy-awesome.

Also, it was a pleasure to reconnect with some of my favorite subjects, including Karen and Kamil, pictured above in a demonstration of high-speed flash sync’s power to obliterate the sun. (And with constant LA haze, it’s pretty easy to make the skyline look post-apocalyptic). I shot their wedding in Malibu just over a year ago, and it was a blast to spend time with them again, as well as the others who will be featured here soon.

Thanks so much to everyone who came and to those who helped out, including my own brother Doug.

Also, if you’ve attended a previous workshop, I’ve made a private Facebook group to network and share extra content, such as the pieces that make up “Brenizer method” or flash composite images, behind-the-scenes stuff, etc. Contact me if you’re a previous attendee and if not … there are more to come!

Lens: 35mm f/1.4
Camera: Nikon D3s
Lighting: Three SB-900s through a Lumiquest Softbox LTP


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Preparing to prepare

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Man, I really wish more brides would get ready in hotel rooms at night. Lots of creative possibilities when you take the sun out of the equation. Bring on the 3 a.m. weddings!

I got a lot of my favorite photos of the night just from running light tests with photographer Lynn Michelle before the model even showed up. That’s how it works sometimes.

Lens: 35mm f/1.4
Camera: Nikon D3s
Lighting: Lamplight and a Litepanel MicroPro brightening the background.


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