aperture

Friday Fives | My Five Lenses

1) Nikon 50mm f1.4 prime — I probably use this lens most, and it’s the lens I took with me on vacation to Disney. It’s on my camera I’d say about 60% of a wedding day. It’s a great versatile lens that has that soft bokeh I love, it gets me close enough to the action for portraits, but I can also back up and get wider if needed (in most cases).

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2) Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 zoom — This wider angle lens comes in more handy for my business and commercial shoots — real estate, fitting into tight spaces, food, overhead flatlays, landscapes, etc.

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3) Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 II zoom — This lens is my go-to for sports, wedding ceremonies, and sometimes portraits! I also have a teleconverter that I use on it for football that doubles my zoom (but I lose a few stops of light too so I can only use it outside when it’s bright and sunny).

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4) Sigma 85mm f1.4 prime — This lens is a sweet portrait lens, but works best outside or in larger indoor spaces when I have room to get further away from my subject. The wide aperture gives me that beautiful bokeh and shallow depth of field that many photographers aim for, plus the compression of using a tighter crop. I love me some compression!! ;)

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5) Nikon 60mm f2.8 macro — I use my macro lens for ring shots, and sometimes closeups of food. There is a rare instance when I’ll use it for other things and if say I have it on my camera for some ring photos and I need to snap a quick portrait or candid, it will still do the job. And even though it stops down to 2.8, typically I shoot rings at a higher aperture around 4-5.6 so that you can see the full depth of the diamond or gemstone. Since it’s macro, you still get that bokeh-y closeup feel, but closing down the aperture still gives me the depth I want.

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So that’s it! I’ve had these lenses now for several years and am pretty happy with my arsenal. I don’t plan to change it unless I end up adding another lens or two for a tax write-off or just frivolity. :D If I were to add other lenses, my next choice would be a 35mm (maybe the Sigma art version?) and then possibly upgrade my 60mm macro to the Nikon 105mm (or an off-brand equivalent). With as little as I use the macro though, I don’t really see the need at this point!

Do you have any questions about any of the lenses or terminology I talked about in this post? Feel free to comment below to ask! I’m happy to answer questions about my equipment. Thanks for reading!

Learning the Brenizer Method | Panoramic Stitching Technique

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I try to push myself to learn or improve upon a special technique or skill to step up my photography game and keep up with trends and the industry in general.  For a couple years now, I have been working on refining my panoramic skills, specifically the Brenizer method, named after famed NYC photographer Ryan Brenizer who first created the technique.  It’s essentially a bokeh panorama, where you combine a series of images, giving you a very shallow depth of field, a very wide angle, and lots of pseudo compression.  I had the pleasure of attending one of my first ever workshops in New Orleans with Ryan and a bunch of other photographers from a Flickr! group back in 2009.  I then got to hear him speak at Imaging last year as well, and his talk was incredible.  I was with two of my best wedding photographer friends and we all agreed that it was like he was inside our heads.

Brenizer method on University of Illinois campus

There are a bunch of different factors in play when setting up one of these images, and one of the trickiest for me has been knowing when to use it.  It’s best to use a fast, longish lens (I try to use either my 85mm or my 70-200mm when composing one.  From there, you set nearly everything as manually as you can before you start shooting.  I use automatic focus and then use my back-button focus (which I almost always have on) to ensure that my focus doesn’t change as I’m capturing all the images that will later be stitched together.  Manual white balance is best too so the camera doesn’t try to adjust your auto white balance as you move the lens, and of course a wide manual aperture and appropriate shutter speed to match. 

my first ever brenizer method attempt

I focus on my subject, then take one “center” image that will be my “marker” image when I go to stitch them later.  Then I move in a grid pattern usually starting at the top left of my eventual frame to capture a handful of images.  I think the most I’ve ever taken for a Brenizer method panorama is around 25.  But know Ryan himself has pushed the limits and stitched together more than 100 photos before.  You need to have a really fast memory card, camera, software and laptop to handle that kind of load.

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Once you have your images, load them into whatever editing program you use.  I use Lightroom to make sure they are even across the board and make sure there is no vignette added that will make them look funny once they’re stitched.  You can stitch them in Photoshop, but honestly, Photoshop doesn’t do a great job at this and it takes FOREVER.  I’ve been using a program called AutoStitch, but there’s also AutoPano Giga and a few others out there. There are free and paid versions of most of these programs so you can try before you buy.

Brenizer Method at Allerton Park

There is usually a bit of cropping involved once you get the “output” from your stitching program.   This is normal though just due to the nature of this method, especially if you’re not using a tripod (I usually am not).  There’s even a calculator you can use to roughly determine what your final image’s stats are — effective aperture, focal length, etc.  And it’s usually something crazy like f0.8 at 12mm, which is not an aperture/focal length combination that exists in today’s lenses.

Brenizer Method wedding at Allerton Park

In summary, the Brenizer method is a fun tool to try out and to potentially offer a unique image or two to your clients.  At the very least, I think it has strengthened certain skills for me and given me a better understanding of focal length, framing, aperture, and more!  Can’t wait to try my next one!