click click click

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Fooditude: Doing Food Photography in Restaurants

The issue of taking food photographs while dining inside a food establishment is not new to me. I’ve read an article about it in 2010 concerning some restaurant owners disliking the growing population of foodies who take photos in their restaurant. It’s 2013 now and another article has come up about some restaurants banning food photography (read article here).

I had a good exchange of ideas with tweetmates this morning when I asked "When taking food photographs in restaurants, do you ask staff/owner if you can take photos of their food and establishments?". My answer is at the end of this entry. In the meantime, here are a few thoughts I tweeted which I'd also like to share here:

On restaurants prohibiting food photography:
A food establishment has the right to prohibit taking photos and we cannot argue with them because it is their way of service. However, it is very important that guests know this information before they dine at the restaurant. A sign on their door, informing guests via phone when they make reservations and a note on their website would be good ways to let people know that taking photographs are now allowed. It's important that guests are well-informed as it is their choice whether to eat at the restaurant or not.

I understand why a few restaurants have taken to their hands the prohibition of food photography. Some guests tend to overdo it and forget that the reason why they are at the restaurant is to eat and not fuss about photos and their gadgets. Restaurant owners are also concerned for other guests who deserve some quiet while enjoying food. 

As a consumer:
Food establishments have to understand that nowadays part of the food experience is to immortalize what guests eat in their restaurant.  

While it is our right as consumers to take photos of what we ordered, we need to be ethical and discreet about it.

I don’t mind dining at a restaurant that prohibits taking food photographs. While I love taking photographs of what I eat, it's something that I do even before I had a blog, I value my love for good food more than the photographs I could take. Sure, photos are good reminders but experiencing something special is so much better.
Restaurant & Bar: The Little Snail (Pyrmont, Sydney NSW)

I’ve been crafting this article for at least a year but never get to finish it. But with the article that came out yesterday, I’ve pushed myself to finish this once and for all. I’m sharing a few tips on how the Husband and I discreetly take photos whenever we’re dining at a restaurant:

We take photos as quick as we can. Just a minute will do, no more than that. It’s a fortunate circumstance that the Husband and I are skilled in photography. It’s very convenient to have him around as he helps me take shots. Sometimes I am only capable of taking a shot at a certain angle due to where I’m seated. In just a few seconds, we are able to produce photographs of a dish taken at different angles with different perspectives. Other than angles, it pays to have a quick mind when it comes to shooting food. The minute you see your dish, you must quickly know how you want to photograph it and what you want to show in your photograph. You know why else you need to be quick? Because you don’t want your food to be cold when it’s supposed to be warm; you don’t want the ice cream on your Belgian waffle melting when you eat it.

We don’t take photos in the middle of eating our meal. When our order arrives, we give ourselves a moment to take a shot and then we keep our phones and cameras out of sight.

We choose the best seat where natural light (or at least good lighting) is available. We prefer tables near the window if possible. If we’re not given a seat we don’t prefer, we politely ask to be moved. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. The point is, it doesn’t hurt to politely ask. 

We avoid using flash because we care about other guests inside the restaurant who deserves to eat in peace. Also, using flash photography makes food look bad anyway. It’s very rare that we use flash and it occurs only when we’re desperate, if we know that we are allowed to do so and we have a friendly relationship with the staff/owner.

Even if we are allowed to take photos of our food, we do it as discreetly as possible. We're try to be as quiet and non-intrusive. It helps that we have a micro-four thirds camera (Lumix GF1) which we use most of the time instead of a DSLR which is conspicuous.

When dining with family or friends and they allow me to take a photograph of their food, I take a shot at their food first before mine. Sometimes I just take a "group photo" of all the food in our table to save time.

We ask the restaurant owner/staff if we are allowed to take photos. This is a case-to-case basis as some establishments have that casual vibe where you can easily take out your camera and shoot away. However, in a restaurant that has an ambiance of exclusivity and privacy, we are careful not to offend so we ask.

So there. A few thoughts and a few tips that may be helpful to you. 

Care to share any thoughts on foodies that photograph in restaurants or restaurant owners that ban food photography? Any tips you'd like to share?