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Sep 23, 2005 05:10 PM

Taking pictures in restaurants

  • j

First, you point and then you click, usually when the food is brought out -- ok, check, got that. =)

How do restaurants view this, though? Has anyone run into trouble with the management for taking pictures? If they ask, what do you usually tell them?

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  1. I've never had anyone ask in San Francisco. They either look at me amusedly, or like I'm nuts. I think it's flattering that you like their food so much. They really have nothing to lose and everything to gain: if you post their picture somewhere, it's free advertising!

    If you started taking pictures of everything--decor, staff, location, logos--you might start looking like a spy from a competitor. Otherwise, what can you really steal from them by taking a picture? The recipe's not apparent from a photo, and their method of presentation is going to either be pretty standard or so intricate a photo won't teach anyone how to copy.

    Every time I've asked a bakery or candy shop whether I can take a photo of their glass case, people are really gracious and don't mind at all. They just like the warning so they can get out of the way and not be caught in some stranger's photo collection.

    No one's ever asked me why I'm taking a picture. It's obvious: because it's so pretty!

    If it's really quiet or dark, I'll try not to take pictures because it'll be noisy and I never know if I've really turned the flash off.

    1. I once took a Polaroid of the birthday girl at a celebratory dinner at California Pizza Kitchen, and was hurriedly and sternly admonished by the manager that no one was allowed to take pictures there for any reason.

      I already had my photo, so I didn't argue, but saw to it that future dinners were held somewhere where the management understood about being part of the HOSPITALITY industry.

      By the way, the place folded fairly quickly, and nobody is mourning its loss.

      1. It often depends on the occasion, mood and type of photo equipment in play. If you're with a small group, it's far easier to mask food shots as people shots. Obviously, a close-up shot seconds after the plate hits the table leaves little room for doubt as to what you're up to. Plain vanilla civilian-grade digital p&s cameras attract little attention provided you're not blinding patrons with the flash. A friend routinely squeezes off dish shots with a Nikon digital SLR with a macro lens and ring flash but he's quick and discrete and limits himself to maybe a half dozen shots.

        1. I don't take pics at every place, but when I do, I've never had any problem from small dives to four-star. I don't hide my camera but try to be discreet and quick, mainly b/c I don't want to interrupt the flow of the meal too much or annoy my dining companions. They deserve hot food.

          When staff has noticed, they usually just smile. I have no idea what they're thinking, but they've never stopped or interrogated me. If I sensed that I should ask first, I do. When the vibe isn't right, I forgo the photo and leave the camera tucked away.

          Seems like more people are taking food photos these days (at least in my circle) and the more I've gotten into the habit of doing it, the less self-conscious I've become. If you're someone who enjoys capturing the beauty and personality of food in an image, I say go for it! Kinda cool to know that I can get on my computer and view most of what I've eaten in the past year...

          2 Replies
          1. re: Carb Lover

            Boyfriend describs it as my personal version of saying grace before a meal. No one touches the food until everything's been photographed. That's what he gets for dating a foodaholic instead of a good Christian girl.

            But no one complains when they ask me what restaurant's good and I say "See for yourself!" And my friends really appreciate recipes that are e-mailed to them with photos attached, both of tricky steps in the process and of the final product. It helps make the cooking process less scary the first time around.

            1. re: nooodles

              Saying grace--good analogy. The photos do come in handy, don't they? My friends appreciate them too, and my parents love it when I recreate one of my mom's dishes per phone instructions and send them a photo of the result.

          2. We've never had a problem shooting in restaurants, and we've done some, ahhhh, interesting setups: when we moved from Nashville to Pasadena we carried a plastic dog poop with us and photographed it in lots of places, including a few restaurants. No hassle.

            Big problem I have with shooting food is remembering to shoot it before it gets eaten! When the plate is set in front of me, my first thought is very seldom, "Okay, let's take a picture now." I was going to shoot our brunch yesterday, had the camera out and everything, and was halfway through the meal before I thought of it...although I will say that neither of my companions remembered either!