The Leica M6 is a fantastic rangefinder camera, especially when it comes to street photography. This advanced German-engineered mechanical camera first came out in 1984, and it had a good run until Leica stopped making it in 2002. Still, it has a special place in the hearts of many photographers, especially those with an overall vintage style themselves and in their photography.
If you own a Leica M6, it’s only natural to want to engage in photography around your city, particularly in the form of street photography. But what is considered ‘street photography’ in the first place? To be good at it, it’s essential first to understand its definition.
Street photography is, as the name suggests, taken out in public and usually on the street. You don’t necessarily need to capture a road, nor do you have to be in an urban environment. The whole point is to capture candid snapshots of people merely going about their daily lives. Typically, street photography is spontaneous and not staged. That’s why, spontaneity, excellent timing, and a good eye are all critical for good street photography. Combine all of that with the power of the Leica M6, and you’ll be able to capture some very memorable street photography shots.
To make the most of your street photography, you’ll need a handful of useful tips to improve your photography skills. In this article, you’ll learn the importance of
- practising consistently
- using others as inspiration
- looking for the little things
- staying still and observing, and
- being spontaneous
If you want to get good at street photography with the Leica M6, the most important thing you need to do is practice with it consistently. Unlike most newer cameras, Leica’s mechanical M6 doesn’t have any fancy features to simplify your photography. Instead, you need to spend lots of hands-on time with the camera to develop a mastery over it and its features.
You don’t need to limit yourself to street photography to practice. Even if you’re stuck at home, you can practice by taking portraitures and macro/micro snapshots. If you have a pet, you can even use them as practice with animal photography!
Of course, if you want to get better at street photography, then that’s what you need to spend most of your time doing. Take the camera with you wherever you go. Even during your commute to and from work each day, you’ll be able to get a few practice shots of other commuters around you.
Don’t worry about making mistakes or getting not-so-pretty photographs. Always remember that you’re practising so that you may learn to master your camera. Every photographer that you’ve ever admired did the same thing as you are, practising day after day.
Long-term, your goal is so that the Leica M6 starts to feel like an extension of your body. When that happens, you’ll be able to make adjustments on-the-fly and frame your shots perfectly. Then, you’ll be able to capture the spontaneous images that make for great street photography.
Use Others As Inspiration
Another great way to get real good at street photography is to look to other people for inspiration. It doesn’t matter if they used a Leica M6 or not; what matters most is learning from how they frame and capture their shots.
Luckily, photographers like you can find inspiration in a long list of different places. Go to the bookstore and some photo books that feature street photography. You might even get lucky and find a few of them in the discount pile, so they’ll be very affordable!
Of course, you can always use the internet. Online, you can find street photographers’ websites and portfolios, or you could even head over to forums and online groups. There, you can learn tips and tricks from other photographers, especially those who have done street photography using the Leica M6!
If that’s not enough, try and look a little closer. Think about the people in your life who also have a passion for photography. You might find that a friend or family member is a much better role model than anyone else you could find out there.
When you look to other people’s work for inspiration, don’t just look at how they frame their snapshots. Always think about what’s going on behind the camera, as well. Where were they standing on the street? Which direction were they looking at?
Even though street photography is largely spontaneous, there are still a lot of factors that you can control. For example, you can choose a quiet time of day to do street photography, so your pictures have fewer people in them.
Look For The Little Things
There are many things that make street photography so intriguing. The people, the surroundings, even the cars that pass by all add a little bit of depth to your photo. But if you want to capture photographs that truly stand out, you need to look at the smaller details. In street photography, you’re looking to capture the subtle nuances.
If you choose to use people as your street photography subjects, for example, you can start by looking at the expressions on their faces. Your pictures would have much more depth and life in them if they manage to capture people’s emotions in them.
Street photography also tends to include an element of fashion in them. After all, as you watch people go by, you can also appreciate their fashion sense. Sometimes, an unknowing subject with a great sense of style could end up being the star of your street photography.
On top of that, some of the best street photography usually captures movement beautifully. People walking and rushing around, cars driving past, and even birds or animals moving by. Movement is something that we, as human beings, find very attractive in photos. That’s true whether you’re doing wildlife photography or street photography.
For this tip, you have a great advantage with the Leica M6. For one thing, the image quality and zoom on the M6 allow for you to capture all of this from a distance. Plus, the shutter on the M6 is known to be very quiet. That makes you even less noticeable when you’re trying to capture candid shots of people on the street.
Stay Still And Observe
Here’s one tip that people tend to take for granted: stay still. It’s easy to think that you have to keep moving around to capture great street photography, but that’s quite far from the truth. The city, and whatever street you’re on, are alive and constantly hustling and bustling. To capture the best of it with your Leica M6, all you have to do is stop and stay still.
This is the same principle that people use when ‘people watching’. Sit at a cafe, for example, with a seat facing the outside where people walk by. Keep your M6 at the ready and observe everything that’s happening around you.
When you sit still and observe instead of adding to the movement in your immediate space, you’ll start to notice much more going on around you. Like mentioned in the previous tip, you’ll be in a much better position to notice people’s emotions, mannerisms, and gestures.
Be creative when choosing your vantage points. Sitting at a cafe is great, but so is standing on the corner or sitting at the bus stop. You can even look for higher vantage points which allow you to point your camera down at the street below you. If you’re planning on doing that, typically the first or second floor would be best. There, you won’t be too far above the action going on at street-level.
In a way, street photography is almost like wildlife photography. You don’t control the environment or the subjects, so you have to be patient!
Remember: Be Spontaneous
This tip is saved for last because it’s probably the most important ones. These days, plenty of photographers and social media influencers love to stage their street photography. While there’s nothing wrong with that, some might argue that it misses a lot of the greatness that made street photography so popular in the first place. Staged or pre-planned photography looks good visually, but it doesn’t capture a lot of the nuances that might otherwise exist out on the street.
Instead, try to spend your time being spontaneous with your street photography. Not only might you capture some fantastic snapshots with your Leica M6, you’ll also have a lot more fun doing it.
With spontaneous street photography, you never know what you’re going to get. Something might happen completely randomly, and you’d be the only person ready to capture it with your Leica M6!
On top of that, you might end up meeting and interact with some of the most interesting people you’ve ever met. That’s just one of the great possibilities with street photography, where you might end the day with more than just some pretty snapshots. You might actually make a new lifelong friend.