...also known as "The Brenizer Method" because this technique has been popularized by New York Wedding Photographer, Ryan Brenizer.
The idea behind the shot comes from a creative bit of problem solving. The question which needs answering is "How do I build a shallow depth of field (lots of focus blur) into a wide angle shot"? As you will probably know, when you shoot with a wide angle, everything is usually in focus. When you shoot at a longer focal length your background compresses, and you get a pleasing blur, or 'Bokeh', which serves to really separate your subject from it's surroundings.
So how do I build 'long focal length blur' into a 'wide angle shot'?
Well the answer is, "Shoot your scene by stitching together a series of images shot with a longer focal length, and low aperture, to make up your wide angle." This way you can create a shot with plenty of context, but your subject will now 'pop' off the out-of-focus background.
There are many techniques for this shot, but personally I usually use my 85mm f1.8, because I want both a lens which will compress the background, and has a low potential aperture (sub f2).
You need to start by composing the scene in your head. You obviously won't be able to do this through the lens as you normally would, so you need to imagine the borders of your shot. The trick then is to shoot in such a way that you piece together your total shot one frame at a time. It's vital to keep a track of the areas you've covered, which means you always have to have the big picture in your minds eye. Some people shoot in a spiral out from their subject. Some people shoot in a grid. You'll have to find the technique which works for you, but it's important that you cover all the areas of the total image otherwise you will have 'holes' in your final stitch which you'll have to deal with in post.
When you are ready to shoot you need to make sure all your settings are manual so they don't change from shot to shot. Remember you are shooting pieces of a whole image, not individual shots. Here's a check list to get yourself ready for the shot:
- Put your camera in Manual mode.
- Select the appropriate ISO depending on the ambient light.
- Set your aperture as low as your lens will allow so that your depth of field will be as shallow as possible.
- Dial in your shutter speed until you have the right amount of light for your subject. If you are shooting a person make sure the skin is exposed correctly.
- Set your white balance.
- Then focus your lens on the subject and click your focus to manual (you don't want your lens refocusing between shots).
- Plant your feet firmly and burn that final image into your mind.
Then build your shot one image at a time. I begin with the head and torso of my subject, then the legs, and then I begin to fill in the scene around him/her by shooting a spiral outwards from the body on all sides.
Here is a recent Bokeh Pano I shot with a French Model in Bermondsey: