Using The Leica M9 For Senior Portrait Photography by Chris Routt

Using the Leica M9 For Senior Portrait Photography

By Chris Routt

High School Senior Photography is important in the Midwest. Pictures are shot before or during their senior year of high school. I have been shooting professionally for 11 years. I started with Hasselblad 500s in the late 90s with film backs and eventually transitioned to shooting Phase One Digital Backs on the Hasselblads in the early 00s. The challenge with the early Phase One Backs is that they had to be tethered to a computer. Over the years obviously technology with cameras has come a long way. My primary camera has been the Nikon D3 for the past few years. The D3 is a camera that produces excellent files.

Aside from being a professional photographer, I am a high school history teacher. With the price of Leicas you need two careers. I have always been enamored with German history and technology. I started researching Leica cameras a few years ago. I discovered some artists who had shot with Leica during their career: Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, and even Annie Leibovitz. Their images seemed to have a different feel and quality to them. While my style does not consciously lend itself to any of my images, they have been influential.

I enjoyed shooting with the Zeiss glass from my Hasselblad days. The lenses I had were made in West Germany. I missed the feel and build quality of the Zeiss lenses. As strange as is may seem I missed manual focus lenses. I was anxious to see if manual focus would work for me in the camera room as it did in the late 90s. I decided to invest into the Leica M system. My first purchase was a Leica M6 that I actually bought from Steve Huff. Ironically my first lens was the Zeiss 50mm F2. I am currently testing the new Kodak Portra 400 film with the M6. The grain is amazing on this film. It looks like 160 speed film grains.

After looking at the M8s that were available on the market I was reluctant to purchase due its lack of a full-frame sensor. Once the Leica M9s became more available in 2010 I decided to give it a shot. The build quality is top notch. Two of the main issues I have had with the camera are the lack of a grip (which can be remedied with accessories) and the terrible LCD. Aside from the horrendous colors mine seems to scratch easily.

Coming from the D3, shooting with the Leica is a transition, especially when it comes to speed. During a typical senior session, approximately 2 hours, I shoot roughly 300 images. With the Leica M9, I shoot less than 100 images in 2 hours. I find myself slowing down and thinking more about what I am doing. As most readers here will attest there is something different and unique about shooting with rangefinder cameras. It creates a unique experience for both the photographer and client. In future versions of the M I would love to see some sort of focus confirmation (not sure if this is possible) and obviously an LCD that warrants the price of the camera. Another benefit with the M9 is the weight factor between it and the D3 and its big lenses. I can tell a difference, physically, after shooting all day with the D3 as compared to the M9. The size and weight of the M9 is a benefit.

When looking at lenses for the M9 I looked at two of Leica’s better lenses, the 90mm Summicron F2 and the 50mm Summilux 1.4. After reading multiple reviews these lenses seemed to deliver what I would need. The 50mm would provide the natural eye’s view while the 90mm would be the portrait lens I would need. I will spare you the technical data on both lenses. There is plenty of information available. Both these lenses are awesome. From a portrait perspective I prefer the 90mm, however I prefer shooting with the 50mm. The glass is sharp, produces great bokeh, and is a great combination with the M9 files.

I shoot in raw and process the files in Capture One. I have noticed a movement toward Lightroom. I have never been a fan of Adobe’s raw engines, in either Lightroom or Photoshop. I think Capture One provides the best color on the market, especially with Nikon files. Even when I shoot the D3 I primarily shoot in manual mode setting the shutter and aperture manually. I even use a Minolta light meter. Capture One gives you two stop of exposure either way but I would encourage you to nail the exposure in the camera. To take advantage of Capture One you need to shoot a grey card. This is essential. One of the challenges I have seen with the M9 is having to adjust the color in Capture One. This seems to be of debate amongst different photographers. I sometimes have to lessen the yellows and oranges and boost the blues in Capture One.

I am still getting used to the Leica system. I am hooked! I love the glass, the build quality, and the detailed files that come out of the M9. At you can check out my senior work.

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  1. I just came across this post 3 years after it was published….Very interesting article. In my industry, it is crucial to identify the customer requirements and then deliver on them…I get the feeling that Chris knows his customers’ requirements and from the results, it looks like he nailed them perfectly. That is the nature of such work as a commercial photographer.

    I too wished I’d had some glossy magazine pictures of me when I was a teenager in the UK…

    Great work. Makes me want to think about something with a red dot on it.

  2. I think some good lighting would have added a lot to these photos, without making them look airbrushed/painted/pasticy, ect.

    Here’s a senior portrait I took of a friend of mine last year. He was kind enough to pose while I played with some off camera flash. It isn’t much. I bounced light to his left and right, with the left a stop or so higher then the right. I know this is a plain image, and could be touched up, and lighted better,

    but I feel it makes the skin much more pleasing, while avoiding the overdone look.

    Also, a multi light set up looks so much more legit to the ignorant.

    I think half the reason Americans expect the overdone photos we’re seeing is because it’s “what pros do,” right? If you’re just shooting with one body in the woods, the image better look like a million bucks (or hours in photoshop) to them. Bring a few lights, and maybe you could better justify the better (maybe to them boring) image.

    Just my two cents.

  3. What’s the point in using Leica or Hasselblad to satisfy these customers?
    I believe there is none. What would be more important for me is how I would feel as a photographer!

    Chris, am I right in assuming that the use of the Leica satisfies you more than other equipment you used before for this senior shooting. That also because you (have to) take more time, it inspires you more and you do your 2nd job more as an artist.

    What in the end is sold to the customer should satisfy him/her and that’s what Chris does in a very professional way to my opinion.

    Nevertheless for the sake of reviews like this, it would be good to have from the start the raw output of this magnificient photosystem besides the end customer result. That makes the circle round IMO

  4. I was a bit struck by some of the criticism of the shots. I think it’s important to remember that Chris is in a service industry. As an audio mastering engineer, I can tell you there can be a wide gulf between what you would like to deliver in an art form and what the client is asking for. On those jobs, being able to use the best tools is sometimes the best consolation. At the end of the day, he’s delivering a product that people like – and pay for.

    I appreciate the purist point of view and I, too, love what my Leica brings to my photographic toolbox. I also appreciate a man who makes a good living doing what he loves and making people happy through photography – a passion we can all appreciate.

    So IMHO, show Chris some love, offer something constructive, or just quietly go out and shoot what you like.

    Keep up the good work Chris. There’s a lot I like about what you’ve done here.

    all the best,

    – b

  5. How is it ironic that your first M-mount lens was the Zeiss 50mm f/2? If anything, it’s appropriate, not ironic. You guys really need a copy editor on this site.

  6. By the way, Retow when you say these kind of images are WRONG genre of photography to illustrate the unique IQ etc…
    I don’t think the photos were in fact taken to illustrate IQ.
    Is this why we are buying and using Leicas?
    I hope not!

  7. I like these pictures. I teach high school kids and sometimes host visiting students from the U.S.A.
    ( California ) when I take photos of them for our school yearbook, I always think they must have somehow been to a make-up artist before breakfast! They do have the glossy made-up look that you see in magazines all by themselves! No post processing neccessary!
    I think these are good shots for the intended purpose. I’m a bit surprised that so many people viewing them reacted as they did. Not natural? I think the pose with the girl in blue is natural enough.
    As far as the ‘look’ of the images goes..portrait photographers the world over have used soft focus filters, deliberate over exposure, tele lenses, fill in flash to ‘flatter’ their subjects.Tricks of the trade used to produce an image the photographer and hopefully the subject likes. The phots of ourselves that we like are often the ones that we think make us look better even if they are not ‘natural’
    These shots work nicely enough I think. If you don’t like the ‘look’ of them, it’s just personal taste.

    A Leica and…

    Grainy black and white shots, ultra stylised fashion images, naturalistic skin tones…whatever you as a photographer like.
    It’s all good.

  8. The backgrounds are very distracting,the expressions and processing are false to the extreme but youve used youre skill and knowledge of the market to get yourself a beautiful M9 to use as you want,well done!…

  9. It’s great that you shoot with both cameras, each has its plusses

    and let’s not forget the client is actually paying for their photograph, and they are not that interested in discussions about photography… keep them happy and keep yourself happy by getting some more glass….

    everybody wins .

  10. I’m a little disappointed by the comments in this thread, it seems if you shoot what the market demands you get slated, whereas if you do pseudo-arty shots of nothing in particular, then it’s great.

    The fact of the matter that these shots are very professional, and what the customer expects. The teenagers in these shots will compare themselves to magazine models, which will have been retouched, and blame the photographer if they don’t get that standard of photo.

    It’s clearly a cultural difference between the US and the rest of world, here in the UK, these sort of photos of ‘seniors’ would be very odd indeed, although some schools are starting to have ‘proms’ so maybe it’s matter of time.

  11. This type of senior portraits as they are in demand in the US is the wrong genre of photography to illustrate the unique IQ possible with M9 and some of the best Leica glass. It would be interesting to see the files without the heavy handed PP, especially also because exposure seems to be spot on and composition and lighting executed excellently. In conclusion, I see that you enjoy using the M9, but am not thriled about look of the final image, the market seems to expect.

  12. Hey Chris!
    Really great post! It´s fantastic to see professional work done with an M9.
    I´ve been a long time reader of the site but this is the first time I´m leaving a reply, and it´s all because of you. I´ve been working as an assistant to a few major photographers (very succesful advertising/fashion photogs) for the past five years. Learning and mastering the craft. Slowly developing my on style and approach. What drew me to this site was wanting to find out more about rangefinder photography. The idea to get back to the simple camera that I shot before digital like the Canon F1 is on my mind all the time. I cant stand the useless junk that every camera has like in-camera processing, art-filters, HD video, you name it. Cause I dont even now, I never use the stuff. You cant work professionally with film anymore so these days I shoot Canon dslr and medium digi and I would love to change them to a smaller system that I could take with me. Like I used to do. But taking the price into consideration it´s a really big jump. I really couldnt care less about street photography (sorry guys) It´s great to look at but you cant get me to shoot it. That´s why it´s great to see somebody posting commercial shots. I´d love see a post about using studio flashes with the M9 and how it really works as a replacement for a dslr in the day to day life of a professional. This would really help me to take into consideration the different aspects that I might not even yet realize before making the change.
    I meet and have met a lot of pro photogs that shoot in the same style as you and I´m in ave of you´re use of natural light. It´s astounding. Very few pros get those results without flashes and believe me I know. It´s truly a shame that with such a great post comes a growing list of horrid comments. I thought that this was a place were people supported one another, but it seems I was mistaken. People should shoot more and talk less. From the looks of it there really doesn´t seem to be many pros commenting on this thread. I personally would think twice before critisizing someones style and knowledge especially when they´re a ten year veteran of the biz. Keep doing what you´re doing cause it´s fantastic and I really would like to read more posts from you in the future!

    On a final note.
    I have been hoping to show people around me who dont know anything about Leicas, side by side photos of the M9 and a dslr (preferably canon:) ) from all angles. So they could really get what I mean when talking about size. So anybody wanna do a post like that??? It would be appreciated!

    Personally, (and this is for you Chris) I´d like to see the difference in size of the M6 and M9. Cause I´ve heard about it before on few occasions but have never had the opportunity to get my hands on an M6. So I´d really like to see the difference in a few photos and see what all the commotion is about. Think about it.


    • Thanks for the kind words. I have not used the M9 with flash. I am mainly a natural light shooter. This is the type of light I prefer. Northern light (with windows) is a soft light. I think this is one of the things people are concerned about the soft skin tones. Soft light does that to skin.

      I have done some shots with the M6. I will see if Steve will let me eventually post them and you can compare them to the M9. I’ve not measured the M6 but is seems smaller than the M9. I enjoy shooting with both of them. I don’t thing it is a big deal to go back and forth between them.

      Congrats on your upcoming adventures with Leica. Hope you do well.

      • That’s right, Michiel. I think the most important argument to be made is about whether any of these portraits of today will mean anything or will be admired 75 years from now. I bet that most of these girls would be happy to just get a CD of their images so they can post them on Facebook and the likes, just to be lost in nowhere land years from now. Sad really. The importance of a true, real silver gelatin print is not be underestimated, for posterity’s sake. One day, after people have spent thousands of $ on digital gear, countless hours processing and arguing about all sorts of issues, they may well realize that they got nothing to show for it. What are we going to give our children or grandchildren? A CD to be played in a computer that can’t read them, in a file format that no longer exists? Can anyone read files from a floppy disk these days, effortlessly? Just food for thought, as always.

        • Max:
          You are correct. The “CD” model of business is a real concern in our industry. Most new shooters will offer a session and CD of images for a low price. Our studio sells wall prints and frames, mats, and glass with our pics. It will be interesting to see if the “Facebook” generation ever is drawn to prints…

  13. Wow…I thought we could talk more about the Leica M9 as a studio/professional camera. Obviously there are some disagreements over the amount of Photoshop, etc. It seems everyone can’t get past the “plastic” look of the images to discuss the other elements of the Leica M9 in a professional setting. The point of the article was that I really enjoy shooting with the Leica. It makes me operate differently from the D3. I love the lenses…quality stuff.

    “poor knowledge of photographic art and craft. Money wasted on a Leica.” Ouch! Part of me wants to defend myself against this, but I will let it pass.


    • Let it pass, Chris. There are many fields of photography and this one was new to me. I didn’t know that seniors get photographed like this. Must be fun. I am not a big fan of that style but it is great to know that you had fun using the camera. Recently I grabbed my Leica camera for some portrait shots. No SLR was available so I used my rangefinder with a 50 Lux ( A lens that I didn’t like when I first got it but now it is my favorite). The results were great. Crisp were I wanted it to be crisp, fantastic details, fine tones.

  14. They look like retouched 40’ers. Can’t beleve they are less than 20’s. But I see there’s probably a market for this kind of pictures.

  15. I think one sets out one’s own style. If you keep producing over smoothed portraits like this then you will attract clients that want this look (to a certain degree ). I however feel if you applied less softening you will attract clients and get better responses from more critical viewers.
    You set your own style, not the client, by posting the best quality work you can muster in your portfolio.
    I think your colours and posings are great, but unfortunately the faces have that “Portrait Professional” look.
    I realise and understand you like using the M9, but what about an opinion on how a D3 would of performed for you in the same situations. I know the auto white balance would get you a lot closer to what a grey carded final image colour balance will give, thus saving PP time.
    Best regards.

    • Kevin:
      Thanks for the comments. To me, the D3 requires less work in Capture One. Capture One has some great profiles for the D3, especially their new Version 2 Profiles.

      You are right in that you can control the style you sell. If you look at my website,, that is my style. That is the look I have developed over the 11 years I have been doing this. The style has changed over time and will hopefully continue to grow. I still have a lot to learn.


  16. These “portraits” are so wrong and so misguided in so many ways. The key to a good/great portrait is the subject does NOT look retouched – even though they are. It is simply naive to think that “natural” portraits – particularly of female subjects – are somehow not touched up at all. Life, Look, Vanity Fair, and many other 20th century magazines have countless portraits of women that look natural; portraits which have been touched up to be flattering. These “senior portraits” are symptomatic of waaayyyy tooooo much reliance on 21st century Photoshop/effects – and – poor knowledge of photographic art and craft. Money wasted on a Leica.

    **Soft Focus – not out of focus; the lens is more natural than the computer for this.
    **Blur – not blurry; the lens is more natural than the computer for this.
    **DOF brings out the subject – not blends them in; the lens is more natural than the computer for this.
    **Flattering light (natural or natural looking) with highlights and shadows – not flat synthetic light.
    **Touch up – not restyle/reinvent the subject; less is more when is comes to retouching.
    **Skin tones – plastic is not a skin tone

    Go here if you want to create this look for yourselves. Photographic skill and knowledge not required.

    Go hear for a fast P&S with DOF. Professional camera not required.


  17. Yeah , I don’t mean literal airbrushing … just the airbrushed look. Taking zits and blemishes off a face is a good idea. I’m all for that.
    I would think older people would be the ones that want more airbrushing to hide spots and wrinkles.
    Most people my age( I’m 41) cringe when they see or hear about “glamor shots” .. they were big in the 80s and known for making people look better than they really are. Kinda cheezy to see them today.

  18. You all have got me thinking…is there a market for “natural” looking portraits? Do clients want images straight out of camera? In my 11 years I have not had a client ask for un-edited images. This could be a location and demographic issue as well.

    A number of you keep referring to airbrushing…That was more commonly used in the 80s and early 90s. There is no airbrushing done to these images.

    I’ll try to work on getting some out of camera files for comparison tonight for people to look at.

    Again, thanks for looking at the article.

    • I’m not sure Chris; but then I’m not a professional photographer, I don’t have clients in that respect. The portraits that I make (some waiting in the queue here) are quite crude. I understand and respect your reasoning; just thought the effects are a bit overdone.

      Looking forward to your new submissions!



    • This could be a location and demographic issue indeed.

      The “senior high school” thing does not exist here (Belgium), and those posed portraits have always puzzled me: it looks like the purpose is to look as different as possible from a typical 18y old boy/girl. I can understand the rationale since graduation is an important step in life, but it still looks very artificial to me.

      I prefer natural than posed portraits (even for weddings) but I don’t know whether that’s a personal preference or a real cultural divide between Old Europe and the US 😉

      • Every now and then I will get an exchange student from Europe and they are baffled at senior portraits…like you said there is no market for them in Europe. In the U.S. there are three predominant times you get portraits…birth, high school graduation, and a wedding.

        I do shoot some Urban looks for seniors as well. I didn’t show those because they were shot with my Nikon D3. They are not as posed, use more natural environments, and reflect a more photo-journalistic style.


        • Chris- you make it sound like there are only two options – the way your heavily retouched pictures look, or straight out of camera. I don’t think anybody is saying you should give your clients pictures straight out of camera. It’s just that these look wayyyy overcooked.

          I do retouching myself, the hard way (lots of layers, masks, gaussian blur, healing brush, the whole deal as I am sure you’re very familiar with) and I think there is such a thing as the middle road: not straight out of camera, but lightly retouched, natural looking, without blemishes, color corrected, skin slightly smoothed etc.

  19. tricky one this. Firstly, let me say that these are not the kind of photos I like. That said, I am not a professional portrait photographer. I do know though that if you take a portrait of someone for them to put on their wall, show their friends and family etc…just like these ‘senior portraits’, they want to look good and no matter what we might think, if they don’t like how they look in the photo (irrespective of technical excellence) then (in their eyes) its a bad photograph. In fact, even from the photographer’s perspective, its a bad photograph because it has disappointed the client.

    Come to think of it, a photograph must appeal to the intended audience for it to be good. In street photography, it must appeal to (and this is not easy to answer!) the audience that views it (critics, other ‘street photographers’ etc).

    Sadly, today, what ‘looks good’, what is beautiful, is determined by the fashion magazines and celebrities, especially among the young teenagers. They think if they don’t look like the people in the magazines, then they are not beautiful. So, when they see a picture of themselves, they immediately compare it to the magazines. So, I understand where Chris is coming from. This is what his clients want, clearly. If they didn’t want it, he would change it.

    To conclude then, great shots Chris in the sense that your audience appreciates them and you are hitting the target. I bet Chris shoots some gritty street too in his own time which is appreciated by a different audience.

  20. Interesting discussion. Not a lot of love for the old (new) airbrush around here….. Whatever your taste in skin texture, your pictures imho are very well crafted, with the lighting drawing attention to the face/subject and compositions are excellent. You say you’re not using flash, are you using reflectors/diffusers ? (I’d hazard a guess you are). Particularly like the first one – lovely portrait.

    How do you find critical focussing on the 90/2 compared to the 50? I find it can be a bit tricky at times.

    • Nick:
      Thanks for the compliments.

      I actually find the 50mm Summilux easier to focus. I get less out of focus than with the 90mm. I mainly shoot natural light in the studio, with northern window light. There is never any direct sunlight in the room…only reflected light. It is a beautiful soft light. I do use reflectors to add some punch (catchlights) in the eyes.

      Photography is about capturing light…doens’t matter how good the camera is…you need good light for good portraits.


  21. How very american. I don’t like posed and over-edited stuff like this at all, though. Sorry. Also, seniors made me think about actual seniors, you know, old people 🙂

    • I am not American, but this article was written from the point of view of a photographer in the US. It should therefore be no surprise that its perspective is American and that indeed some confusing assumptions relating to terminology were made. I am hoping that we are all able to avoid being reflexively offended by the nationality of others. That being said, I also do not tend to like an overly soft look in my photographs (though I am for the most part a blundering amateur so what do I know?) but if that is what clients want and are happy to pay for, then that is the critical factor I think. Thanks Chris for responding to the comments posted.

      Does anyone from other parts of the world have any comments on what look people want in their coming-of-age photos where they live? For my own part, I was married to an Midwestern American for many years and from that experience and my time living there I observed that rituals relating to high school graduation, engagement, marriage, and family are given a very special place, more consistently and strongly so than I have observed in Canada.

      • “…if that is what clients want and are happy to pay for…” Sure, if you’re a professional. I’m not though, and for me photography isn’t about getting paid. In fact I never get paid, as I’m an amateur which frees me of any obligation to do what other people like to see. With “how very american”, I simply meant that this is my twisted image of american culture (just one side of it though) namely plastic fantastic, or a appreciation of what can not be seen other than fakeness. Stuff we often see on tv on the less artistically inclined channels like MTV (how ironic). All of this IMHO, of course 🙂

  22. Broadly stating that certain age groups that you are no longer in want certain things is a good way to get proven wrong, im not only in that age group, but Im also a photography student, so i take A LOT of pictures of people in that category, and the 50 other students in my program do as well.

    Never, have I had someone , or seen someone ask to be “airbrushed”. They might ask to remove some blemishes or “make me look good” but where to go from there is the photographers job, and not the clients.

    Note, im NOT commenting on these images,the photographer, or the camera, simply on the impression that people my age want airbrushed faces is absurd. If thats his style, which it looks like it is then fine but dont assume silleh things because one photographer does it, thats like saying most brides want cheesy ass dime a dozen shots (i work in a print shop, see a ton of these). They dont, they want creativity, but most photographers shoot from a checklist and dont care or simply arent able to produce better.

  23. Thanks for all the comments and suggestions. I’m not sure how many of you all are portrait photographers, street shooters, landscape artists, etc. From my little experience there is a difference in the product you are selling. Even before digital I used Hassy Softar filters to soften the skin tones. As most of you are aware most teenagers don’t have perfect skin tones (Acne!). The filters used to soften the negative and then we had the negative retouched by a professional retoucher.

    Interesting enough this is the look my clients expect out of us.

    I require my high school senior girl clients to wear makeup for their portrait sessions. One of the things I have learned from the commercial side of portraits is that good makeup a critical key to getting good skin tones. A good makeup artists can allow you to use less softening in the files. As far as the “soft plastic look,” I can see where some of you are coming from; It may be a matter of preference as to what your client is looking for. Small web files are not good to show detail in skin. Most of our clients purchase a 16X20, 20X30 or larger for their walls. If you keep your Highlights around 240 or less most pro labs can print with detail in the skin. I typically prefer the soft look for skin tones.

    There is actually no Gaussian blur (photoshops blur) used in the skin tones. I use Imagenomic’s Portraiture Plug-In for Photoshop. It does a good job of softening the skin tones while trying to maintain detail in hair, fabrics, etc.

    Again, I appreciate all the comments and suggestions.

    • Hi Chris, I posted my initial opion of your photos earlier but in all fairness your probably right, teens along with many people want to see themselves as perfect.

      I’ve seen a few portrait albums that people have paid to have done for no other reason than vanity and seldom do the photos even look like the person but still their more than happy with the results and even happier to show them to other people

  24. While I agree with some of the comments about the amount of post production or the “Look” of the images, the only opinion that matters is the one writing the check to pay for the images. If the source of the $$ is happy, then all is good.

    • Hey Paul, that’s kinda true but then what’s the point having a nice Leica if you’re going to airbrush to this degree? What you’re talking about is another subject.

      • For me the point of having a Leica is to make the sharpest images I possibly can. Actually I can go even farther than that, because at times a Leica can’t go as far as I want, which is why I also use large format. I guess you might say I am a sharpness freak. I do.

        Though there have been times when I have been taking portraits where I and my subject want a soft focus look. In order to achieve that soft look I have used a nylon stocking under the enlarging lens, over my taking lens, and I have even used hairspray on a filter to soften the image that would form on the film. I have even seriously considered buying specialty lenses that would only provide a soft image.

        So, why use a Leica M9 to print heavily processed, or “soft”, portraits? Why not? It is just as good a tool for it as anything else, and better than most other tools for other tasks.

    • I just think Leica shooters by nature tend to come from a purist approach to photography. In general any level of post processing typically isn’t going to be well received 😉

      I see this type of image processing from virtually all Seniors and Wedding shooters shooting DSLR’s.

      I don’t personally believe one method is better than the other but do agree with Pauls comment, as long as the client is happy and cutting a check in the end that is all that really matters 😉

      • Like I said.. that’s kinda true.. No need for an expensive Leica to make these shots though. Any Entry level DSLR would do just fine with airbrushing.

        • Brian:
          I agree with you…Jimmy Page can make a cheap guitar sound good. 🙂
          There are some differences in a full frame sensor, etc. However, there is some joy in shooting with a Leica.

  25. “Senior” photography obviously means different things in different parts of the world. When I saw the subject line I first though it would be pictures of elderly people.

  26. Great Shots! I love to see someone using their M9 to shoot something other than street photography.
    Granted they are a little heavy handed on the processing but find me a Seniors or Wedding Photographer that isn’t these days.

    Good Stuff.


  27. too much pp for me as well – the pictures would be much better if they were more natural, sorry for being negative, but this time i have a really strong opinion about this, i simply do not like these photos

  28. I understand the above comments, each to their own but what I found interesting is that both you and Ken Roxkwell you use the same word to describe the M9’s colour ‘hideous’. I’ve been considering one as a move away from ‘computers with lenses’ with my D200. I guess I shall have to look more closely before making such an investment. Great site Steve, it’s causing me serious sleep deprevation!

  29. I thought I was going to be the first one to comment on the faces, but looks like I’m not alone 🙂

    They just look way too artificial, too airbrushed. Re-touching is fine, remove some blemishes etc but don’t make them look like wax figures… this is not the “airbrushed magazine look”, even magazines don’t overdo it like this.

    Take the second picture from the top, geez that looks almost scary plastic-y…

    These could be great portraits but go easier on the post processing…

  30. I agree. Potentially really beautiful shots that are compromised with far too much post production, imho. It robs the subjects of their natural beauty.

    Consequently, the second portrait looks a little bit creepy. Love to see the RAW originals

  31. You guys commenting that these students looked airbrushed are silly… Everyone wants to be a Rockstar, a model, a famous actor, and most of all people want to look beautiful! Granted you are entitled to your opinion on what looks beautiful, but it appears public opinion would argue the airbrushed look is where it is at currently.

    I bet these kids show up all done up with changes of clothes and makeup and hair already done…. Can you remove makeup in post processing??? Its not the photographer making these kids look airbrushed…

    Great work; I bet your clients are happy, and that is all that matters.

    • In the real world, I prefer less PP and a more natural look. But most teenagers want their skins to look flawless. I know I did when I was in high school.

    • Nick, I would also say that teenagers have loads of blemishes and I’m sure they don’t want them in the pictures. I wish someone airbrushed my god-awful mug when I was a zitty teenager. I would have loved that glamour look instead of what I got in 1979! So, the teenagers probably love these pictures. They want to look good, or better than reality. I would prefer less PP, but this is the sellable “look” to files these days. So, they are quite successful. Why not look air brushed? Just not too airbrushed. Look at Oprah’s pictures on her magazine cover? No one would buy that magazine if they didn’t airbrush her to death, and she says that! LOL! I agree with Armanius that a little less air brushing would be nice, but I doubt those kids would agree. Ha!

  32. Beautiful shots,Chris, but their faces look way too airbrushed. I would go for a more natural look, not the glossy magazine look.

    • I couldn’t agree more! I was thinking they all look to be wearing a mask.. it sticks out, looks very unnatural. Perhaps printing is a different story but these are not particularly good shots imo.. and they probably were until they were way overdone.

      Retouching is fine.. but at this level it looks like they aren’t even human.. additionally the overdone retouching makes the faces stand out and look almost like they were added to the body – and not well.

      I’m sorry.. i’m sure these could be much better.. and I am no traditionalist.. but way too much post on the faces.

  33. The images look very professional and I suppose that you nailed the shots and look of the images to the very satisfaction of the clients. For myself I find that their vision is sadly deteriorated by awful magazines and I can very well see that these shot would be much better with less pp.

    • I used the M9 with pocket wizards for a one off wedding for a friend. Basically, the M9 can read only two channels if memory serves me correctly. I used the Mini TT1 on the hot shoe. You have to go into the settings and dumb down the triggers. About midway through the wedding it would not fire the OCF during the formals. Switched to Nikon body and all was well. Leica and off camera flash don’t play all that well together. They work, but found them less than reliable and somewhat limited. I own only Leica film bodies and glass at this time, but if I were working pro then a Nikon/Canon flash capable system would be the only choice. Over 100 weddings as a second shooter over the years Canon/Nikon/PW’s have never let me down. Hope this helps…

  34. Call me stupid, but I have never liked the over-soften portraits like these. This heavy post-processing makes the real people look like plastic puppets. 🙁 So lifeless…

    • I agree; However, the over-edited skin look is LOVED by public… Don’t ask me why, just seems to be the way it is! Cheers, Rob

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