Fashion with the Leica M9 By Logan Norton


Fashion with the Leica M9

By Logan Norton

Hello Steve, Brandon and Readers,

Last year my friend Raine contacted me with ideas about a fashion shoot to introduce a new line of headdresses she had designed. We began discussing concepts for the shoot and I could sense from the start that this would be an ideal project for my Leica M9. Her designs feature vibrant colors, rich textures and exquisite details, characteristics for which the M9’s CCD sensor is magical. A few of the other factors that influenced this decision were the location (outdoor with three different settings spanning a 1+ mile area) and the number of models we would be working with (5). I knew that this would be a long day of shooting and would require a lot of physical movement on my part and I did not want to spend it dragging my Nikon D800e and lenses all over the place. The M9 allowed me greater mobility while still enabling me to capture images of the absolute highest quality. I was able to bring all of my gear in a small Ona Bowery bag with room to spare!

Steve has written extensively about the Leica M9 so I will not go over technical information about it but will instead focus on the shooting experience and how it fit into a fashion driven shoot. There are two things that I see as drawbacks to the Leica M9 as an on-location, fashion photography tool. The first one is easily remedied while the second presents the kind of stress that only photographers know. First is battery life. It isn’t the worst I have ever experienced but it isn’t very good either. As I said, extra batteries solve this issue easily (albeit expensively as this is a Leica after all and nothing comes cheaply…). The second is the single memory card slot. I hate this. A lot. Knock on wood I have never experienced a memory card failure but the possibility exists and the simple fact that no backup images exist causes me great stress.

With those negatives out of the way, let’s talk about what I loved about this experience. Most obvious is the overall size of the system. I shot this entire look with the 35mm and 90mm Summicron lenses on the M9. There was not a single moment I wished for a zoom lens, or for more frames per second, or more megapixels. I simply went about my business and when I was done, I still had enough energy to go to the after-party!

The second thing I noticed was that the models responded positively to the system. They loved the camera, admired its beauty and marveled at how quiet it was. It is impossible to say what affect this had on the way the models behaved or on the final images but it definitely felt like they were able to engage with me a little more than I have experienced when using a DSLR. Some of this may have to do with the smaller system being less intimidating or it may just be they were hypnotized by the undeniable attractiveness of the camera!

At the end of the day, my final assessment of the Leica M9 as a tool for shooting fashion images was very positive. The depth of color and contrast that it produces, along with the incredible freedom that I feel when working with such a manageable system far outweigh the anxiety caused by the single memory card slot. I can highly recommend this camera to anyone for on-location fashion work where mobility and stamina are crucial elements.

Check out more of Raine’s amazing work:











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  1. Logan, you should have followed Leica’s mantra: ‘less is more’. in my opinion, you submitted too many photos. there’s too much inconsistency in your selection. the quality-range is all over the place.

    you should have just submitted #1, #5, #6, maybe #10, and call it a day. these are nice and have good tone and color, a natural feel, the poses seem effortless and these 4 images have a touch of mystery (which ‘fashion’ like this needs, otherwise it becomes quickly rather tacky).

    the remaining six images have too many obvious flaws: poses seem fake, are forced or ‘try too hard’, color is inconsistent, eye-lines are odd, some photos are simply ‘cheesy’.

    of course, this is my opinion and i’m sure there are people out there who think seeing a model with no pupils or a branch growing out of her head is ‘interesting’.

    however, i rarely comment here, but given the fact that this was not an easy assignment and you showed us three images where you succeeded, you must remember that whenever you show a selection of your photos, it is not the best one that matters most, but it is the weakest of your images that is your most important one. because it is that image where you will be judged (at least in the professional world).

    good luck and keep shooting

    • Agree, your pro opinion but I think he was so exciting, can’t held to share his good times with these girls much much more with us rather than keep it for self, thanks

  2. Overall great photography but why you have choose Jungle? i think a guest house or a private hotel can perfect for photography.
    Well still good results.
    Thank you for sharing

  3. hello

    Photo 3 from the top is spoiled by a branch coming out from the modals head on right side

  4. but #3 from the top is spoiled by the branch coming out of her head on the upper left side of the shot – should come out in PP.

  5. Very nice – but 3# from the top is spoiled by the branch coming out of her head on the upper left side of the shot – should come out in PP.

  6. Image Quality wise some of the best images i ever saw here. Very very impressive. I thought that you used flash but you said you did not. I am really impressed by the results. Nice work.

  7. Execellent pictures, nr. 1 fantastic details and colors, and beatiful model too.

  8. The excellent portrait work has been done by the photographer only, and not by its camera and lenses! With the right talent any photographer can do good portrait Images even with low cost glasses! No sweat!

  9. Look like glamour / calendar style to me, not fashion, meaning it(s more about the girls than the clothes but whatever… The black n whites are the best. I find images like this a bit odd sometimes, I mean would you ever expect to see someone dressed like this in these locations. It’s a kind of artificial glamour fantasy.
    Not saying there’s anything wrong with that. You need to work on your composition. Some look like out takes from a video shoot rather than well composed stills.

    • Check out Burning Man or any one of a hundred other music/art festivals of the like and you will see everyone dressed in this style. These are the specific customers being targeted by this designer.

  10. No….CMOS is not necessarily better than CCD. I think it is a mistake of MF backs to go CMOS sensors. Nice photos by the way! 🙂

  11. What a nice location!

    Shot #3: Technically, there is a strong colour cast from the foliage, but it actually works very well!

    Shot #4: Nice shot, beautiful flare.

    Shot #5: Beautiful!! The best one!

    Shot#6: Nice!

    There are a few minor technical decisions which I would have made differently (e.g. light too harsh on shot #1), but it’s fundamentally a nice portfolio. I do wonder why the M system isn’t used more, especially now that the M240 has live view and an optional EVF. The M can be like a DSLR, but a DSLR cannot be like an M!

    I’m considering using RFs again after a long period of mirrorless usage (and some film here and there). There’s something very ‘right’ about the M. IMHO some photographers, who don’t shoot any sports, are needlessly burdening themselves with DSLRs. (I’m not prescribing, just suggesting).

    Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • “I do wonder why the M system isn’t used more, especially now that the M240 has live view and an optional EVF. !”

      Money reasons maybe. A M240 + 90mm is something like $11,000 retail I believe. Nikon D610 + 85mm is under $2,500.

      Both vastly different sytems and cost but offer similar IQ at 24 MP full frame.

  12. Great shots and results Logan.
    As a Leica M-E user, a couple of questions..
    1/ RAW and LR?
    2/ Auto white balance or manual?

    Best regards

  13. I too find that models respond positively to a small system like the M9. I feel like there’s less of a barrier between us and communication is more fluid. The only real downside is that, if you’re outdoors, they may not be able to hear the shutter so I find I need to give a vocal acknowledgement that their pose has been captured and they can repose. It’s a good idea to give feedback after every shot anyways.

    Not to be critical, but you might want to consider bringing an assistant with a reflector to shape the light a little if you’re going use natural light, even if it’s only to put a catchlight in your model’s eyes. It also seems you’ve fallen in the usual rangefinder trap of having your subject dead center in every shot, which makes the images a little static. Your strongest image is the first one because of the way the light hits your model’s face but the background is darker, creating separation. You also have a nice catchlight from the sun in her eye, which adds a little life but I would moved the camera slightly to the left so that her other eye isn’t obscured by beads. The angle of her arm creates a nice diagonal line that draws the viewer’s eye to your model’s face. Overall, a very strong image and nice composition.

    Personally, I haven’t had an issue with exhausting a battery or filling a card on a shoot with models (even though I always brings spares, just in case) but then again, I don’t think I would be considered a “big shooter”, I very rarely take more than 200 frames on a shoot.

  14. Nice. So all the shots here were with the 90mm correct? (at least that is what the exif info says..)

    • You are correct Antonio! I didn’t even check that but all of the ones I chose for this were with the 90mm. I guess that says something about that amazing lens…

  15. These are excellent photos. I like no 1, 3, 5 and the last one. I imagine a pro might have used some speedlights and reflectors. You chose to light the environment naturally to keep the theme of the head dress to the fore -a good decision as the pictures indicate.
    I’m not trying to critique pro model shoots as they are mostly done magnificently well but I think your approach here was less contrived and so to my eye better.
    I agree with you on the battery issue with the digital M’s but I have never worried about failing memory cards but then for major events I think it might just cross my mind.
    I think it’s important here to note that you have used you M9 for a fashion shoot. People for some reason think the camera is only for reportage? The people I know who use Leica are all into different photo styles -none are street photographers like me !
    Best Wishes

    • Thank you fergus, I think your point is right on and very fitting with the reason that I chose this system in the first place. The ease of use that comes from properly exposed, naturally lit images is incredible. No strobes, umbrellas, softboxes, batteries or other gear to drag around a shoot, just a small camera and two lenses.

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