Get Greater Depth of Field with the Brenizer Method

Extra photos for bloggers: 1, 2, 3

Do you dream of faster lenses, larger apertures, and ice cream?

We do too!

Too bad, brand new lenses don’t drop into our laps everyday.

Fortunately, photographer Ryan Brenizer has developed a way to get specular results from your thrifty fifty or a basic kit zoom lens. By stitching together multiple shots, Ryan makes impossibly shallow depths of field, possible.

Follow a few easy steps and you too can take photos with the look of a faster more pricy lens.

(And when you spend less on new lenses, there’s more money for sundaes!)

How to Apply Brenizer Method

A million thanks to Ryan for letting us feature a few of his photos.

What’s the Big Idea?

Everyone loves the look of photos shot with a thrifty fifty (fixed 50mm lens) or a zoom lens that allows for a really shallow depth of field. Perfectly focused subjects with super fuzzy backgrounds, lovely!

Unfortunately, these lenses don’t give you a very wide angle. When you can’t fit much in the frame, every shot is a close up shot.

This is where the Brenizer method comes to the rescue!

You take a multiple photos of your subject and the area all around them (the stuff you normally wouldn’t see in a close-up shot). Then put all the photos you took into your computer and let it stitch those photos together.

The computer will overlap your photos in just the right spots creating one giant image, and you get one great shot! The results are beautiful and it’s not that hard…

What You’ll Need

  • A Camera with Manual Settings
  • Tripod (totally optional)
  • The software (or darkroom skills!) necessary to stitch multiple shots together

Step One: Set Camera to Stun

And by stun, we mean manual mode.

Since we are going to be stitching multiple shot together later, we want the shots to be as uniform as possible.

This means metering your subject, manually setting the aperture and shutter speed and leaving them the same for the whole shooting process.

To get the fuzziest of backgrounds, make sure your aperture is set as wide open as possible (and that means the smallest number).

Also, since you will be stitching together many photos and the resulting file will be pretty huge, we recommend setting your camera to the small jpeg shooting mode.

Step Two: Custom White Balance

Another setting you want to be sure to keep the same throughout the shots is white balance.

Do not leave your camera on automatic white balance. In AWB mode your camera might make minor changes to the white balance between shots (and that’s no good).

Set a custom white balance before you start shooting.

Step Three: Frame your shot

By this point you probably know what subject you want to photograph, but it’s time to decide what you want your finished photo to look like.

You can do this one of three ways: Snap a quick photo with your trusty point and shoot, hold up a piece of paper with a rectangle cut out of it, or use your pointer fingers and thumbs and make a rectangle to look through.

Take special note of what is in each corner and around the edges of the final shot you want, so that when you are shooting the pieces you won’t miss a crucial spot.

Step Four: Focus

Once again, your camera must be set to manual before you start shooting.

But don’t let this stop you from using auto-focus to make sure you have your subject in focus, then switching your camera to manual focus just before you start shooting.

Step Five: Shooting Spree (the photographic kind)

Try to keep your camera in relatively the same spot as you shoot all the pieces of your photographic puzzle. (You might find a tripod handy for this, but we were able to get away without using one).

It’s really helpful to be very methodical with this part. Shoot the very top row of photos left to right, then move down a little bit, shoot another row right to left, move down, left to right… and so on.

Remember those edges and corners you took note of earlier! Take lots of shots with plenty of overlap.

Step Six: Putting the pieces together

This is actually easier than it sounds.

If you have photoshop (lucky you!) just look under the File menu for Automate > Photomerge. Choose the files you just took and behold the magic that is photoshop doing all the hard work for you. Photoshop will take all the photos you shot and merge them together into one stunning image.

No photoshop? No problem. Hugin is a free program that makes stitching your photos together a breeze. Download it here and be amazed.

Step Seven: Finishing Touches

This is it!

Crop your photo to the size you want it to be.

Save your new file and there you have it!

More from Ryan Brenizer:

Ryan is the official photography blogger for Amazon (website not rainforest). Learn more tricks at tips at his nifty blog.

Watch the Brenizer method in action. Ryan has a great how-to video.