So, there was this crazy technique I came up with and streamlined a few years ago to use the effects of a multi-layer panorama, combined with fast lenses shot wide-open, to achieve depth-of-field impossible with current lenses. Ever wanted to shoot with a 24mm f/0.4? This technique gives you the opportunity. I asked a few thousand people if they’d ever seen anything like this before and no one had, so I thought I may be on to something. Still, out of the tens of millions of photographers out there I figured nothing is new under the sun, so I worked and worked on different applications of this. How do I do a 20+ image panorama of moving objects like people? How do I do this with continuous lighting? How can I do this with flash? Along the way, people started calling it “The Brenizer Method,” and while I like to think I have a lot more than one method, I admit I am honored and amused by the way it messes with my siblings’ heads.
It’s pretty simple once you learn the process, but I find for almost everyone it requires hands-on, visual learning to really get it. I’ve wanted to do a really good video of it for a long time, and finally I got the opportunity with the great team at B&H Photo.
If you’re interested in learning more, keep this page marked — I’ll use it as my new home base of information about the technique.
PS: Yes, I know there’s no such thing as a 135mm f/1.2. A man can dream, can’t he? And yes, I know I talk with my hands. That’s why I weigh them down with heavy cameras.
Quick tip: One important thing that got left on the cutting-room floor. When shooting any panorama ALL of your settings should be the same shot to shot — your focus, your ISO, your aperture, your shutter speed, and your white balance, otherwise it will be a hot mess. If your camera has an “AEL/AFL” button set to lock both exposure and focus, this takes care of all the variables except the white balance, and if you’re shooting RAW you can correct that later.
Also, photographer Brett Maxwell has come out with a really handy spreadsheet tool so you can figure out the exact equivalent of you final shot in 35mm terms. For example, in the shot in the B&H video, taken with a 105mm f/1.8, the final frame acts like it was shot by a 49mm f/0.8 lens.
Further tips and links (Updated as I have time)
Software: I used Photoshop CS5 in the video because that’s pretty much the current default. Any Photoshop of CS2 or higher will do it, but strangely I find CS3 works better than CS4 or CS5. Since I do this so much, I’ve invested in Autopano Pro, which makes the process so much easier and can also batch multiple panoramas at one time, so if I do four or five of these on the wedding day, I can process them all at once very quickly.
To Tripod or Not to Tripod: I should do a review of pano heads someday, but since I tend to use this technique with people I choose speed of capture over the absolute perfection of a pano head. You tend to only get in trouble when shooting either really close to the subject or things like stairs or railings, both due to parallax error. Good stitching programs, which you’ll need to correct for the vignetting of shooting wide-open, also correct mild parallax as long as you overlap your images by at least a third.