Shooting on the Streets with a Leica M6
Shooting on the streets with a Leica M6 and a 35mm lens is a unique experience, and should be individual to each Photographer. The M6 is a manual film camera prividing an unparalleled user experience if used correctly. The camera’s compact size, quiet operation, and manual controls can make it an ideal tool for street photography.
In this blog post, we will discuss the keys to success for shooting
with a Leica M6 and 35mm film on the street and in the wild.
- Light metering
One of the most important factors to consider when shooting on the streets with a Leica M6 is how you expose your film. This can be achieved through judicious use of the light meter. The Leica M6 has a built-in light meter , a red light at the bottom of the frame, which reads the light from the scene and helps you set the correct exposure. However, any camera’s light meter can be inaccurate in certain lighting conditions, such as very low light or extremely high contrast scenes. Therefore, it is important to master the art of manual exposure and use your intuition to set the correct exposure. Remember the phrase “expose for the shadows, develop for the highlights” and you’ll learn how to craft a look which is unique to you.
- Focusing the Rangefinder
The Leica M6 uses a rangefinder focusing system unique to Leica cameras.
It requires a bit of practice and patience to master. The rangefinder method allows you to focus accurately on your subject without having to look through the lens. This makes the process of focusing quicker and more discreet than with an (D)SLR.
So, street photography is driven by the idea that Cartier-Bresson coined as the decisive moment. This means that one needs to be ready to snap at a moment’s notice to grab the micro moment unfolding in front of the lens. The 35mm lens on the Leica M6 is perfect for this because it provides a gracious shape which allows one to see the scene as it unfolds. The M6’s viewfinder is also large and bright, which makes it easier than with an SLR.
- Film selection
Film selection is unique to the job you are doing. Choosing the right film is essential. Different films do different jobs and produce different results. When shooting street photography, you may want to consider using a faster film, such as Portra 400, Kodak Tri-X or Ilford HP5. The higher ASA of 400 allows a lot of latitude in unpredictable situations.
However, you may want to experiment with a few film types to find the one that suits you best.
- Shooting technique
Shooting with a Leica M6 requires a different shooting technique than shooting with an SLR. Important to note that with the M6, we slow down and take time to set the scene. The Photographer needs to be patient and wait for the right moment to unfold as they click. This may mean waiting for a subject to enter the frame or waiting for the right light. The key is to be patient and let the scene unfold in front of you. Then once you see it, you click the shutter, and take it onto the film. Advance, wait , repeat.
Shooting 35mm with a Leica M6 on the street is a unique and rewarding experience.
The M6’s fully manual operation and compact size make it an ideal tool for street photography. However, shooting with a rangefinder film camera requires a different technique and approach than shooting with a (D)SLR. With a bit of practice, a shooter will learn a style and look unique to them.