Leica M9 Fashion Shoot (Polish Models)
I recently returned from another three day location shoot in Poland, this time at the beautiful beach resort, Sopot. I stayed at a hotel on the beach so it was perfect to use as a base for beach shoots. When I last visited in June 2014 I stayed in the city of Gdansk and took model portrait photos with an urban backdrop. The photos had a soft natural look using little or no makeup for most of the girls and each wore their own clothes. It was just me working alone with one model at a time, and six girls over three days. Malwina at Malva Models supplied me with all the models.
For this visit to Sopot I worked closely with Malwina beforehand to organise makeup/ hair stylists, some new models and wardrobe (stylist to provide clothing). I wanted to give some of the photos more of a fashion look and this to me is a result of a good model, strong poses and hard lighting (not always), enhanced further by a great makeup artist and hair stylist. When shooting Leica fashion photography in the UK I rely heavily on lighting as this is one of my strengths. I have various strobes, speedlights and light modifiers and use these to light models both in the studio and on location. I believe available light can always be enhanced by artificial light in every situation if done correctly. I often keep my model photo shoots simple, relying on lighting and a strong model and then directing the clothing style, hair and makeup (and assisting with all three if needed!). When there are fewer people involved we can work fast and efficiently. That said, sometime I need the help of others to help to try to take my photos to the next level. This was one of those occasions. I communicated in advance the clothing styles I wanted to shoot, the location, the makeup style, and selected models with the look I wanted. The more effort you put in before a shoot the better results you will achieve, right down to details such as the choice of shoes and accessories.
I was traveling light to Poland from the UK again with just a 10kg hand luggage allowance. This would really restrict the amount of camera gear I could take. I wanted to pack at least one speedlight but in the end decided to rely on just a reflector as though as it was a beach location so there should be plenty of available light both direct light and diffused light (from above) and reflected light reflecting off the sea and sand, regardless of whether a clear sky and sunshine or an overcast day. (My preference is at least some broken cloud cover, especially when shooting with speedlights in the UK).
The camera equipment I finally decided on was as follows –
- Leica M9 digital camera body
- Leica M2 35mm film camera (loaded with 35mm Kodak T-Max 100 black & white film)
- Fuji GF670 Pro medium format film camera (loaded with 120 Fuji Pro 400H & 120 Kodak Porta 400 colour film)
- Zeiss ZM Planar 50mm f2 T lens (as my main lens for sharp images)
- Voigtlander Ultron 28mm f2 lens (if I needed a wider angle)
- Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 v2 (for soft portraits and to use in low light)
Why my choice of 50mm lens?
On my last trip I took a Zeiss ZM Sonnar 50mm f1.5 and the Noctilux. I used the Noctilux for the majority of the images. I like to cycle my lenses and dust them off now and again for a run. I have used the Zeiss ZM Planar 50mm f2 very little since I bought it, before the Leica Summilux ASPH 50 f1.4, the Leica Summicron 50mm f2 and other older 50mm lenses? If you read one of my older posts I wrote the Planar is too sharp for portraits. That said I have got used to sharp by using the Leica Summicron 75mm f2 APO so thought would pack it as it is both small (39mm filter thread and focuses close at 0.7m) (Noctilux and ZM Sonnar do not focus as close).
Would I chose the same camera lenses next time?
No. The Planar was great and was used for perhaps 90% of the daylight images but the weight of the Noctilux was not worth it for this style of photo shoot. Fashion photos often look better sharper to see the clothes details so sharper lenses are more suited. Lenses that are sharp when shot wide open such as the ZM Planar just get sharper stopped down. That said I prefer the rendering of the Zeiss ZM Sonnar over the Zeiss ZM Planar.
My lens choice needs to be a balance of weight and quality. For this reason next time I think I would pack my current favourite studio lens, the Leica Summicron 75mm f2 APO that focuses at 0.7m and is very sharp and the small and compact Voigtlander Nokton Classic 40mm f1.4 for a wider low light lens. I took this lens to Ukraine last year and loved the results despite it not being as sharp wide open as some of my other lenses.
So how was my photography trip to Sopot?
Each day of the three days was completely different.
Two model shoots, Sara and Zuza (“Zuzanna”), and clothes stylist Marta providing all the clothes for the day.
Three model shoots, Magda, Vicky and Marta, clothes stylist Marta and MUA (hair and makeup) Joanna.
Two model shoots, Sara (second shoot) and Paulina only and an evening Engagement style shoot with Teresa and Wojciech.
In more detail –
I arrived midday into Sopot so only had a half day of photos. Sara was a new model so I was giving much more direction during the shoot. Marta kindly helped hold the reflector for some photos. We didn’t use an MUA. Zuza had shot with me before so we worked fast and made use of the daylight we had before dark. Everyone seemed pretty exhausted by the end so we stopped before 8pm.
Starting at 9am, as I knew makeup always takes a long time model Magda and MUA Joanna arrived and got started. We got some music on in my hotel room and time just flew past. Marta arrives to help select clothes for each girl and we were still doing makeup. We finally got outside and started shooting and for the rest of the day I overlapped the models so would be shooting with one girl while another model was with the MUA. This meant we didn’t stop but luckily the girls ordered in pizzas for us and I provided some rounds of coffees from the hotel restaurant to keep us all going! As more models arrived it was a squeeze in the hotel room but we worked around each other. The weather was changeable so during the showers we shot inside then went out when it stopped. There was a cold wind on the beach so we kept the girls wrapped between photos and worked fast. The last two changes for models Marta and then Magda were in the dark but we still got some photos. Here the Noctilux lens became a life safer with an f1.0 aperture. Makeup had slowed down progress vs. Day 1 but combined with the clothes and head pieces made for some hopefully strong images.
We had no clothes stylist or MUA so it was me working alone. This tends to be fast but it can be hard to hold a reflector and manual focus the Leica M9 camera at times. One model was not able to attend so I got some down time to review my images. I had Paulina in the morning that I met last time in Gdansk then Sara again from Day 1 as I knew we could get good results working 1-2-1. It is often easier on new models when there are fewer people involved. In the evening I had asked model Teresa to bring her boyfriend Wojciech for a couple shoot / engagement session styled look. Wojciech had not had photos before but they worked flawlessly together and with my direction and their love for each other it made for some really strong and romantic photos.
Fuji GF670 medium format film fashion
Despite it being a rush for much of the trip I was still determined to do some medium format film fashion photography. I managed to shoot two rolls of 120 colour film using the Fuji GF670 in the 6×6 film format to get 12 photos per roll. In hindsight as always I wish I had shot twice that number. Next time! I will share the results once the film is developed. I also shot almost a full roll of 35mm Kodak TMax 100 on the Leica M2 for a more gritty look (to be stand developed in Rodinal (R09)).
Here are a few photos of some of the models from the trip. I don’t currently have my laptop so have used LR3 to process the images (without the finishing touches in Photoshop Elements).
I will post a separate selection of images once film is developed for the Leica M2 and Fuji GF670 here at MrLeica.com, some colour fashion looking photos once I have Photoshop, and also some more of the engagement style images at LeicaWeddingPhotographer.co.uk