How to Fake the Medium Format Look in Your Portraits

Don’t you wish you could take super-crisp portraits at incredibly shallow depths of field? Not just the eyes or some other narrow point of focus, but the entire face and even the upper body? If so, then take a look at this tutorial by photographer Glyn Dewis. He shows us how to use Photoshop’s panorama option to create images with sharp detail and incredibly shallow depth of field:

The Brenizer Method

In this tutorial, Dewis takes us through the Brenizer method—a post-processing technique in which you merge a number of frames of a portrait into a single, sharp whole. The effect, when done correctly, simulates the look and feel of an image taken with a medium format camera. The larger size of the film or digital sensor (two to six times larger than 35mm) on a medium format camera creates images of much higher resolution and sharpness.

How to Fake a Medium Format Portrait

All you have to do is take your first shot of the face, lock the focus, and take a number of different shots to cover every single part of the portrait you want to be in focus (you should only focus on the first shot).

fake medium format effect

One of 15 frames shot at f/2.8 to create the final image.

You’ll be merging these photos together like a jigsaw puzzle in post-processing.

Medium Format Composite

The frames you take will be put together like puzzle pieces.

Post-Processing

With Photoshop and Lightroom, the post-processing is super easy, with Photoshop’s Merge to Panorama seamlessly stitching all the elements together.

photoshop medium format effect

Photoshop will merge your photos into a panorama.

Create a merged layer by going to:

Select > Select All

Edit > Copy Merged

Edit > Paste

Using the magic wand tool, click in the transparent area around your image.

blending in photoshop

Expand Selection

Go to Select > Modify > Expand and then Edit > Fill > Content Aware. Click OK, and Photoshop should fill in the transparent areas to blend with the rest of your image. If there are any areas left that didn’t blend well, you can use the Clone Stamp tool to fix them.

Tips for the Brenizer Method

There are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind though, to have this process work successfully:

  • Make sure you set the white balance (which setting you choose isn’t important as long as it’s not auto). If you leave it on auto, you’ll probably end up with a number of different white balances.
  • Try the editing out on a small resolution version of the photo first to make sure it’s going to work (Dewis exports for email from Lightroom and then imports back in). The panorama processing can take quite a long time when working with large images.
  • If your camera doesn’t allow you to lock focus, then change your settings to manual focus after the first shot to prevent the camera from changing the focus.
  • Dewis says this in the video, but it bears repeating: make sure to check the geometric distortion correction on the panorama import dialog box. If you don’t, you’re likely to run into some perspective issues.

If everything goes well, you should have a super-crisp portrait with a medium format feel.

fake medium format photo merge

Final Image

What’s more, this technique can be used just about anywhere on just about anything that’s motionless.

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One response to “How to Fake the Medium Format Look in Your Portraits”

  1. Hagbard Celine says:

    Nice. You link to the photographer that took Ryan Brenizer’s technique and used it, but you don’t even give props to Ryan by mentioning his full name or a link to his work?

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/carpeicthus/

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