A poor man’s road to Leica By Westerhuis & Westerhuis


A poor man’s road to Leica

By Westerhuis & Westerhuis

As our name ‘Westerhuis&Westerhuis’ already suggests: we are brothers. Willem Hendrik and Arend-Jan. It would be safe to say that we grew up with photography. Our father had a Leicaflex SL with a range of lenses. Back when we were kids, going out with the family meant that we would both get ‘one frame’ to shoot with the camera. That is how we learned to see the world through a frame: looking for the scene we wanted to capture.


In May 2005 digital photography found it is way into our family. It was an Olympus E-300, which compared to the Leicaflex, was equipped with highly technical features such as automatic exposure and focus. Suddenly we were able to shoot more than six images a year, and dad did not have to share his Leica anymore. (Something that took a while for us to understand.) The learning curve suddenly became steep!

When we grew older and went to University, the camera spent more time in the closet than in our hands. Occasionally we used it for holidays, fraternity activities etc. Never too serious and certainly without ambitions..

Then something happened we had not foreseen: some friends were getting married and since they were on a low-budget, they asked me (Willem Hendrik) to shoot their wedding. Apparently they had seen me holding a camera the right way up and were somehow assuming I knew where to find the shutter button. I did not dare to bare the burden of a screw-up with only myself to blame, and so I asked my brother to come with me.

The results however surprised a lot of people, not only the bride and groom, but more important: other couples. Several weddings came along; we bought new bodies (Olympus E-600) and lenses (the legendary 50mm f/2 and 25mm f/1.4) and began enjoying photography again. We moved from weddings only to portraits, graduation ceremonies and group shoots. But most importantly it was street photography that got our attention.

We found that street photography was a powerful way of improving our photography skills. When shooting on the streets it rapidly became apparent that a great photo is not about sharpness, subject isolation or ISO performance, but about the narrative. A sharp, clear and in every term a high fidelity portrait of a cat is in the end just a photo of a cat. The technical perfection does not make up for the lack of talent. We found out it is more important to train yourself to ‘see’ notable things happening than to rely on your gear to create something out of nothing. Minor events can be captured and still tell a complete story on their own.



Story telling in wedding photography

Naturally we began incorporating this storytelling style in all our assignments. This meant a observative way of working without interfering and only with the use of available light. We have shot in very different and difficult environments where we had to adapt to the conditions. The good thing about shooting a wedding is that you need to deliver; you have to know what you are doing to be able to get the best out of a situation




Being with two photographers

Although we both did some weddings without the other, we stuck together for the most part. Shooting a wedding together has some major advantages: we always use a basic lens set-up such that one knows, based on lens and location, the type of photo the other is taking. Therefor one is able to take the corresponding shot from the opposite direction without being in each other’s frame. Because we both shoot with different prime lenses, a nice reproduction of the day from multiple perspectives can be delivered. Secondly, we are both very technical; if variables get tough, we communicate our strategy in ISO, aperture and exposure, we developed our own sign language for this to be able to come up with similar results.



Buying a Leica

After launching our own website, the amount of inquiries was vastly increasing. This made us able to invest in our company, and so we decided to go back to our roots. And so two second-hand Leica M9’s were bought, despite our philosophy about gear being second to content (After all we are both engineering students and firmly believe in the ‘garbage in, garbage out’ paradigm. As for the lenses concerned: we bought a Summicron 35 and 50 from their first owner. Both versions IV, which are almost 35 years old. Not only did they feel very familiar, even the smell brought back memories. By using Leica we could also continue our philosophy of carrying the least amount of gear with us. Although the Olympus E-600 was one of the smallest DSLR’s around, we would rather carry M9’s for a day.

Of course we are, as much as any photographer in constant battle with the GAS (gear acquisition syndrome).The M240, 50mm Summilux, and 35mm Nokton are all nymphs singing their songs. For the moment we choose to sit tight with the old Summicrons we have. Our M9’s do not limit creativity in any technical way which is proven by legends from the past, as these lenses were the tools of many great photographers. If we cannot make this work then no mountain of gear can fix that deficit in our talent. At the moment we feel it is more important to master this simple camera than to acquire next gen lenses with their fancy appeals and new possibilities.

So yes, this is where we now stand. Both of us have a single lens setup. Which, as it turns out, is more than adequate for wedding photography. As always: it is not the camera that shoot people, we do.

Willem Hendrik Westerhuis
















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  1. How interesting that when you acquired your first pair of M series bodies, you plumped for 35 and 50 lenses. Those who practice ‘gear minimalism’ tend to use one of these focal lengths. I acquired a pair of M4-P bodies some years ago when setting up my media business. I bought the 40mm f2 Summicron lens as it gives me a unique perspective, very similar in FOV to human eyesight.

  2. A wonderful set of photographs I enjoyed them all you certainly have the “eye” for photography and your narrative made interesting reading as well. I also paid a visit to your website so can always check in on your new work. Thank you great work.

  3. great pictures. However, looking at the first picture, it is clear that the person did not want you to take his picture…RESPECT! please

  4. Thank you for telling such a compelling story through your words and pictures. If this doesn’t make the must read section then Mr Huff must have forgotten, or there was a glitch on the website.
    I was wondering if you could give me some advice, because like you, a friend of mine has asked me to shoot her wedding because she likes the photos I have produced at other events. Kind of documentary type shots (or as my friend’s would describe it, “sneaky” photos). I don’t exactly have a brother or another partner in crime to help out like you guys.
    I’m kind of scared of screwing up because it is a big event and I am very amateur at photography, plus I only have one camera and one 35mm lens. However, at the same time, I’m really excited about the challenge.
    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • Hi Hai Tran,

      Thanks for your compliment! Here’s my advice: just accept the job, but tell them it will be your first wedding. Let them pay you in accordance! Then just do your absolute best to perform with only your 35mm lens, which will be more then enough! That’s how we started! 🙂 Let me know how it went!

  5. You tell a wonderful story. Yes, the M9 is a marvel and I enjoy working with it every time. I also have a Monochrome which is another adventure altogether and yields spectacular results if you want to get everything out of a B&W file. I very much enjoyed your pictures with the soap bubbles and the man saying ‘no’ with his hands – I have seen this same refusal to have a picture taken, but never thought of taking a photo of that. Well done.
    Het moet heel leuk zijn om samen op pad te gaan met jullie Leica’s. Ik heb twee broers, maar die delen mijn interesse voor fotografie spijtig genoeg niet… Mijn oudste zoon is gelukkig ook gebeten door de ‘bug’, maar hij houdt het voorlopig bij analoge fotografie.
    Doe zo door!!!

  6. I’ve been reading this site for a while, but never bothered to post. After I saw this page, I’m so impressed with the many decisive moments in one collection that I feel compelled to congratulate both of you on a job very well done.

    To be so quick with capturing these moments, you must have removed the innards of the M9, embedded them into your brain, then fired the shutter with the blinks of your eyes.


  7. I may add, being a street-photographer myself, two things:
    1. Street-photos don’t tell stories either, there is no narrative 😉 They may pose visual and/or intellectual and/or cultural tensions and questions, like your photo of the white-bearded man covering his face, which is really genius. It leaves a lot of cognitive whitespace that can be filled by the viewer, but I don’t think that makes for a story. Which is a goooood thing, IMO.
    2. That particular photo of the white-bearded man, is it posed? If you don’t mind telling 😉

  8. The photos are really good, some first-class wedding shots here!
    I just never dig, what stories wedding photos should tell, except “hey, we got married” 😉
    Think it’s more the story the wedding-photogs tell themselves, which is fair enough.
    Or tell their clients, which is – again – fair enough.
    Still, aesthetiques aside, all wedding photos are visual decoration to go along with sweet memories. Which is no bad thing, but they don’t tell stories.

    • In general you are right of course. the story isn’t that different between weddings. But still we chose to make our style one of storytelling. we do not create our own stories, but capture and suggest those for others. this is quite a difference from the orchestrated photoshoots that are populair nowadays (At least over here in the Netherlands). And allows for our clients to recognise true emotions instead of fake and imposed ones.

  9. Wonderful. This is the first photographic article I’ve ever read where success is down to two talented brothers developing a unique working relationship with each other and not so much about the gear. How refreshing!

    I’m even more attracted to the images because they are exactly what I would hope for if I got married (again!). The pictures of the 3 children framed by the guest’s legs and the child reading the comic are classics.

    A lovely post, thank you for sharing it.

  10. Finally, some really exceptional photojournalism from the wedding front, from two guys who obviously know what they’re doing. Great storytelling with a lot of humor. Most of the time, I’m left scratching my head when I see conventional wedding pictures from folks who think they’ve captured the Mona Lisa. It’s so refreshing to see a wedding captured with such skill, imagination, and emotion. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Wow!! I really love the one in the church. You capetured the look of the adoreble little bridesmaids perfectly well. That pic really tells a story. Those kids are so proud!!

  12. When one knows how many horrible conventional weddings pictures are made, these ones are a breathing. It gives me again the motivation if it ever comes again to accept this type of assignment. I particularly like the snapshots . Even the conventional are unconventional. The one in the green field is really sweet. And as you say in German “aussergewöhnlich”. Thanks a lot for this testimony.

  13. A really great story, much appreciated – thanks for posting.
    I can’t afford myself a Leica, but i am happy with my APS-C/DX
    Equipment, as amateur.

    for the love of photography…never give up your dreams,
    gear doesn’t matter.

  14. RESPECT to you both. Possibly the best series I’ve seen on this site. I hope you guys write a book someday.

  15. Cool set of photos, I really like the shot with the puddle but noticed the grooms hand is very red compared to the hand in the reflection. The street shot of the bearded man is great too just enough information to let us know he’s the man in the painting. My favourite is the simplistic shot of the bride resting herself on her husbands chest.

  16. Willem, nog steeds de persoon die mij aan het fotograferen heeft gezet, leuk verhaaltje!

  17. In my opinion, the reason why some of the wedding pics are so exceptional is that the photographer did not choose all those standard situations for weddings. Together with the Leica, this gives exceptional results as we can se. Thanks for sharing and keep up the excellent work!

  18. Remarkable story, very human in essence, thanks. And I like the photographs because they look not like they were posing to an unknown photographer but enjoying the moment with a friend.

  19. I really like the photos and the article but the last sentence sounds a bit too pretentious for my taste:

    “As always: it is not the camera that shoot people, we do.”

    If it were true, then why won’t you just use a Canon 650D or similar instead of a pair of M9’s with accompanying lenses?

    To me it seems there a always three things that make an exceptional photo for me: the eye, the right tools and the photographer’s knowledge. Whereas the eye certainly is the most important, so I finally also have to concur to your sentence a bit. 🙂

  20. Great style guys. Well done and you are SO correct in your adage to staying with some older technology.

  21. Hello.
    I have been using Nex 5 for about an Year. What I find if you tweak the sharpness contrast, Sharpness, Saturation a bit it gives the so called Leica effect. And you do not need a Leica lens for that even.
    It is good with 18-55 kit lens or 16/2.8.
    Using the maximum aperture, (2.8 for 2.8) and adjusting focusing manually after Auto focusing, gives fantastic result. You got to set the focusing in (AF/MF) in DMF.
    Try it, you will love it.

  22. As everyone else has pointed out, this has been a very inspiring post and a pleasure to read. As someone who learned photography on fully manual film cameras and started doing weddings with an E300, I feel some empathy with your roots. There is a saying, usually quoted badly, about the KISS principle: keep it superbly simple. This is what makes the work so powerful, with the simplicity of gear allowing you to get so comfortable with the technical side that you can concentrate on seeing, which you clearly do so very well. Thanks for making my day!

  23. I think these may be some of the only wedding photos I’ve actually found interesting. Bravo! And especially impressive given your simple two prime lens output.

  24. Absolutely beautiful images and a wonderful (and very well written) article. Made all the more impressive by your command of English. (I’m not sure I can write as well, and English is my native tongue.)
    Goed gedaan!

  25. I’ve been to your website – you guys are very talented. Just lovely stuff. Some of the photos here, notably of children, are wonderful in their humor and storytelling.

  26. I like wedding shots that show a touch of reportage, nice! And of course a gentle nod to Erwitt too….

    keep it up.

  27. Really nice work…..you are very good at capturing the moments that many either miss….or lack the vision to see in the first place. Great images.

    • To each his own indeed, but I must disagree with you. I think his wedding photos are fantastic. Cheers!

  28. Really, really excellent set of images guys. Many thanks for sharing such wonderful work. Very inspirational.

  29. W & W,

    Every photographer that hears the siren sweet song of Gear should read these lines:

    “Of course we are, as much as any photographer in constant battle with the GAS (gear acquisition syndrome).The M240, 50mm Summilux, and 35mm Nokton are all nymphs singing their songs. For the moment we choose to sit tight with the old Summicrons we have. Our M9’s do not limit creativity in any technical way which is proven by legends from the past, as these lenses were the tools of many great photographers. If we cannot make this work then no mountain of gear can fix that deficit in our talent. At the moment we feel it is more important to master this simple camera than to acquire next gen lenses with their fancy appeals and new possibilities.

    So yes, this is where we now stand. Both of us have a single lens setup. Which, as it turns out, is more than adequate for wedding photography. As always: it is not the camera that shoot people, we do.”

    We are often reminded of this fact but rarely has the adage been so purely articulated. Again, I find on these pages–hope. I thank you both–the photo’s are very fine indeed–I close inspired and the snowfall has lightened. The a7 with a Voightlander beckons..Thank you,Steve– posts such as this are what make this site so approachable and engaging.

  30. Willem Hendrik,
    First I think your work is very nice in a uniquely indigenous way. This by itself proves the excellent useof your cameras and lenses. As for the latest in Leica M lenses do not give yourselves a great bother. It is amasing what you can achieve with an M9 and a vintage Summaron, Summitar and Summicron.
    All the best.
    Dimitris V. Georgopoulos
    Photographer at Large
    Athens, Greece

  31. Very nice images Willem Hendrik! I love the one of the little girl reading a comic book during the wedding ceremony (great eye for capturing that moment).

  32. One of the best stories here since I started reading 12 months ago. And the pictures……… in one word: WHOW! What a talent do these 2 brothers have.

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