Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Taking Photographs of Food in Restaurants: Is it OK?

With the massive influx of people blogging about food and reviewing restaurants, it’s easy to see why people taking pictures of their food is so popular now. That and the fact that these days, people have to share simply everything, from what they saw in their toilet to exactly how many pints they had after work.
The question is, is there point of taking pictures of your food? Do we need the constant photos of your sub-standard pizza to really get to know you? And finally, since when was it ok to take your phone or your camera out in a restaurant?

My morning latte favours the 'MySpace' angle to make it seem
deep and meaningful
I understand that if you are looking at a truly beautiful dish, it is understandable to want to get a permanent memory of that food before you wolf it down or daintily push it across your plate (if you are so inclined). However, do we really need to take endless photos of our lattes and beans on toast with our instagrams and DLSRs, merely to suggest that we are ‘artists’ or soo random/cultured/serious foodies? Ooh, I’m a teenager in the 1980s with my Instamatic camera and coffee art, writing poetry as I eat my eggs Florentine. I’m not that serious about photography but now I’ve got an iPhone I’m pretty much contractually obliged to use the Instagram filter. It makes my mundane, unoriginal photo of the most common breakfast beverage of choice look cool, edgy and retro with zero effort. AND THE EDGES ARE A BIT BLURRED!!1! Plus I can now put ‘photographer’ in my Twitter bio. And post EVERYTHING I eat. Even that kebab I had at 3am that definitely bears more than a passing resemblance to a turd.

I take pictures of a course at a restaurant if it’s pretty or if I’m thinking about blogging about it, but is it really ok to take pictures of every course? I get quite embarrassed when taking pictures of my food. Even if everyone else is doing it, I feel like a bit of a pleb. It draws attention to me, it disrupts other diners and when they look down at my plate, they’ll probably wonder why I’m taking a picture of a pile of some ribs. Flash photography is completely unacceptable. You can turn the sound off on most cameras too, but not many people do that.*

On the other hand, from a non-dining perspective, it’s very helpful when reading a food blog or review that has pictures of dishes so you can know exactly what to expect from a meal at that restaurant. Otherwise, as frequently happens from misleading menu descriptions, you could end up with something completely different to what you expected (which isn’t always a bad thing, but sometimes it is). It adds depth to a food blog and also your own personal take. The pictures don’t have to be perfect, but it’s far more interesting than lifting the pictures off the website, surely? If I wanted to see that, I could just go to the company website.

So I suppose it’s a double-edged sword – annoying at the time, but actually quite useful and a good way to remember your meal (as well as, obviously, proving you’ve been there and showing off what you had). It's ok to do it sometimes, but constantly and with sub-standard food is NOT ok with me.

*But not, as I found out this morning, in South Korea and Japan. It is illegal to not have a noise on your camera/phone there because apparently there’s a lot of upskirting there. Fun fact for this morning.


  1. I didn't know that about Japan and Korea!! The things you learn!! Made me laugh!! Are the spikes from that fence you're perched on hurting your bum? J

  2. Just giving a balanced argument! Just saying that it's ok to take pictures sometimes, it's the constant snapping and sharing that I disagree with.

  3. P.S. Modified the end paragraph just in case it wasn't clear that I think it's ok to do it sometimes but it's the constantness that isn't ok ;)

  4. That last bit made me laugh A LOT. Totally agree with everything you said here, particularly the feeling like a prat when taking a photo of your dinner part... For me, part of the thrill of a restaurant is ordering something from a menu description, having no idea what it'll look like, then being presented with something that makes you go 'ooh, wow!'. The whole fun of that is ruined if you've seen some blogger's grainy, underlit, greasy-looking photos of said dish on the internet beforehand...

  5. Very interesting!

    It's true - I always feel a bit silly taking photos of food in restaurants (especially if they're a little fancy) but it IS useful for blogging

    I did once try to photograph EVERYTHING I ate for a blog idea - but you really do feel an idiot then (especially if you're just having a handful of brazil nuts)

    - B

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