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Does taking food photos bother customers or staff?


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#1 Special K

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Posted 06 May 2010 - 01:13 PM

http://www.philly.co...paparazzi_.html

Or is it OK?

#2 JimS

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Posted 06 May 2010 - 02:26 PM

Definitely one of my pet peeves. Camera flashes at Applebee's or Chucky Cheese are one thing, at a quality restaurant they're even more annoying than cell phones.

#3 Special K

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Posted 06 May 2010 - 03:10 PM

I have to say, I never really thought about how annoying this could be to restauranteurs and fellow diners. I don't go out very often, so I don't do this myself, but I have really enjoyed seeing the photos of restaurant food people have posted here. I guess the thing to do is ask first if it's OK.

#4 cdh

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Posted 06 May 2010 - 03:32 PM

I have to say, I never really thought about how annoying this could be to restauranteurs and fellow diners. I don't go out very often, so I don't do this myself, but I have really enjoyed seeing the photos of restaurant food people have posted here. I guess the thing to do is ask first if it's OK.


Ask who? Host? Waiter? Manager? Everybody in view? Majority rules, or single blackball voting? etc?
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#5 cdh

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Posted 06 May 2010 - 03:35 PM

While we're on the subject, the (sadly derivative (said as a Philadelphian)) PHL piece clearly refers to the recent NYTimes piece First Camera, then Fork (which features snaps of food cooked at my house and served on my back porch...)...
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#6 JimS

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Posted 06 May 2010 - 03:42 PM

I have really enjoyed seeing the photos of restaurant food people have posted here.


There's the rub. I agree with this...I just don't want to be the guy at the table in front of them!

When I was a youngster, I was taught that when dining out, it's polite to try and have as minimal an impact as possible on the surrounding diners. Camera flashes were rare (these were the one flash per bulb days...no one wanted to carry a box of bulbs with them) and cell phones didn't exist yet. However, I was taught that boisterous behavior and cigars simply didn't belong in the dining room. Evidently, cigarettes were fine since everyone else was puffing away too.

#7 philadining

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Posted 06 May 2010 - 04:31 PM

I was just recently in a nice restaurant in New Orleans, where I was unobtrusively shooting pictures of my food (with no flash) while at the same time being irritated by a nearby table full of doctors shooting flash photos of one another, oblivious to anyone else in the room.

As someone who obsessively photographs in restaurants, I'm certainly not a disinterested party, but doesn't it seem like the better question is whether one is being disruptive to others? If I quietly take photos of my food without disturbing those around me, what objection could other diners have? I could understand a no-camera policy, on the grounds that photos disturb other diners or violate their privacy, but that's going to have to include taking snapshots of the birthday girl and her cake, a souvenir pose with the chef, etc.

I think chefs and owners could justifiably be frustrated by bad pictures of their food circulating around, but life is tough, people are going to say inaccurate and unflattering things too, and there's nothing anyone can do about that. In general, if people are taking photos of the food, it's because they like it and want to tell their friends about it, either just casually or through a blog, or a site like this. The owners should be happy that people are doing publicity for them.

If someone is being obnoxious about taking pictures, it's the same as any bad behavior, one would hope the management could find a polite way to ask the offending party to tone it down, just like they would if the person were being disruptive in some other way. I personally would much rather have a table full of (discrete) shutterbugs next to me rather than trying to eat next to some drunk guy yelling bad jokes at his tablemates, or a shrieking baby, or a doting Aunt taking endless flash photos of everyone's lovely outfits.

But I'll admit that I'm biased...

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#8 David A. Goldfarb

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Posted 06 May 2010 - 05:01 PM

I photograph food quite a bit, not usually in restaurants where I'm just eating a meal, but if I do, I try to use a fast lens and high enough ISO setting on my camera to do it without flash, and I just try to take advantage of whatever lighting happens to be available in the restaurant. Direct flash isn't usually very flattering to food or people or many other things for that matter, and I think it would be a bit obtrusive to do much more than direct flash in a restaurant situation. If I think I might make photographs, I'll try to get a seat near a window when there's daylight, but if not, I just pay attention to the direction of the light and make do with what's there, and I use whatever I can to brace the camera, so I can use a slow shutter speed.

Here's a plate of Romy's Spareribs from the last night at Cendrillon on Mercer St. in Manhattan before they closed--

Posted Image

It was pretty dark, and the lens was a 35mm/f:2. I probably had my arms braced on the back of a chair (it was a party, so walking around was appropriate) or a table to hold the camera steady. I shot in RAW so that I could easily adjust the color balance afterward without losing quality. Auto White Balance is often not terribly reliable, and in a restaurant, you may have mixed lighting sources, so this can be a bit tricky.

Edited by David A. Goldfarb, 06 May 2010 - 05:03 PM.


#9 Tri2Cook

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Posted 06 May 2010 - 07:51 PM

Doesn't bother me from either end. I don't mind people taking pics of my food (not sure why they'd want to but it has happened) and I don't mind people taking pics of their food when I'm eating somewhere nice... if they can do it in a relatively unobtrusive manner. In my opinion, anybody who says that someone else quietly lifting a camera and snapping a quick and quiet no-flash pic messes up their dining experience is just looking for something to complain about. If there were no cameras then they'd probably complain about the scratch of pens from someone making notes about the meal or something. However, if you feel the need to set up a tripod, use blinding flash or move around the room trying to get the best angle while loudly narrating to the room what you're doing, I probably won't be happy and, being the direct person that I am, I probably won't bother with the manager or anybody else. I'll just let you know you're being a jerk.
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#10 haresfur

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Posted 22 May 2010 - 02:06 AM

Quote:

'Some consumers seem to believe that food should be consumed visually as well as physically.

"What happened to the enjoyment of just eating the food?" decried Andrew Knowlton, the restaurant editor for Bon Appetit magazine. "People are losing sight of why you go out."'

I guess restaurants have brought this on themselves by the emphasis on attractive plating. Seems many chefs also believe food should be "consumed visually".
It's almost never bad to feed someone.

#11 MattyC

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Posted 22 May 2010 - 10:01 AM

To me it should just follow common sense rules like everything else: Just be respectful of others dining around you. As a diner, I don't mind at all that people are taking pictures of food - if it looks good, go for it - as long as I don't have flashes annoying the hell out of me all the time. But like David said, direct flash isn't exactly flattering of food anything, so the times I have seen people doing it, most rely on natural light and you barely notice them. I take pictures myself sometimes as well, and as long as i've been quick and don't bother people with a flash, I don't think anyone minds, or in most cases even notices.

From the back of the house point of view, again following the same rules, it doesn't bother me as long as they aren't bothering the other diners. It's nice to know they like how the food i'm putting out looks, and if nobody is being bothered by it, who cares?
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#12 barcelonabites

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 07:47 AM

I've been thinking about this question lately and I just read something about it on the Word of Mouth blog. I'm sort of undecided. As a new food blogger, I feel like I should take pictures of the food I want to write about when I go out to a restaurant but I'm really not comfortable doing it. At the same time, I don't mind when other diners do it...

#13 Holly Moore

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 08:12 AM

Back when I had my restaurant a regular customer was Dan Rottenberg, editor of what was then the Welcomat (Philadelphia Weekly). Seems he needed to replace the restaurant critic. He received a number of applications and, without letting me know, assigned each potential critic a review of my restaurant. Until we figured it out, it was weird. Maybe five tables at a time asking multiple questions and furtively writing notes of each dish. Fortunately it was well before the advent of digital cameras. But servers, hosts and fellow diners were and are curious and distracted whenever a diner starts writing notes about a meal.

Or taking pictures. I imagine it is the same for restaurants nowadays - maybe even more so. Multiple cameras clicking, and perhaps flashing, away. Bloggers aplenty, along with eGulleteers, celebrators and the occasional member of the working press. Or perhaps so many camera-clicking diners are now the norm, diluting any staff curiosity.

Since smoking now is banned in most dining rooms, perhaps restaurants can now offer clicking and non-clicking rooms.

Grant Achatz voiced similar concerns on the Alinea site, initially about video taping but evolving into photography. One interesting aspect - when a restaurant serves twenty-some courses and tables take pics of each course, it makes the meal much longer, impacting turnover.
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#14 Edward J

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 08:20 AM

I don't operate a restaurant per say, but a small cafe that specializes in pastries and artisanal chocolates, weekends I have a high tea.

I do get upset when people start snapping photos of my display cases and my shop itself, as once they take the picture, the image becomes their property and they can do with it as they wish. For this reason I have stickers on my display cases asking not to take pictures.

However, once the item is sold, it is sold, and they can take as many photos as they want, and this is usually in my cafe. This usally works very well in my favour, as the photos invariablly end up on facebook or some kind of blog. However the quality of the photo can leave much to be desired, the majority of them are done with a cellphone, and some of them are incorrectly identified/labeled.

Oh well, take the good with bad I guess.

I do feel for the fine dining establshments though. It is not uncommon for many fine dining places to ask their patrons to put their cellphones on "silent". Perhaps a policy of "admire your food in such a way as not to inconvienience your neighboring patrons and staff?

#15 cmling

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 11:39 AM

"Per Se" is operated by someone else. (Sorry, but I just couldn't resist.)
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#16 Edward J

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 11:54 AM

Thanks. Mind's a bit numb this morning--bad combination of heartburn and cold-turkey coffee withdrawl....

#17 SobaAddict70

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 01:35 PM


I have to say, I never really thought about how annoying this could be to restauranteurs and fellow diners. I don't go out very often, so I don't do this myself, but I have really enjoyed seeing the photos of restaurant food people have posted here. I guess the thing to do is ask first if it's OK.


Ask who? Host? Waiter? Manager? Everybody in view? Majority rules, or single blackball voting? etc?



I typically use nonflash whenever I'm in a restaurant. Of course it wasn't always like that, especially when I was starting out as a foodblogger. Education evolves over time.

As for policy, I ask the reservationist when making a reservation and again when confirming. I've never had a problem with this approach.

#18 IndyRob

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 03:05 PM

I wonder if, in some restaurants, it might be possible - after ordering - to ask to stand next to the pass for five minutes - while promising not to get in the way and further promising to delay nothing. Presumably, you could take it out of the dining room and be able to shoot more dishes.

#19 naguere

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Posted 11 June 2010 - 06:26 AM

‘Pale, flabby people were taking photos of everything before eating it... Food bloggers’

Not my words , but the words of Giles Coren, food correspondent of ;'The Times'

I take photographs of food at home and out and about, it is good fun.

Article The Times:
Clickety
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#20 chezjim

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Posted 11 June 2010 - 10:05 AM

I've done it a few times. When one subsequently posts such an image on the Web for a lesser known restaurant, I would think it would be a useful plug. (One picture I took in Vietnam of a particularly ornate lobster dish has been snagged by all kinds of other sites, though I don't know if they always include what I say about the restaurant.)

It seems to me lots of people take pictures of each other in restaurants and so often, however incidentally, of the food. Short of banning pictures altogether (I imagine the very best restaurants frown on it overall), I'm not sure it's "on" to object to photographing the food.
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#21 sunbeam

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 08:05 AM

I think all pictures on reviews are bad, they make the food look gigantic and horrible, they are rarely in focus, and the white balance is usually all over the shop. I also find it annoying and distracting to be near people constantly taking pics of their food. I want the staff to come over and call a halt or better still throw them out on their arse and chuck their camera after them.

It's a form of trainspotting to my mind and I cannot understand the mentality of people who do it. I also feel sorry for their other halves having to put up with watching the husband (and it is a boy thing mostly) twiddling with his camera and bending about for a better angles.

Dinner is not an occasion to take photos of plates nor tweet or text. It's supposed to be about conversation and enjoyment of the food.

#22 DTBarton

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Posted 11 March 2012 - 09:59 AM

Almost all the folks I've seen taking photos of food were doing it discretely without flash. I certainly enjoy seeing photos online and they have been a factor in my decisions about where to eat.

Also, I can't recall seeing any posted photos of food that were not trying to be complimentary, so I think overall it's a positive thing for restauranteurs.

#23 Mjx

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Posted 11 March 2012 - 10:32 AM

. . . .

Dinner is not an occasion to take photos of plates nor tweet or text. It's supposed to be about conversation and enjoyment of the food.


Dinner may not be an occasion to Tweet or text, but the tradition of taking pictures in restaurants goes back to the 1920s, at least (think of all the groups you can find, taken at various restaurants).

I feel uncomfortable taking pictures at restaurants (I also reflexively apologize to inanimate objects if I back into them), but have done it on a few occasions, when the food was so lovely that I wanted to be able to show friends/family who were not present at the meal. The quality tends to be so-so, because the meal is about the food, and the pictures are not intended for a large audience, so I don't fiddle with settings and such. Depending on the venue, I may ask whether it is okay to take pictures of my food (no one has ever said No, although on a few occasions, the waiter or other staff wanted to be photographed, too).

I think that if people are courteous about it, and keep in mind that in some places/situations even asking is likely to be inappropriate (e.g. if there are highly-strung celebrities anywhere in the room), taking pictures shouldn't really be a problem.

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#24 Man

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Posted 11 March 2012 - 03:15 PM

I think that if people are courteous about it, and keep in mind that in some places/situations even asking is likely to be inappropriate (e.g. if there are highly-strung celebrities anywhere in the room), taking pictures shouldn't really be a problem.


I photograph about half of my meals out, but I obviously go to the wrong places as I've never once come across a celebrity! (Or maybe I just don't watch enough TV to recognise them - luckily I've also never been subjected to the terrifying treatment Subeam suggests above :smile: ).

From the point of view of the customers, in a public and crowded place one can always find one zillion motives of irritation in the behaviour of one's fellow human beings. This one talks too loud, that one has uncouth table manners, that other one wears a silly dress...So either one learns to tolerate such minor irritants, or quite a stressed life is on the cards.

From the point of view of the restaurateur, I have more understanding of their desire to have control of the images of what they produce (I agree with Sunbeam and others that the quality is sometimes poor, even grotesque - definitely so in my case) and they certainly have a right to impose a no photo rule. On balance, though, I am not sure it is in their commercial interest to do so. Perhaps this is why such a rule is quite rarely seen.

#25 Dave Hatfield

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Posted 12 March 2012 - 05:51 AM

Sorry, David, but I don't get your point.

I understand that you're trying to be 'discreet' when you take pics in a restaurant. That's better than the in everybody's face slobs who just don't care who they annoy.

Its a nice enough picture of some bibs, but to what point?

#26 David A. Goldfarb

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 12:45 AM

Point of the post?--just suggesting how to avoid using flash in a dark restaurant.

Point of the photo?--the chef is a friend; that's one of his signature dishes; and it was the last time he was making it in that restaurant.

#27 kaszeta

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 07:23 AM

I do both professional and hobby food photography. For the first, I'm doing it for a restaurant, and I'll usually do whatever it takes to get the shot.

For the latter? I still like to get pictures of my food, but if I'm not doing it professionally, my foremost rule is that I'm there to eat, not photograph, and to make sure that my photography doesn't get in the way of my enjoyment.

My second rule is "try not to annoy the restaurant, or the other patrons". I don't think I've ever used a flash, since they are, quite frankly, annoying. A good camera, support (I have a mini-tripod that's great for this), and some patience are all that's needed.

#28 nikkib

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 07:33 AM

It doesn't bother me when I'm at work - so many of our guests do, but they are mostly discrete - we are not talking huge flashes or anything like that - I did ask someone to put their tripod away as it was blocking the walkway to other tables and was really a bit ott in my opinion. As a diner, I snap everything with my iPhone - no flash and I do it quickly do it doesn't disturb anyone. I generally don't bother if the light is bad enough to warrant a flash although people take pictures of friends/dates etc so am not sure why I hold back really! I think the key is to be quick and discrete - if it was going to cause a distraction/wasn't allowed by the restaurant I wouldn't do it and wouldn't sweat it.
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#29 Holly Moore

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 11:42 AM

David,

When I take pics in a restaurant I'm doing it for my website or maybe to post elsewhere. While I'm not trained to produce publication quality, I do want my pics both to represent the food accurately and to have nice color tones and glisten. I've tried shooting in low light without a flash with my SLR - upping the ASA, opening lens, high shutter speeds, etc. Only thing I haven't done is shot in RAW mode. Thing is, I'm never happy with the "punch" of the end result, especially compared to the same pic shot with just the built in flash on my camera.

I'm not being critical; just trying to figure out what is possible in low light situations. The pic you posted seems a tad faded or washed out. Is that a function of low light photography?

Perhaps dimly lit restaurants preparing pic-worthy fare should designate a portion of the dining room for flash photography.

Edited by Holly Moore, 13 March 2012 - 11:44 AM.

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#30 olicollett

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 01:49 PM

David,

When I take pics in a restaurant I'm doing it for my website or maybe to post elsewhere. While I'm not trained to produce publication quality, I do want my pics both to represent the food accurately and to have nice color tones and glisten. I've tried shooting in low light without a flash with my SLR - upping the ASA, opening lens, high shutter speeds, etc. Only thing I haven't done is shot in RAW mode. Thing is, I'm never happy with the "punch" of the end result, especially compared to the same pic shot with just the built in flash on my camera.

I'm not being critical; just trying to figure out what is possible in low light situations. The pic you posted seems a tad faded or washed out. Is that a function of low light photography?

Perhaps dimly lit restaurants preparing pic-worthy fare should designate a portion of the dining room for flash photography.


If you can't shoot in low light with your equipment, I think you just need to leave it be.

Flash photography is going to have issues in those kinds of situations, even without the problem it causes for other customers. To get a good result, you'd need a proper flash gun or some kind of ring-flash setup. It would just end up being ridiculous in a restaurant.

That said, with an SLR, you should be able to get a decent enough shot with a fast lens and steady hands. Some of the mid-high end SLRs will perform adequately at ISO 3200+ which should be plenty unless it's almost pitch black.