Face Expressions – The Nuance For Great Photos

The Summerall Guards perform half-time at the Parent’s Weekend football game at The Citadel in Charleston, SC. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 S, Sigma TC-2001, ISO 1000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]

Knowing your subject gives you insights into what makes a better photo than any photo.

My son was a Summerall Guard at the Citadel in the class of 2011. During this time, I took more photos of them performing and started to see these moments that I thought gave you insights into how they communicate during a silent drill.

The Summerall Guards perform half-time at the Parent’s Weekend football game at The Citadel in Charleston, SC. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 S, Sigma TC-2001, ISO 450, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]

One thing I noticed was the facial expressions showed them counting to themselves or when they breathed loudly so those around them would hear. This lets them know if they were together in their counts and moves.

The Summerall Guards perform half-time at the Parent’s Weekend football game at The Citadel in Charleston, SC. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 S, Sigma TC-2001, ISO 450, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]

The Summerall Guard was formed in 1932. Membership is considered a high honor at the military college. The platoon’s purpose is to exemplify, through a unique series of movements based on the old German close order drill, the exactness, and thoroughness with which a cadet is trained. The exercise is performed to a silent count. Each year’s Guards take responsibility for teaching the following year’s unit the precise drill.

The Citadel’s (19) Dominique Allen quarterback passes while Mercer’s (23) Will Coneway Line Backer defends in-game during Parent’s Weekend in Charleston, SC. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 S, Sigma TC-2001, ISO 2000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]

In sports, very similar predictable moments happen as well. I know that if I am covering a team like The Citadel, they are trying to get to the goal they are facing. So even on defense, if a fumble or interception happens, the players will try and go towards the goal.

The Citadel’s (29) Grant Drakeford A-Back is tackled by Mercer’s (3) Stephen Houzah Defensive Back during a game in Charleston, SC. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 S, Sigma TC-2001, ISO 900, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]

I like to stand or kneel in the endzone where they are going, so I can see their faces. If I am on the sideline, I sometimes get their faces, but when I am facing them, the percentage of photos with their faces seems to be a lot better for photos.

The Citadel’s (42) Brandon Berry B-Back is tackled by Mercer’s (6) Jamar Hall Defensive back during a game on Parent’s Weekend in Charleston, SC. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 S, Sigma TC-2001, ISO 1600, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]

Their extra effort on the play will be them lunging towards the goal line, which is where I am standing.

The Citadel’s (62) Jonathan Cole Offensive Line makes a hole for (42) Brandon Berry B-Back, while Mercer’s (95) Blake Oliveira Defensive Lineman reaches for a tackle during a game in Charleston, SC. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 S, Sigma TC-2001, ISO 1100, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]

The holes that the offensive linemen are creating for the running backs are facing that goal line.

The Citadel’s (18) Cam Jackson A-Back is tackled by Mercer’s (5) Malique Flemming; the Defensive Back pursues him during the game for Parent’s Weekend in Charleston, SC. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 S, Sigma TC-2001, ISO 1400, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]

Even if they are stopped, most of the time, the expression on their faces shows that they are often putting it all on the line. This type of tackle photo works well on sports pages when the guy just got a first down.

As you can see in both the examples of the Citadel cadets, if they are on the Summerall Guards or playing a sport, the facial expression draws the audience into the photograph.

What you want to show as the photographer is the effort, and one of the best ways to capture this is in the expressions.

By the way, we were at The Citadel due to a request for my wife Dorie Griggs to preach on Sunday. Here is her message if you would like to hear it.