Creating a Panoramic Portrait in Photoshop Elements


Not long ago, we brought Ryan Brenizer into the B&H studios to talk about the Brenizer Method. This technique involves taking numerous photos in a panoramic portrait and stitching them together in Photoshop. However, you don't necessarily need Photoshop to stitch the photos together as this can be done with Photoshop Elements. As we've stated before in our posting on Minor Retouching, many of the features that most people need and use can be done with the more affordable option.

What I'm Using:

Canon 5D Mk II

85mm F/1.8

Apple 13" Macbook

Photoshop Elements

Shooting the Photos

This is my second attempt at doing a panoramic portrait; the first time I achieved a pretty good result, but it just wasn't perfect enough for me. Each time I did this, I shot around 40-50 photos. Shooting vertically, my method was to first capture the photo of Josh, and then fill in the background around him to create an entire scene.

My camera was set to manual exposure mode, and I kept the same exposure settings throughout the session, to maintain consistency for when I would stitch the images together. I started the session with autofocusing on Josh's face, switching off autofocus, then continuing to shoot. The reason why you should switch off autofocus is because when you stitch the photo together, you want to have only one area of the stitched photo in focus. If various areas are in and out of focus, you'll have a very weird image that doesn't look natural at all. The whole point of these panoramic portraits is to create an image that looks natural.


To do the stitching, you first need to open up Photoshop Elements and click on File. Then hover over New and click on Photomerge. A new interface will come up. Click on 'Reposition Only' on the left panel, and then click on Browse to select all the images you want to have in the stitched image. Photoshop Elements will take a little while to stitch the photos together.

In the case of the second photo that I shot, I didn't get a result that I liked a lot so, in order to gain more control, I chose the interactive layout option, and manually placed the images into their respective spots. That's making a long story short, though: I started working on the image at 9:30 AM and didn't finish until 3:30 PM. Thankfully, Photoshop Elements detects similar areas from the images, and is able to stitch them together to look as if they're all part of the puzzle.

Keep in mind that I've seen Ryan accomplish this effect fairly easily. The problems that I encountered could have been because of Photoshop Elements (I'm using an older version), the fact that I shot so many images, and various other factors.

Touch Ups

Once I created an image that I felt I could work with, I took it into the canvas and flattened the layers immediately. This way, the rendering process would be a lot quicker.

Now came the tedious work: the touch ups. I had to manually recreate certain areas in the sidewalk, the buildings, and the sky by using the clone stamp, and even manually painting things in. There was a lot of fine detail that needed to be kept in mind too: like the lines in the sidewalk, the colors, how much light was hitting each area, etc.

When doing critical work like this, it's best to work in layers because mistakes can be easily corrected, gotten rid of, etc. As you progress and you feel like you're getting closer to your final image, you can merge layers down.

And a lifesaving tip: Always save your progress—and save often.

There were some things that I couldn't fix, but upon second look, and when running it by co-workers, I accepted as cool effects.

Once I was finished, I was able to crop out enough of the image to create something that I'd be proud to give to a client.

Have you done the Brenizer Method before? If you have, let us know what you think of it, and please share your photos with us in our Flickr Group.