Making memories with the Leica M. A Birth Story by Ivan Makarov

Birth Story with Leica M-9

Making memories with the Leica M. A Birth Story

by Ivan Makarov – His Website is HERE

Having gone through the birth experience with my other three children, I knew I was about to face another memorable day at the end of August.  I knew I’d remember the birth of my son, Yuri, for the rest of my life. These memories always stay vivid in my mind, but I love refreshing them by going back to my photo archive and looking through the pictures.

Being a new Leica user (I bought the Leica M (Typ 240) only weeks ago), I was facing a dilemma as our baby’s due date was fast approaching. Do I pack the trusted Nikon D800 that I can operate with ease? Or do I bring the Leica with me?

Two things scared me about the Leica – (1) the lack of auto focus, which comes in handy in those precious seconds when the baby is born and I can’t think straight, and (2) the metering system which is not as predictable as on the D800.

In the end, I decided to take the Leica. First, I love how it handles high contrast scenes, and there is plenty of contrast in the delivery and surgery rooms when bright lights are on. Second, I didn’t want to carry a bulky SLR with me, which would probably have a huge lens attached to it. Third, I didn’t want to create too much noise with the shutter clicks. The delivery was a c-section, and it’s a super quiet scene that I did not want to interrupt with my shooting. The last thing I wanted was the surgeons to become distracted by my photography while my wife’s and the baby’s lives were in their hands.

Birth Story with Leica M-1

I only own one lens for the Leica – 50mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH, and I borrowed 35 f/1.4 Summilux ASPH from my co-worker, Sam, for our hospital stay. For the actual birth, I only used the 50mm lens as I knew I wouldn’t want to be changing lenses and missing shots. I’m more of a “details” and “expressions” kind of shooter so the 50mm fits my style better right now. That was another reason to use the Leica – I knew I’d be shooting at f/1.4 and none of my Nikon lenses can match the Leica in sharpness and contrast at that aperture.

Birth Story with Leica M-2

Birth Story with Leica M-3

Birth Story with Leica M-4

When those crucial 15 minutes came (the duration of a c-section), the focusing didn’t prove to be an issue at all. I’m getting better and better at using a rangefinder, and I find it even faster than auto-focusing, because there is no dreaded focus hunting. The metering worked fine too, and the Leica M had no issues handling changing light. I was very pleased with the whole Leica experience and how it captured this big day for me and my family.

Birth Story with Leica M-5

Birth Story with Leica M-7

Birth Story with Leica M-8

Something else that was an added bonus – no one gave a second look about my use of the camera inside the room, unlike my other kids’ births while using the SLR. The shutter was quiet enough and none of the doctors or nurses noticed me firing one frame after another.

The only downside to having a Leica in the room was that right after the doctors finished “getting the baby out”, and handed him over to me to hold, one of them offered to take a few pictures with me and the baby. I didn’t know how to say no, and, of course, all of the shots were out of focus!

Birth Story with Leica M-10

Regards, Ivan S. Makarov


  1. A brave thing to do, not just taking them, but sharing them on here too. Great shots and nicely written. ‘High-five’ to you, your family and Steve for putting up your post.

  2. Ivan, congrats and beautiful family. Great pictures. The one with your baby and mommy sleeping is very peaceful.

    My first kid, I took pics with my then Nikon D4 (g8 pictures, but scared the hospital staff with the gigantic camera and huge lens — nobody offered to use the D4 to take a picture of me), but I intend to use my M240 and Noctilux 0.95 for my 2nd child, due on Christmas 2013!!! I anticipate this experience to be less intimidating on the hospital staff.

    • Great idea! Yea, once I posted some pictures from the room online, I was amazed at how many were asking me how on earth was I allowed to use the camera in the first place? When it’s that small, and your doctor is cool, and the hospital isn’t ultra conservative, it’s not a problem!

  3. Congratulations to you and your family!
    I do like the images very well.
    Personally-even though I carry a camera allmost allways- I didnt bring one into the delivery room. I would be afraid to miss a part of the feeling and experience by being “busy” with taking images.
    I am also not sure if I wanted to share this very private moment with the public over the internet. However I guess in both regards you felt different than I, otherwise you would not have posted this thread?
    Enjoy the time. (By the way I ordered my Leica per mail when I was waiting in the hospital for the start of birth of my daughter)

  4. I cherish the iPhone pics I made of the birth of our now four months old twin girls. It was a sort of emergency, 10 weeks premature, delivery, so bringing a real camera was the furthest thing from my mind.

  5. I see you have the SILVER 50mm Sumilux. Nice same as I, but recently I was thinking to replace it with the Black one, I was wondering is it worth it. I understand its far much lighter!

  6. Congratulations! I’m a father of twins since about 10 months. Only if you experience this by yourself you know, what this means.
    Personally I like the “first cry” picture at best. It’s like a still from a big production motion picture. Great work!

  7. First of all, congratulations!
    I like the first and the second pix from the last.
    These pictures will be a good history lesson textbook for your kids later on.

  8. Amazing, I brought my M9 and M3+Tri-X into the delivery room but had to put it down to put on the gown. Next thing I know my wife grabbed me and I wasn’t able to go grab the camera lol. 15 mins later my daughter was gone and wife hung onto me.

    These shots are amazing and congrats on the new member joining the family! =)

  9. Congratulations and very nice photos, too. I took an M3 with provia 400 pushed to 1600 and a 50 cron for my second son’s c-section in 2006. Quiet, no sparks and no flash. A lots changed in photography in 7 years.

  10. In general, I think the day you have your first baby is the perfect time to convince your wife you need a Leica to capture the memories. Is there every going to be a better opportunity to convince what would otherwise be a lost cause? The day the little one comes, you will always remember it as the day you had your first child . . . . . . . . and your first Leica 🙂

  11. Fantastic! As a new dad myself of a 6 month old daughter (first time dad), I’ll never forget taking that first picture. Luckily for me I only had a NEX-6 with Zeiss 24, so the few pictures I let he nurse take were all in focus.

    I’ve since had to get a camera that focuses faster as I can’t tell my daughter to sit still long enough for me to achiev focus.

  12. A wonderful set of shots.I too love the last two frames—evocative of a very special event and examples of the best use of photography.Well done.

  13. The last couple shots are really stunning and intense and I really love them.
    As for the first ones, a surgery room during my wife/fiancée c-section is definitely the last place on earth where I would bring my camera so I may be biased but I don’t like them. But I guess you do, and this is perfectly fine.
    Again, the last shots really made my day, so thanks for sharing!

    • Stefano – yea, I wasn’t as excited with taking pictures with my previous three kids, because I was just soaking it all in, and photography didn’t seem appropriate, so I only ended up with very few images. But looking back now, I wish I was more into it because now these are memories that are slowly disappearing, or blurring one into another as years go by. We thought this might be our last child, and I wanted to capture as much of that miraculous day as I could, and our doctor did not mind at all, but in fact, she welcomed it and couldn’t wait to see the pictures. Likewise my wife – she made me process the images and show them to her on the day of the birth! Crazy. So now I’m doing the same for the rest of the first year, as I keep taking pictures.

    • Hi Steven. Thanks for asking. First, the camera itself is giving me a lot of contrast – Leica RAW files come out much more contrasty than my Nikon files. Second, I used VSCOfilm pack 4, preset “Agfa Scala 200++”, which is this great B&W preset VSCO produced. I have used Silver Efex Pro 2 for a while to convert to B&W, but I finally found a preset that gives me just as good of results, if not better, but much faster and without leaving Lightroom.

    • Thank you, Rich. It’s interesting that everyone here is picking up on the second to last image, but I think the very last one is my favorite – probably because of capturing those siblings being in awe of the new little dude. It’s also probably because I have a similar shot with my daughter, who was born few years earlier.

  14. Just wonderful, Ivan. Congratulations to you and your family, and to the wonderful memories they’ll have viewing these shots.

  15. The second to last photo is arguably a standout among a group of great images. You can see it in your son’s eyes, that immediate bonding between mother and baby. Congratulations!

  16. Congrat first of all. I like the last two shots. So memorable with the baby’s eye open and sleep under the comfort of her mom. For the baby when he grow up, he can say “I was born with a Leica in my face” instead of “I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth”. Equally luxurious.

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