How To Create Medium Format Film Portrait Panoramas | Brenizer Method

Photographers have been stitching landscape photos together for decades for more comprehensive and detailed pictures. But, can you do this with portraits?

Panoramic photography isn’t a new concept; photographers have been stitching landscape images together for decades to achieve a more comprehensive and detailed final picture. But what happens when your panorama subject isn’t a landscape but a person? Believe it or not, there’s a name for this – a Brenizer portrait.

How Did Portrait Panoramas Start?

Where does this name come from? This technique is named after Ryan Brenizer, a renowned wedding photographer who developed and popularized this process in 2008. You may have also heard of it as a portrait panorama or bokeh panorama.

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My Process

I typically capture anywhere from 9-15 images for my panoramas and stitch them together in Lightroom, though you can use however many photos you wish. Photographers usually use this method to achieve a “medium format look” with a full-frame camera, meaning you get a broader image with much more depth than you usually would. Instead of using a full-frame camera, I used my Mamiya 645AFD + 80mm f/2.8 lens. This excellent medium format film camera means the final stitched image will probably have a crazy amount of depth, maybe even similar to a “large format” image.

The tricky metier with Brenizer portraits is when I create them digitally, I typically use the back button to focus on the first image and then keep that locked focus for the remaining photos. However, my Mamiya doesn’t have a back button focus. Instead, I’ll half-press the shutter to focus for the first image, take that image, switch to manual focus, and then take the remaining photos—super hoping this actually turns out.

(pssssst… I tried this same technique with an ENTIRE roll of film. Watch how I did it here!)

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  1. Import your film scans into Lightroom

  2. Select your first image and click control + N to open up Negative Lab Pro, which is my favorite film conversion plugin.

  3. Paste that edit on the next images in your Brenizer portrait. Make sure the crops don’t include any of the black borders of the film strip.

  4. After converting every image that will be included in the panorama, select the images and export them as JPEGs. Don’t export as TIFFs, because the colors get weird when you stitch them into a panorama.

  5. Re-import these new JPEGs, select all of them, and click Panorama. Toggle between each of the Cylindrical, Spherical, and Perspective options to see which one works best for your specific image.

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And there’s your Brenizer portrait / panoramic portrait/panorama portrait, whatever name you like best! This technique is so fun to experiment with and reminds me of why I love photography: to spark new ideas and nurture creativity.

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