Photography is all about tradeoffs, you just cannot have it all! And when it comes to a shallow depth of field, one of the things you have to give up is usually the ability to capture wide-angle images.
A few years ago, renown wedding photographer Ryan Brenizer came up with a method which allows photographers to overcome this limitation and, in this article, I will show you how to use this method with Adobe Lightroom.
What is Depth of Field?
"For many cameras, depth of field (DOF) is the distance between the nearest and the furthest objects that are in acceptably sharp focus in an image.“ (Wikipedia)
Depth of field (or DOF), can be approximated by the following formula:
where “f” is the focal length, “N” is the F-number (or aperture value) and “u” is the distance to the subject. Such formula is giving us a lot of information but, the one we are interested in for this topic is the following: as focal length gets shorter (wider-angle of view), depth of field increases and as focal length gets longer (telephoto), depth of field gets shallower.
The Brenizer Method
A few years ago, renowned wedding and portrait photographer Ryan Brenizer, came up with a method that overcomes the limitation of optics and allows photographers to capture portraits with a very distinctive look: wide angle of view and shallow depth of field. Ryan's method is quite simple and yet genius and it involves a specific way of shooting and using any software capable of stitching images together; for this tutorial, I will be using the Photomerge capability of Adobe Lightroom.
Here's the recipe:
Set your camera to manual exposure. This is where you make sure to set the lowest f-number possible to capture the shallowest depth of field your glass is capable of; after all, this is the whole point of the method!
Let your subject know that you will be taking a series of pictures during which they will have to stay as steady as possible
Set the camera focus to make sure your subject is sharp and then, switch off your lens auto-focus
Take the first photo of your model trying to get the whole subject in the frame
Pan the camera around your subject and take overlapping frames, as if you’d shot a panorama
Once you are done, download the pictures to your computer, and import them into Adobe Lightroom.
Click on the first image of the series and, holding down SHIFT, click on the last one: this will select all the images of the stack.
Right-click on any one of the selected pictures, “Photo Merge” -> “Panorama…”, this will open the Panorama Merge Preview window with a version of your images stitched together.
Once in the Panorama preview window, I strongly suggest you play with the different projection algorithms to see which one works for your set of images: they may produce very different (and sometimes unrealistic) results.
In my case, Perspective is the way to go, while Spherical and Cylindrical introduce too much distortion (see also screenshots below).
Once you selected the projection algorithm that works for your set of images, make sure to have “Auto crop” checked to get rid of the transparent space caused by the stitching and click on “Merge”: the Panorama Merge Preview window will close and Lightroom will create a final version of your picture.
Your panorama picture will be in your Lightroom library, with the suffix "-Pano“ in the name.
A very neat feature of this process is that the panorama image will retain all the changes you applied to the original set of images, therefore, you will be able to edit every single adjustment in a non-destructive fashion!
Did you know this method? Have you ever used it? I would like to hear your opinion in the comment section and it would be great if you could share some of your Bokerama pictures with us all!
Don't forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel.