These portraits are done in a method known variously as the Brenizer method, panoramic stitching, or bokeh panoramas (“bokehramas” -“bokeh” is the term given to the quality of the out-of-focus highlights in the background, and comes from the Japanese word for “blurry”).
You can look up more about this technique on the internet by searching for “Brenizer method,” which is named for Ryan Brenizer, a New York wedding photographer who has developed and described it in detail.
This method involves a DSLR camera – preferably one with a full-frame sensor, a fast lens (one with a wide maximum aperture) and a normal to long focal length, and shooting multiple photos, in a sort of overlapping mosaic, of a single subject, using shallow depth of field. Those multiple photos are then “stitched” together in Photoshop, ideally yielding a seamless portrait with shallow depth of field and a wide angle of view, which would normally be impossible to achieve with any lens available today. Basically, there is no lens with which you can get a wide angle of view and at the same time, a shallow depth of field. The effect is unique.
The idea, in my interpretation, is to capture an intimate portrait of a subject while including something of the environment in which they were posing for the camera. Since these photos are made with multiple images stitched together, they are very high resolution, something also impossible with any normal DSLR camera today in just one frame. As a result, they invite large reproductions.
I shoot at the minimum depth of field possible (usually using an aperture of f/1.8 to f/2.8. This yields a photograph in which only the person’s face, and sometimes only the eyes, are in focus. Anything else, if it’s not in the same plane of focus as the face, is blurred. The blurring is simply a result of the shallow depth of field – no special Photoshop blurring is added.
Having just recently learned of this technique, I became intrigued as to how I could achieve an effective portrait that compels the viewer to study the environment in which the subject is posing, but in which also the eye is always drawn back to the face – the only feature of the photograph that’s in sharp focus. By using this technique, I hope to provide context to the subject while also conveying some intimacy with the person being photographed.