One of the things I love about photography is that it can be used as a tool to freeze reality in fresh and interesting ways. There are a lot of tricks that can be used to push the boundaries of traditional imagery. I love discovering and exploring them all.
Several years ago, New York based wedding photographer Ryan Brenizer was interested in trying to replicate the feel of large format images, but with a 35mm digital sensor. Because of the imaging properties of the super large negative (or sensor), a large format camera using a wide angle lens can retain an incredible shallow depth of field. You know, the cool blurry backgrounds.
With a wide angle lens on a 35mm camera, it’s difficult to get a nice, blurry background unless the subject is very close to the lens.
What Brenizer did was to use the concept of panoramic stitching, but with a longer focal length lens. By shooting at a long focal length, and with the aperture wide open, he was able to get super blurry backgrounds. When taking a number of photos of a subject, as one would with a traditional panorama, and stitching them together, the resulting image mimics the wide angle look, crazy in-focus detail, and super blurry backgrounds of large format.
This became popularly known as the Brenizer Method.
And it’s one of my favorite techniques. I’ll show you why.
Here is a traditionally photographed image from the wedding of Sara and Derek, way back in 2012 in Omaha, Nebraska:
It was taken with my 35mm lens at f/2 — meaning the aperture was as wide open as possible.
There are some people in the background, but since this was just a test shot, I wasn’t worried about that.
All in all, it isn’t a bad image. If I waited for the background to clear, I’d be perfectly OK with delivering a shot like this to a client.
But it isn’t magical.
And I like to do what I can to deliver something special to my clients.
So time to break out one of my favorite lenses. My 135mm. Standing roughly in the same spot as the above photo, I was able to take this:
From just this, you can see how much more blurry the background is.
This image was just one of 94 total shots I took, moving the camera as I would a landscape panorama in order to capture a wider field of view.
This did require Sara and Derek to hold their pose for a minute while I got all of the shots I needed. They were completely game. It helped that I used this trick for their engagement session, too. So even if they thought I was a little crazy then, they saw the results.
Then after some Photoshop stitching magic, I wind up with the following:
Check out how the background now just melts away.
The focus is 100% on Sara and Derek. As it should be.
The field of view of this image is almost exactly the same 35mm as the first image in this post. But using a little fancy math I was able to determine that the effective aperture is f/0.45 — basically an impossible aperture.
You might say, a magical aperture.