Be Aware of Facial Expressions When Taking Pictures of People Singing

So I’ve been shooting some shows for some of the choral groups on campus at my school, and I’ve started to notice a trend: people make some stupid faces when they are singing. They can range from an approaching sneeze to a full-on O-face.

Now, to the average viewer during a performance, these faces go unnoticed as they aren’t usually held in awkward positons. However, when you take pictures of people singing, you’re freezing whatever face they happen to have when you hit the shutter. So, to avoid making your subjects look like fools, here are some helpful pointers:

#1: Burst Mode

Shoot in burst if you have it. This way you get shots as their faces change shape, meaning that if the first one is crap, theres a chance the rest in the burst improve as the syllables pronounced change.

#2: The “Ahhh” Syllable

Aim for the “ahhh” syllable. This syllable gives a good shape to the mouth for shooting; a nice, open, singing pose. “oooh” can work as well, just be careful to avoid it when it looks like the duckface.

#3: Avoid Sharp Consonants

Avoid sharp consonants at all costs. Things like “thh” and “ff” make for really stupid faces. A general rule of thumb is that if the tongue is involved in the sound, it will look ugly.

About the author: Nick Solarz is an amateur photographer based in Worcester MA. You can find his photography here.

Image credit: Faces we make when we sing the songs we know by What is in us

  • Anonymous

    Nice! Way to pay attention.

  • Lane

    This is totally true! I’ve run into this myself shooting concert photos.

  • Jesse

    I was shooting a concert a while ago and it was kind of surprising how many of the shots did turn out with full on O-faces. Pretty funny.

  • Nick

    Tip 1 alternative. Instead of using burst mode, or spray and pray as I like to call it – actually look at your subject and shoot at a moment you see something interesting. Your buffer is prone to run out just when something good happens…. Murphy’s law ;-)
    Also get in tune with the music. Good stuff happens on downbeats, bar endings, big middle 8s etc. And you just can’t ever take a bad ‘Guitar Face’ ;-)

  • Paul Eliasberg

    I’d rather avoid using a (D)SLR when shooting singers, far too noisy, let alone burst mode or (heaven forbid) flash. All depends on the singer of course, whether it’s amplified or not. I tend to shoot traditional singers, non-amplified, and have ended up shooting with a rangefinder. Even then I’ll listen to a few refrains of the song first, determine where the volume goes up, wait for the aforementioned AAAAAA and click!

  • Chris Blizzard

    Alternatively, wait until they move back from the mic. You’ll avoid having an open mouth, might even get a smile or some interaction with someone else, but more importantly, you’ll be able to get that horrible mic away from the face in your shot.

  • will hall

     While i appreciate that at shows without amplification the sound of a dslr might cause concern, it is of no matter at larger gigs/ concert. I’ve been burped standing infront of the bass speaker while shooting a few gigs, so with sounds that loud the shutter click is of no significance.

  • Marja

    The same goes for people giving speeches.  Speeches are harder in a way, because you don’t have the predictable breaks and pauses you get with singers.   I generally just shoot more than I would normally, accepting that I’ll have to edit the weird expressions shots out.