The U.S. Department of State has created some tips for its employees who are not professional photographers, but must sometimes photograph various celebrations and official events.
With a certain amount of imagination, it is possible to set aside blatantly propaganda (such as "dancing in front of the American flag") and use it when photographing public or family celebrations or other festive events.
The main messages will be helpful to amateurs who have not yet grasped the fundamentals of reportage photography. As I understand it, the main idea of the recommendations is to shoot the main characters close-up, preferably in action or with vivid emotions, and the background should demonstrate the location of action and the occasion.
So, the recommendations are.
- "Before any event, think about what kind of picture will best tell the story of the event.
- Where should the photo be taken - what should be in the background? The background should help in communicating where you are - the country, the city, the building, the environment. Maybe there should be a flag in the background? Maybe there is an event banner in front of or behind the podium? Is there a recognizable part of the building visible? For example, it would be better to photograph the pyramid of I.M. Pei as a background for the Louvre event than an unrecognizable column inside.
- Who should be in the photo. The protagonist, along with those at the center of the event, should be in the picture to tell the story. Musicians? Young people? Government officials? For example, if the Ambassador or Secretary of State for Education is speaking at a Fulbright event, photograph not only the officials, but the grantees as well.
- What is the main action, or emotion? Are they dancing? Talking? Listening? Learning? Enthusiastic? Use props if it helps tell the story. For example, if the Ambassador is meeting with fourth graders to pass books, the photo should include students holding books, children reading, pointing to a picture in a book, etc.
- The photographer should think about the location with all the technical aspects in mind - don't shoot against the sun, against reflective glass or mirror, not in the shade, etc. The main people who should be in the picture should be recognizable.
- Look for action or emotion. Use a close-up shot of the action rather than a general shot. A close-up will convey more emotion in addition to the narrative. For example, if a large American orchestra with swing dancers comes to town, instead of shooting the entire crowd, choose a couple swing dancing enthusiastically in front of a large American flag and event banner so as to convey information about the country and the event."