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Panoramic Portraiture

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Nikon D800 +  Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G | 1/200 sec, f/1.4, ISO 100 (19 image stitch)

Wait, what? The thought of stitching several photos together to make a portrait, a technique developed and made popular by Ryan Brenizer, seemed like an odd idea to me at first. But the kind of look you can achieve by doing so is really unique. Like any other kind of panoramic photo, the idea behind the method is to increase your final image’s angle of view while maintaining a given focal length and distance from your subject. However, this technique can work wonders when shooting very close to a human subject at wide apertures, because stitching several of the resulting photos together allows you to achieve some really pretty bokeh effects.

For example, at the distance I was from my lovely wife for the first panorama, a single-frame shot using the 85mm f/1.4 looks like this:


Nikon D800 +  Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G | 1/200 sec, f/1.4, ISO 100 

The photo above was taken wide open and pretty near the lens’ closest focusing distance. As a result, Bridget’s left eye is in sharp focus, but the background is completely and beautifully blurred into bokeh heaven due to the extremely shallow depth of field. But what if I wanted a wider angle of view while maintaining both the focal length and the super shallow dof? No problem! Lock your focus and exposure settings, and then take a series of overlapping photos surrounding the first photo’s point of focus. Merge the photos together in post, and poof! Bokeh panorama. The image at the top of this post is a 19-photo stitch from a series of photos I took surrounding the first image in the series, pictured directly above, which served an anchor point for the rest of the panorama.

One mistake I immediately realized that I made after the merge is that I didn’t take enough frames to cover the bottom right of my intended composition, though a little work in CS5 still gave me the composition I was after. But hey, not bad for a second try, right? (Wife will not allow me to post my first try because she’s not wearing makeup in the photo. I think she looks beautiful regardless, but hey, I understand). Indeed, the most difficult part of the entire process is pre-visualizing your intended composition and then taking enough frames to cover the composition when you finally merge the photos.


Nikon D800 +  Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G | 1/160 sec, f/1.4, ISO 100 

Another example of a single frame shot with the 85mm. This time I’m going for a full length portrait, accomplished by merging 19 total frames:


Nikon D800 +  Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G | 1/160 sec, f/1.4, ISO 100 (19 image stitch)

One side note: I did not stitch full resolution, 36 megapixel frames from the D800 here, but can you imagine the final size of these images if I had? Hoo boy….

Bokeh panoramas look pretty awesome on small, inanimate objects as well. Here’s a 13 image stitch:


Nikon D800 +  Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G | 1/320 sec, f/1.4, ISO 100 (13 image stitch)

I’ve heard of this awesome technique before, but never really thought about trying it myself until another blogger I’ve been following, Kim Miller, put this ridiculously awesome blog post together that tipped me over the edge. To thank her for said tipping, a plug seems appropriate: Head to her blog for a little inspiration, because she does a much better job walking you through the process than I ever could, and her site is littered with awesome examples of bokeh panoramas. Enjoy!

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All Images: Nikon D800 | 85mm f/1.4G

Processing: RAW images processed using VSCO in Lightroom 4 / Image stitching in Photoshop CS5

Written by Jonathan

April 14, 2012 at 8:03 pm