Yes I Do: The Leica M240 as a wedding photographer’s tool by Joeri van der Kloet

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Yes I Do: The Leica M240 as a wedding photographer’s tool

By Joeri van der Kloet

I have shot a lot of weddings with my M9 and M9P. Actually, buying the M9 after using Canon DSLR’s for almost ten years was a pretty good move. Before that, I only took my DSLR if I could make money with it. Not just because my kit was big and heavy, but also because I lost the fun in it. I remember visiting the Leica Gallery in New York – a year before I bought the M9 – and holding a M8 and looking through the viewfinder. My wife told me that I should try to switch to the rangefinder system, because the small camera would suit my documentary approach perfectly. I told her I couldn’t imagine myself shooting a wedding without autofocus…but I kept thinking about it.

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So now, four years later, I’m one of the few photographers shooting weddings with a rangefinder and I couldn’t be happier. The last four years have been a challenge, because I needed to learn photography again. There have been moments where I wanted to toss my M9 out of the window, but there also have been moments of pure photographical joy. I never spent so much time learning to use a camera before, but I needed to make it work. A wedding is a strange event: it is packed with beautiful moments, but most of these moments last just for a second, or even less. And I need to capture them, without zooms and without autofocus. My approach in wedding photography makes it even harder, because I shoot in a very pure, documentary style – that style justifies the use of a small camera of course – . I never stage any settings, never ask my clients to pose, so I’m completely dependent on real moments to happen. Sometimes, my clients and I visit a place to take some shots, but even then, I just let them do whatever they feel like doing. Usually, they take a walk and I follow them, trying to get the best position for a shot. I don’t ask them to kiss, or hold hands, or go to the good light, I just wait and see what happens. So if there is a quick kiss, or a sensitive moment, I need to get it. On many occasions I get the best shots when the couple walks from the church to their car. They are even less aware of the camera and they are overwhelmed by emotions, which makes it a perfect opportunity for photography.

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A few weeks ago, the bride entered the wedding venue through the back door and on her way she crossed a square with a beautiful rectangular sculpture on it. The light was perfect and I took the shot. I know my clients want these real moments in stead of the staged and posed settings that are more common. It means I really need to be able to focus very fast, also with moving subjects. And after four years, I can say that I’m starting to feel confident about it, although I haven’t even come close to mastering it. Every single wedding is very, very hard work and I’m usually exhausted after a full day of shooting. The biggest difference with a ‘non-documentary’ shooter is that I am never sure what to expect, whereas the more traditional shooter creates his own settings and takes the shots he thinks he need to take.

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Being a documentary photographer means I don’t use flash. Ever. I don’t want my clients and the guests to notice me when I’m working. I’ve covered receptions with my M9’s where the couple was dancing and I was shooting at ISO 2500, at 1.2 at 1/15th of a second. It was so dark that it was hardly possible to see something through the viewfinder. Sometimes I would focus just by muscle memory – that’s why I actually train focussing with my camera every day! – and it always worked out. Not for every image of course, but I always got the shot that I wanted. Still, I was pretty excited when the M240 was announced and reviewers reported about the high ISO capabilities of the new M. I got myself on the list and after some waiting, I was able to get one.

I didn’t need much time of practice with the new M, because it felt just like the M9. A little heavier, beefier, but much more responsive. The shutter appeared to be more silent, maybe not just in the amount of sound, but much more in the type of sound. The M240 doesn’t have the whine the M9 shutter has and the sound is shorter. Also, the feel on the shutter button is much better. With my M9, I used a soft release, but with the M240, it isn’t necessary at all. The only thing I took from my M9 is the thumbs up, because the built in one, just isn’t big enough. With my M9, I never was a machine gun shooter and neither am I with the new M, but it is very nice to have a bigger buffer when you need it. I never use the continuous mode, but sometimes I do take two or three shots in a rapid succession.

Another thing I absolutely love is the new battery. I can shoot on just one for almost a whole day, whereas with the M9, I had to change batteries twice. And I really needed to plan these moments, because you don’t want to change batteries in the middle of the ceremony. With the new M, I don’t need to worry about that.

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I heard a lot of complaints about the M9 screen, but I only used it for checking the histogram every now and then. I don’t need to check focus on my screen. First, because I usually get one chance for each moment and second, I know when I’m out of focus. The new viewfinder is even better than the old one. I don’t know what they changed, but it is somehow easier to focus.

Of course, I laughed about the live view Leica implemented. Who would need that? Well, I’ve learned and now I know there are circumstances where live view is pretty convenient. During dancing I still prefer my rangefinder, because it just works better with all the movement. However, if it is very, very dark and people are standing still, I sometimes use the VF-2, the Olympus one – I’m not a fanboy…- and I find it to work nicely. Yes, there is more shutterlag and it takes ages before the blackout is gone, but I can focus very precisely and with my 50/1.1, it is the only thing that really works. My 35/1.2 is easier to focus, because of the longer focus throw and there is just a tad more tolerance, because of the shorter focal length and the quarter stop slower aperture. When I bought the M240 I thought that I wouldn’t use the 35/1.2 any more, but I have come to like it even more than I already used to. With the new M, the 35/1.2 delivers creamy, lovely bokeh and very nice transitions and very acceptable sharpness. Also, with the new M and the 35/1.2, I can handle the worst light you can imagine. Sometimes I tell my wife that my clients must have known that I gained two extra stops, because they reduced the light with two stops, but usually, I can use faster shutter speeds than I used to. And with people dancing, that can be very convenient. Another good thing is the improved dynamic range. Now that I also switched to Lightroom 5, the difference is really big. Sometimes, the DR is even so big, the image gets a kind of HDR look, which I don’t like. Of course, it’s quite simple to lose some detail in highlights or shadows. It all comes down to taste. At least, with this combination (M240 and LR5) you have a choice.

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Yes, there is a difference between the M9 and M240 files. But you need to process them in a different way. I still love the way the M9 CCD renders and with low ISO, it is almost unbeatable. However, I don’t work for my portfolio, or for pixel peepers. I work for couples that don’t care about CCD’s and CMOS sensors. They do care for a photographer that works with a small camera and doesn’t use flash. With the M240, I can be a little more certain that I can get the shots, no matter the circumstances. And because I pay my mortgage with the money I get from my clients, that seems like a wise decision.

Getting two M240’s was not an option, simply because I’ll need to wait for at least a few months again. My M9, or M9P, features as a backup camera, but one of the new Sony’s might also be interesting, since their high ISO capacities are even better than the M240.

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I wouldn’t have bought the M240 if it wasn’t the tool I need to make a living. I was perfectly happy with the M9 as a camera for travel and general photography. And also for wedding photography. However I knew that I was using it on the limit and that a somewhat more forgiving camera could be a smart investment. On my journey around the world I used the M9’s 160 ISO setting for 99% of the many thousand pictures I took. And I love them. Seriously, if you don’t need the high ISO, you might want to check out the M9, because it might be all you need. Lots has changed in photography and – as I write this – Sony just launched the A7 and A7R for much less than the price of a used M9. If you’re just after technical image quality, this might be your camera. To me, the simple layout of a rangefinder, with everything manual, makes me happy as a photographer. I have owned the M8 for some time, as a backup for my first M9 and even though that camera is ‘technically challenged’, I just loved it, because it isn’t cluttered with buttons and stuff I don’t need or want. Some people say there is no future for rangefinder photography and that the rangefinder mechanism is not suited for fast, demanding photographic assignments. Well, I do shoot dancing people in near dark situations and I need to deliver. I hope my work proves the opposite. If you train enough, you’ll be fast enough. And when the going gets tough, the light gets bad, you’re even faster with a rangefinder…

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I’d lie if I’d say there haven’t been moments of doubt. It’s not without a reason most pro’s use fat and fast DSLR’s. They’re pretty reliable, cheaper and there’s more lenses to choose from. Also, IQ-wise it is hard to beat a modern DSLR. It is however a fact that I have shot quite a lot of assignments – also weddings – because I use this weird little camera. Believe it or not, people hire me to work with it. And in the last four years it has become my trademark. A few weeks ago I was invited at a wedding as a guest and I had a nice conversation with the wedding photographer. He didn’t know my name, but when I told him my business name, he suddenly shouted: “You’re that guy with the Leica!’. More recently, I shot a wedding for a Dutch film maker. He also owns a M9 and he really wanted me to get my documentary shots of his wedding. During the reception I managed to get very close to all the people dancing and take my shots without flash. Afterwards, the couple was very happy with the results. And when I read all these kind words and see the pictures I get with my M, I have no doubt. In the world of wedding photography, competition is fierce and working with the M and shooting my pure, documentary style, makes me stand out the crowd. And the fact is: my business is still growing.

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I have started with one on one teaching in the Netherlands where I teach Leica users to focus their lenses faster. I’m still working on a tutorial that I hopefully will finish this year. It is a very practical book with many exercises to improve your focussing, without too much technical details. I’ll let Steve know when it’s finished. He might be interested in a review…

www.luta.nl

112 Comments

  1. I just purchased your tutorial and will study it and practice your exercises.
    I shoot with an M 240 and enjoy its low light capabilities. While weddings are not my expertise, I have one coming up that I plan to shoot with the M. Your photos are wonderful.
    You mentioned doing a minimal number of posed family shots. How often are you able to convince the couple that it is OK to have NO posed family shots? That is the part that makes me tired.. If you do a shoot with NO posed shots, are you able to successfully get shots of everyone the couple & parents want? How do you keep track of including all “important” people? Do you have an agreement that some people may not be included directly in photographs with other family members? Please give an idea of how you manage family shots and family expectations. Thanks

  2. I have a 240 on order (3 months now at b&h) and cannot wait. I have been a Canon DSLR user since the original 5D came out. I am ready to re-learn the rangefinder approach I remember from when I was a kid.

  3. In my post I mentioned that a Sony A7R might be interesting as a backup to the M240, but after reading this comment from Ashwin I think it will not.

    ‘Unless you are shooting wide lenses or are shooting stopped down past f/4, you will likely need to use the camera’s magnified view to achieve critical focus. This can be disconcerting, as by “zooming in” while trying to grab focus, the photographer loses the framing and composition for a moment, before being able to zoom out and recompose as necessary. After a day of shooting, I felt more comfortable “zone focusing” using focus peaking, then rapidly magnifying to get critical focus before zooming back out to make the image. This method is not nearly as spontaneous as focusing using AF or rangefinder focusing, but it works and suffices to capture images that are less mobile.’

    I shoot wide open and mainly with a 50 and my subjects are never static. Also I can’t imagine having to press a number of buttons, losing the overview of the frame, going back, recompose, with every picture. So that won’t work. I’ll stick with the M9 as a backup now and may be placing an order for a second M240.

    Thanks for all the replies!

  4. If you practice enough, not having autofocus is not that big of a deal. I thought it would be. M9 in low light could be better, but it’s sometimes the limitations of the camera that make you a better photographer. I shoot 80% m9 at weddings and 20% canon 5dmk2. Mainly for the ceremony as churches are massive and have many restrictions as to where the paid photographer can be.

    You’re making me want the m240 and the 50 1.1 for when it gets really dark.

  5. Joeri, I live and work in the Netherlands to as a professional wedding photographer. When you say things like this:

    “The very first moment the camera starts to hunt, the moment is ruined. As soon as the AF-help light starts to work ( on your flash maybe) the moment is ruined too”

    them how about all those weddings quests with their smartphones and other cameras? when they are all around you when photograping the dance, they are ruining the moment too. So does it matter when you use af-lights or not..? j

    I am just asking, because I noticed the last 2 years almost everybody is taking pictures on a wedding. Nowdays even with an iPad…

    • Good point! During the first dance I find people using their smartphones less than during the rest of the day. Maybe because it is too dark anyway, or simply because they’re done taking pictures. I also notice that the phenomenon ‘unplugged weddings’ is starting to take off. People are kindly requested not to use their smartphones during the ceremony, which I applaud.
      If however, like you said, everybody is taking pictures of the first dance using flash, AF-lights and more, my ‘stealthiness’ is less important. Although not using flash does have a significant influence on the final pictures.

    • Hi-I Agree with Comment # 41. I can’t afford Leica M9 with modern Leica lens (You get what you pay for) BUT Then again I use the Poor Mans M9 Panaleica Micro 4/3 with various M Primes-28-135 and the results are Very comparible with the Pro quality one would expect with M 240 and Leica Optics.
      I also consider my D Photo a Hybrid of MF Primes and G1-G3.
      I prefer the built in VF of G1 and it’s my main GO2 Puppy.
      Anyone out-there interested in Comparing the Pentax-with the Leica Optical lens Stats.
      Your Doc style is super beautiful and very inspirational. Congrats with your career in Wedding business-Yes I realize the Business situation Stick to your Vision and the Client base will be your calling card. Many blessings to you and your post.
      As for your Leica M class-Please let use Leica and Steve fans know asap.
      I believe a True artist shares and is not afraid to Teach and inspire others. In Photo work and In Life in general.
      Knowing that Love is to share.
      Dear Santa…I wish 4 a Leica M 240 for Xmass.
      Paul
      Circle

  6. Truly inspiring, I am planning to buy the A7r (no money to get the M9) and to mainly use it with manual glass, will be looking forward to improving my manual focusing speed. I did chatted with another wedding photographer the other day and he mentioned that as good as small cameras now is, clients would expect big cameras from you and that it’ll look bad on you doing your assignment with a small camera. I’ve been looking for awhile on wedding photographers who still uses a Leica rangefinder or any with manual lenses and I’m glad to read your post. Truly inspiring and you’re right that the simplicity of a rangefinder somehow makes you focus only in your photography and brings back joy to the thing we love to do, I know the A7r has lots of features (and I can see my use for it), but I hope it’ll nail that photography experience, something that has been missing from my NEX 7 which is for sale now.

    • You made a good point Adam! I always show my kit to my clients when they are here for the intake meeting. That way, they know what they’ll get. I don’t worry about the guests, but I do get questions like ‘Are you a friend of the family?’. After they’ve seen the photos, they know I’m a pro. About 50% of my weddings are friends of clients.

  7. Joeri, very nice photos. I love your style. Being an M(9) wedding shooter myself, I can stress how challenging it is to just use the Leica M camera. However, the more I do it, the more confident I get. Reading your story was great because I feel connected and can see that there are other people out there sharing the same difficulties – but also getting the same rewarding results.

  8. Joeri, very nice photos. I love your style. Being an M(9) wedding shooter myself, I can stress how challenging it is to just use the Leica M camera. However, the more I do it, the more confident I get. Reading your story was great because I feel connected and can see that there are other people out there sharing the same difficulties – but also getting the same rewarding results.

  9. Beautiful pictures indeed! Whereas Leica glass alone is a good reason for using Leica, I am always a bit surprised by the suggestion that it takes a Leica to have manual control over your camera, and to have a compact and inconspicuous camera. You can have all this with a smallish DSLR in manual mode and ditto primes, not bigger actually than a Leica.

    • Thanks Alexander.
      I see what you mean, but of course you can get manual control with a DSLR, though it does work differently. The new Nikon DF is a sign that photographers like manual dials, though I still miss the aperture ring on that 50.
      However, manual focussing an AF lens on a DSLR a a different story: I never liked it. I still have a 5D2, which is a small DSLR, but it’s still twice the weight and seize of my M kit.

      • I said this because I had an M9 for some time, now use Pentax K5IIs with primes, which have very easy manual override for AF, size,weight and feel very Leica-like (but no FF of course)

  10. Please let me know once your tutorial is out! Wonderful work

    I to have shot a view weddings and def. want to learn more about focusing on the go quickly. I have a voight 35 1.2 version II and totally agree w/you the focus ring works wonders in the focusing department!

    Phil

  11. Not that big on wedding photography, because, you know, things have to be art, but these shots are amazing! I love it when someone proves me wrong

    Seeing as you’re Dutch and on this website I’m sure you’ll give me a discount if I say I know you from Steve Huff 🙂

  12. I agree to your photography style intensely. I use M240 by the work of the but commercial photograph which is not a marriage photographer.
    To you praise.

  13. F A N T A S T I C !

    One of the very best stories and pictures I read and I saw here. Why? Because

    YOU CONTROL THE CAMERA – and the camera does not control you.

    Christoph

  14. Whenever I read one of these “I use my Leica to shoot weddings” pieces, it’s usually accompanied by photos that are (to my eyes) lesser than those taken by the average DSLR shooter. This piece was an exception. You’re capturing great stuff with your Leicas! Considering how my Black and White you’re producing, I’m surprised you didn’t mention anything about the MM and whether you plan to incorporate it into your workflow one day. An M and an MM would be a perfect combo for you it seems.

    • Thanks John. I have used the MM for a week and I loved it. However, not all of my clients are that much into b/w, though I use 40% bw in the series. Now I can choose afterwards.

  15. Wonderful article. Thank you very, very much. I’m fairly new to my M9 and am not a professional, but you’ve really inspired me to keep working with this first Leica I own. Again, thanks for a well-written and informative article. As for these wedding photos, I love your style.

  16. I like the candidness of these photos, but I can’t help but think that a DSLR could take these same shots while also offering the benefits of autofocus and zoom when it is needed. Don’t get me wrong – I shoot a film rangefinder and I love it, but I can’t imagine using it when my salary depends on it.

    • Well, the main reasons I switched from a DSLR to a RF were size, weight and ‘interface’. I was unhappy with my 5D2, because of all the menus and other things. Second, I was – and still am – convinced that the small RF helps in my documentary approach, because it is less intimidating. The ability to see beyond the framlines is another asset of the RF. And last, competition is fierce, everybody has a DSLR, I’m the only one shooting RF weddings for a living here and that makes me stand out the crowd. Of course, you could have taken some of these images with a DSLR, though I still think the Leica look adds some magic too. However, for example the dancing couple, where movement has to be captured with virtually no light, I’d wish you luck with an AF-camera. The very first moment the camera starts to hunt, the moment is ruined. As soon as the AF-help light starts to work ( on your flash maybe) the moment is ruined too. What I try to say is that as soon as the light gets bad, manual focus still does its job. And lots of pictures I take are in bad-light situations.

  17. Being familiar with your style of shooting I’m always impressed looking at your photos. Great work, Joeri.

    I also capture weddings as the main shooter with just my M9s, so I really know what you mean by saying you’re exhausted after having photographed a wedding. It’s really very hard work, but worth the effort. I couldn’t go back to a DSLR.

    I also consider buying the Sony A7(r) as a backup or for very dark settings but I don’t know if I could focus this camera with M mount lenses as quickly as my M9. What do you think?

    • Thanks Hilmar.
      No, I’ll wait a bit for some reviews and meanwhile my M9 is a good backup. You do het spoiled very fast though with the new M.

  18. Hi Joeri, Love your work as a fellow wedding photographer. My fav here is the getting ready / make up shot.. a real story telling image

  19. Joeri, you pulled the words right out of my mouth. I am completely behind you about embracing real moments rather than staging fake ones. You just cant compete with a real smile, or any real emotion for that matter. I also never shoot with Flash. I find this allows me to see and capture the beauty that is already there. Your photos are beautiful and you have inspired me to keep shooting my rangefinder lenses! Thank you

  20. Really, really nice pic. I can’t even imagine trying to manual focus shots like that
    I really like the style, well away from the super-posed pics typical of a wedding. It reminds me (of course, with much better quality than mine) of the pictures I take at my frineds’ weddings. I’m the unofficial photographer and I try to get the unguarded moments.

    goed gedaan!

    • How did people capture Weddings before AF?
      It’s attempt to prefocus the camera before it gets to your eye, look at the distance scale on the barrel so you hardly need adjust it. Use a lens like a 35mm/50mm that you are comfortable using.
      That’s a good reason not to be the official photographer, all that expectation to get it. I’ve been the official photographer only once, never again!

      • I know, I know, I’ve MFed wedding pics myself, but in the past MF was the only option. I can’t imagine not using AF if available. I agree that NOT being the official photographer give you lots of creative freedom, especial when the expectatin is the ususal mega-posed the-same-as-all-other-weddings kind of pictures.

  21. Buy a Fuji. Or Olympus. Or Sony. Same approach but Instant AF, better color & exposure management than the Leica ever will do. Over 50 years or so Leica will also have the technical capabilities to do what all the others on the market can do. This is another Leica fanboy story. Sorry, these are magnificent pictures but I don’t believe that any Leica M can be the universal tool for this type of photography, unless you have particular circumstances with good light that allow you to do so. I want to see you photographing dancing people @ a few lux under party lighting, with this famous M that doesn’t even do the exposure well under some daylight conditions without an old-fashioned light meter and an expo disc to calibrate the AWB.

    • I wouldn’t trust the AF on Fuji or Sony. Even Steve in recent post mentions with a7. Olympus best of these. True re some recorded colour issues though I Joeri has processed these well and not as evident. More importantly Joeri is obviously connected with his camera and using a rf…..and it shows.

    • Or buy a Canon…
      I don’t want AF. I don’t trust it, it needs AF-help lights when there is no light and I don’t like it.
      I don’t care about WB management. I deliver photos in series, so I always need to tune the WB in the serie to get the right feel.
      I don’t want a camera that ‘exposes well’. I set the exposure, not the camera. If you need A,T and P modes to take pictures you should not cover weddings.
      I’m not saying the M is the universal tool for the job. I like it and others may not like it.
      I’m not a Leica fanboy, I just like rangefinders. I’m a big fan of Voigtländer lenses as well.
      And there IS a photo of people dancing under a few lux party lightning…

  22. One thing bothers me about your writeup using the Leica: “I’ve covered receptions with my M9’s where the couple was dancing and I was shooting at ISO 2500, at 1.2 at 1/15th of a second. It was so dark that it was hardly possible to see something through the viewfinder. Sometimes I would focus just by muscle memory…”

    Without a flash, how are you stopping the motion blur of them dancing? You might get the exposure right and focus distance right, but at that shutter speed and that shallow of a DOF, pretty sure you are going to have blurry people streaks across the photo. Can you post an example of this? Does the Leica have some special ability to freeze the action like a flash would?

    • Hi Allen,

      Yes, if the dance is fast you will get blur, but with a slow dance, 1/15th or 1/30th wil get the job done. A rangefinder does not have magical abilities to freeze moments, though the lack of a mirror does make it possible to freeze your own movement a bit more.

      Here’s one on 1/15th: http://luta.nl/waarom-luta-nooit-flitst/
      It’s not a dance, but you get the point.

      Being able to freeze movements was one reason to opt for the M240, because, let’s face it, I’m more comfortable with shooting a dance on say 1/125th.

  23. This has got to be the way to take wedding photos, after all the posed group way that people think is standard and the way everybody thinks they want is a killer to shoot, quite mind numbing. If I am asked to take wedding shots I’ll do it documentary style, takes me back to shooting for the school’s paper at UCD.

  24. I love documentary-style photography! These are great examples of how wedding photos should look. Of course there are the standard portraits and family shots, but the rest of the images should be of the moment. Great stuff!

    • Thanks! I always keep those family portraits very short. If people want lots of these pictures I always advise them to find another photographer. If I can’t shoot what I want to shoot, I’d rather not do it.

  25. Hi Joeri, I’m sitting in front of my laptop and I can really feel the emotions of these people. I’t is great, it’s inspiring, touching. Thanks a lot for sharing

  26. The picture of the couple dancing is magic – such wonderful emotion. I would definitely be interested in this tutorial you are working on – looking foward to it.

    Cheers,
    Kevin

  27. Been on here for a few years… This is one of the best posts yes. Can afford a leica nor do I think it’s the best tool for weddings… I am planning to try the a7 with some M mount lenses. Great job on capture. Will email Steve with some of my own.

  28. Wow Joerie – those images are absolutely amazing! I love your documentary style.

    Your story is definitely inspiring, and food for thought.

    Are you normally the principal / only photographer? Or are the documentary images done in addition to the traditional posed images, etc? Do you ever use longer lenses for more candid shots?

    The images are very refreshing!

    • Thanks! Usually (99%) I’m the principal photographer. Clients hire me because I shoot my documentary style and they do not want staged images. It does mean you have to be more focussed during the day, because you never know when you can get ‘the’ picture. We do go tho places just for a few minutes to take some shots, but even then I don’t tell the couple what to do. They’ll just take a little walk and I’ll follow, quickly checking the angles, background and the behavior of the couple.

      I only use longer lenses when I’m not allowed to get close. All my shots are candid and I can get close, because I behave like a guest, in stead of a photographer. Of course, the Leica also works. It is just so much smaller. Using flash is not done of course…

    • Thanks! Usually (99%) I’m the principal photographer. Clients hire me because I shoot my documentary style and they do not want staged images. It does mean you have to be more focussed during the day, because you never know when you can get ‘the’ picture. We do go tho places just for a few minutes to take some shots, but even then I don’t tell the couple what to do. They’ll just take a little walk and I’ll follow, quickly checking the angles, background and the behavior of the couple.

      I only use longer lenses when I’m not allowed to get close. All my shots are candid and I can get close, because I behave like a guest, in stead of a photographer. Of course, the Leica also works. It is just so much smaller. Using flash is not done of course…

  29. Wow. Kudos to you. I shot a wedding with an M8 once (as a guest, not the main) and I thought I was going cross-eyed after their first dance.

    • The first dance can be a little scary sometimes… I often focus by muscle memory when the light is really bad. Even with the 35/1.2 it can be done. As long as you’re not insanely close, focus is less critical then you’d think. And I really prefer lenses with a long focus throw, because they are easier to ‘learn’.

  30. I have been shooting weddings with leica for a long while now not only digital m9 but also film m3 , m6 never went above iso 800 indoors and 400 speed on the film …kodak portra 400 /tri x /ilford ..i only use a combo of 3 lenses..35/50/75 results are always fabulous 🙂

  31. As has been said here and elsewhere, get to know your gear! That is what you have taken the time to do and it shows in both your images and the demand for your images. I admire you for sticking to your guns and spending the time to learn your equipment until it became an extension of your heart and mind. I wish continued success in your endeavors.

  32. Lovely photos! I just don’t see how you can stay on top of action with an M9. I’ve had my M9 for three years and I’m not much faster at focusing now than I was three years ago (but I am much more accurate). I also like the non-staged style (you had no bride handing from a horse in wild ocean surf shots). Thanks for sharing.

    • The non-staged style is the reason people hire me. The Leica is – for most of them – funny, less intimidating and delivers good rendering. Keeping up with the actions requires lots of training, it’s just that simple. If you get it to work, it’s a great way of shooting.

    • The excercises and tips Joeri has about focussing really help you along there! Buy his tutorial as soon as it comes out and consequently you’ll probably feel a lot more convinced of the focussing possibilities…

    • Guy do you own another camera and use it along with M9? If so you’ll find it will be a big factor as to not getting faster. If you don’t it’ll just be about practise.

  33. I’ve been a l-o-n-g time lurker on Steve’s site, but never a commenter. Until now. I have to say that this is hands down the best article I’ve read here. Of course, your photos are great as well, my friend. Thanks for sharing, and continued success!

  34. Beautiful photography and love your report!

    I’ve been using my M more and more for wedding photography. I’d still say I’m 75% SLR / 25% M in the wedding setting, but the percentage of situations I’m using the M for is increasing and I’m seriously considering going 100% Leica and selling off my Nikon gear. It’s so much more fun to edit Leica files than Nikon’s.

    It’s promising to hear you can still get great shots at the reception when the light is so poor. That’s perhaps my biggest fear right now.

    So which lenses do you bring with you to the wedding?

    • Thanks Ivan! It takes time to learn to work with a rangefinder under stress, but it can be done. I normally take these lenses:
      28 Elmarit (very small and light and sometimes useful for the group portrait in tight spaces)
      35 Cron (my number 2 workhorse when the light is OK)
      35/1.2 Nokton (my main lens when there is no light. The weddings I shoot in november/december are sometimes entirely done with this lens)
      50 Cron (my number 1 lens as long as the light is OK)
      75 Summarit or 90 Elmarit, or none of these (only if there’s a ceremony in a church where I can’t get close)

      It all fits very easily in a Billy Hadley Pro, together with one backup M9, some food, a spare shirt, wallet, phone, backup hard disk and more.

      • Thanks for your reply, Joeri! Ah yes, you reminded me why I can’t easily sell DSRL – I have no backup body! I’ve toyed with the idea of buying something like an M6 for backup, but then realized if something goes bad, I’d also have to carry 20-30 rolls of films, which is priiiicy. Maybe M8 is cheaper, but then I’ll never use it.

  35. Some truly lovely work there!

    I have to say i am a big fan of the no flash, documentary approach too.
    Always wanted an M but out of my budget so blew my savings on a 5DmkIII and 50mm f1.4
    (an upgrade from a Canon G9, yeah i went all in).

    A big DSLR yes but i have big monkey hands so it is actually a perfect fit 🙂

    I recently shot a friends wedding at their request (they had a ‘proper’ photog too). I decided to be brave and leave the kit lens at home and just take just the 50mm. When we arrived at the venue (a retro hotel) it was dark, even in the day, this didn’t fill me with hope but everything came out ok in the end and being forced to zoom with my feet and have the lens wide open really added some extra intimacy to the shots.

    One day I may get an M, especially reading the likes of yourself and steve talk about the joys of shooting with one (if i get the confidence to try and sell my pics who knows) but for now my main aim is just keep shooting with what i have and enjoy the hell out of it.

    Thanks for sharing your images and the story behind it all. Lovely and inspiring.

    A few of the shots for anyone interested (not all as 200+ is a bit much for a flickr set, lol)
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/stumacher/sets/72157635554487294/

    P.S. Steve – thanks for having such an awesome, passionate and honest blog! If i have broken any comment etiquette then apologies in advance and delete the hell out of it 😉

  36. Joeri thanks very much for sharing (and Steve!). Great to read about your experience using a RF in this type of environment. You’ve made a sound move when it comes to your work using the M240. Completely makes sense in my opinion. That said I’m not a wedding photographer and would most likely buy an M9 (currently own MM) if at all.

    I agree also re the Sony’s though just not sure I want to stop learning and practising with a RF, so that’s the main reason I wouldn’t move into some of the new cameras coming out. Mind you Steve’s images with a 50 lux on the a7/a7r looked very nice!

    I would be very keen to find out more about your book and lessons in focusing when it’s ready! Keep up the great work.

  37. I like your picture style, very natural and full of story telling. Composition is not a primary objective in these pictures nor sharpness. The rendering of the Leica is magic. This is how wedding pictures should be made. The third one is my favorite, a very happy bride and the hands are very expressive.
    Very creative indeed.

  38. Gorgeous pictures.
    In the film age I was used to shoot Leica rangefinder for weddings or anything else; by now, BTW, I could never give up the security of the double card, regardless of the type of camera.

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