Over 100 Leica Weddings
by Philip Thomas
Steve- thanks for the opportunity to share my love of the Leica. I’ve been reading this blog for over five years and it was part of your early reviews that finally moved me to try a Leica M9.
Over a 100 Leica weddings have come and gone since I shot my first wedding with a Leica M9 and a Leica M(240). This post is not for readers interested in a review of Leica gear. Rather, it’s more about how I feel when I use it and how it’s shaped my approach to taking photos. Perhaps even making me a better photographer for it.
The small non-intimidating cameras have allowed me to go about my wedding work as unobtrusively as possible and not be seen as the ‘professional photographer’. You see, I don’t want to draw attention to myself much like a street shooter. Couples booking me know in advance my philosophical approach and the idea of a photographer not directing their day has a strong appeal. It’s not just opened my mind up to a patient way of seeing, capturing moments and geometry, but how I carry myself throughout a wedding.
A photographer for over 20 years, I’ve always had an interest in the Leica history. When I first got my hands on a Leica six years ago, I knew from that moment, somehow I had to get one without breaking the bank. Discussing this with my wife’s approval was part of the deal. My first camera was the M9 with a 35mm f1.4 summilux and from that point on I was hooked. Over a 100 weddings later, the M9 and Leica M240 are an integral part of my wedding day along with a few lenses. A 1957 M3 is also part of my personal gear.
My philosophy shooting weddings is to react and anticipate moments throughout a wedding day. I take a few quick group shots. Other than that, I capture the day unobtrusively avoiding those done and dusted wedding cliches. People just ignore me because the Leica is so small, no one takes any notice and those Uncle Bob’s, the often annoying camera enthusiasts at every wedding just do not approach. Compared to lifting a big SLR to my eye certainly gets people’s attention and unobtrusiveness is certainly not part of the vocabulary. Of course, none of this can really be achieved without the appropriate body language throughout the long day shoot.
My reasons why I use a rangefinder are multiple. Along with the obvious history and inspiration using Leica, my mind has opened up to a world that I didn’t always see before and I strongly believe that as a work in progress my images are stronger. The full manual focus (yes, I can focus more often than not quicker manually than auto focus), the simplicity of shutter and aperture give me complete control over the final images. If I mess up, then I cannot blame the camera. It’s basic aperture and shutter operation. My eye pre-visualizes the type of images I want to create vs the former method of shooting a DSLR and reacting to everything and then the momentary blackness of the shutter closing may mean missing the shot entirely. With the rangefinder, I don’t miss anything, other than the occasional physical finger action not quite paired with my brain.
I rarely look or monkey chimp the reviews after each shot or if I do it’s just to check the histogram. My mind already has the image before pressing the shutter. It’s shooting with purpose versus the temptation to machine gun images that a SLR offers. Sure you can shoot multiple images albeit at a slower burst rate, but that’s not what the Leica have been designed for, It’s more of a cerebral thoughtful approach. This all takes practice in getting efficient. A recent wedding client, a Leica aficionado was kind to marvel how quickly I could focus and shoot their images on par with a SLR, just not wasting files space on a card with multiple shots that look the same.
I have and do often shoot a full days wedding armed with just two Leica’s, a M9 and M240 using just available light. Not only does this approach work wonders for my ageing back but it keeps me nimble on my toes without having to drag a heavy bag around. I’ve always been a huge fan of Henri Cartier-Bresson who not only used a Leica and a 50mm lens but marveled at how in his documentary films that remain how he moved around like a cat on tip toes.
There are many wonderful rangefinder type cameras on the market today compared to just five to ten years ago. At the end of the day, the final image is still the most important, not the camera. But the tools to make that image, surely can inspire and motivate you to take your passion and craft to the top. For me, those sublime Leica lenses and little cameras do the trick. The Leica enables me to just concentrate on the subject and my consciousness is focused on the decisive moment, not what menu option I should have.
Thanks for reading. My site is www.philipthomasstudios.com
Nominated Top 20 Wedding Photographer in Texas
WPJA-Wedding Photojournalist Association® Multi-award Winning Photographer.
I’m not very much into wedding photography and actually don’t care. But these photographs are simply amazing! Really excellent work, Philip!
Soso- Thank you.
How beautifull !! fantastic shots !
I photographed a friends wedding many years ago with a Leica M6 and a Bronica ETRI The images were very good, more by good luck than skill. -but no comparison to your work of course.
The rangefinder is a super tool for the kind of free loose compositions you have produced here. I have tried to use my film slr in the same way as the Leica and it does not work -there is a disconnect -not sure why?
I think an SLR with a zoom and a good flash would be useful as well for more formal stuff -but some may like to stick with the more free reportage style throughout?
I was trying to figure out my favourite images from your posted work and I simply cannot do it !
They are all superb! Your clients must be delighted with their images.
Thanks for posting
Fergus – Thank you for taking the time to write your comments and you’re very kind.
It’s like you’re the invisible man, or a fly on the wall. You’ve captured such fleeting moments to brilliant effect without anyone even knowing you are there. Great stuff.
Thanks, Chris. Appreciate taking the time to comment.
The bride running down the stairs… wow!
I agree, a fantastic picture.
Thanks, Harry. So kind.
Some really nice pics there, especially the action shots!
Congratulations. Wonderful photographs with a very consistent atmosphere of melancholic joy.
“With the rangefinder, I don’t miss anything, other than the occasional physical finger action not quite paired with my brain.” Great phrasing…
That’s the ‘thing’ most people don’t seem to understand.. with a Leica (or any rangefinder), it’s just you. Not a silly system that doesn’t seem to find the right focus or aperture. Liberating.
Great work. Life as it is, not overly posed and stiff. I’d love to see some shots on that M3 of yours!
Tony – Thank you
Well done sir. You do an amazing job capturing the moments and I agree with you that the Leica makes you slow down and feel the moment as it happens, and truly feel the photos you take. Would love to see what you do with the Monochrome 🙂
Neil – Thanks so much and taking the time to comment.
The m9 has such a great Filmic look some great shots here 100 weddings that’s pretty busy.What settings do you use to capture all different or do you use street type settings to make it easier to focus and catch the moment?
Hi Siomo – I shoot much of the images at a wide open aperture, so no, not street shooting style. Much of the time, light is poor but not only that, I just prefer the rendering. Hope that answers your question.
Very nice images
Lovely photographs. Thanks for sharing them!
Yes, the Leicas are workhorses, but they’re beautiful also, and that’s a rare combination.
Great pictures and really inspiring to someone like myself who just shot his first wedding ever and I did with my main body being a manual focus lens. Stuff like this is what really helps me keep going so I don’t hold back on learning because I don’t have the latest and greatest gear.
Chris – As I mentioned above- it’s not about the camera. But having great tools can inspire and if it’s a good fit that is all that matters. Learn the craft – simple as that.
Wouawouu Philip!! Love your images. Simple and very inspiring!
I’m rarely interested in wedding pictures, but these stand on their own. They’re fantastic.
Both stunning and inspiring.
Photographs anyone should be proud to have!
Your work is inspiring. Thanks so much for sharing!
Great photos Philip!
Just wondering: (how) are you able to persuade the bride and groom not to do those posed, location shots?
Joey – Thanks. As noted above, I do take a few posed and group pics. But they’re captured quickly. It’s really a case of attracting the right clientele. A make a strong point emphasizing that on my site and there are very few ‘posed’ shots posted.
In so many of these images you’ve not only captured motion, but also the emotion of that moment. Impressive.
Price – Thank you.
Wow, this is wedding photography at its best, in regards to my taste and in my opinion. I love the documentary type reporting and the black and white. The images are testimony to your skills and not the brand, but having said that, Leica is a beautiful brand.
I feel the joy when I travel and shoot with my poor mans Leica, the Fuji XT1 and my primes 🙂
Thanks Andrew. Too kind.
Honestly, it doesn’t matter what camera you use as long as you can tell a good story.
Correct. I noted that in the article. But to varying degrees it can inspire you and the rangefinders do slow you to a more thoughtful approach.
Beautiful images. Thank you for sharing.
Your set of pictures are not the classical wedding pics. Therefore I like them a lot. If I will merry again I will hire you to shoot my wedding.
Ha ha! Thanks John. I will be there at your next wedding then.
Philip. Thanks for sharing your passion for photography. His work is inspiring
Thanks for the love, Carlos.
great article and images!
Inspiring and beautiful images – thank you for sharing.