Article on digital cameras in restaurants
my latest digital camera has a "Food Mode" setting that allows one to "take pictures of food with a natural hue without being affected by the ambient light in restaurants, etc..." I haven't played with this much yet. I think there is an Olympus digital camera that also has a Food setting.....but I prefer natural light so I always look for a table near the window. Of course this doesn't help at night or in a fine dining establishment with "mood" lighting.
As a blogger and food writer, I sympathize with the act of taking pictures - I do it regularly.
I photograph my own food, ingredients, stores, restaurants, plates of food at restaurants, et cetera. Having the picture embellish the memory is nice, and helps to jog the memory now and then, as well.
HOWEVER, there is some element of mystery that is removed by being a consumer of these photos. I will not be able to go and have my long-awaited French Laundry experience with the suprise of a revolutionary dish tantalizing my palate - I have seen far too many photos and descriptions of "THAT MEAL" to be a virgin. In a way, that's sad. Tuna tartare ice cream cone, anyone?
We take a TON of photos in restaurants, never use a flash, and have only very rarely been asked about what we're doing. When asked, we are unfailingly honest about our website, but we never announce we're there to take photographs.
As for the yellowish images, that happens (especially in a place with yellow lighting like The Orchard in NYC's Lower East Side). Usually, it's easy enough to color-correct, but it's an occupational hazard.
I found the food plagiarism/spy factor pretty interesting.
Regarding photos - I think it's about desretion and how many photos you take. A few photos or even one at each course I see no problem and I think most people will agree. A lot of photos however and can be annoying, esp. in an intimate enviro. Sounds like the blogger couple were really into it which could be taken as annoying.
I was in a large ethnic grocery store this summer taking photos of some of the unusual produce. My intent was to do a blog entry about the place and the produce. I was approached by store security and told it was "against the rules" to take pictures. When I asked why I was told I might be a spy for a competitor or other grocery chain. Uh, not likely.
However, the security officer was pretty nice and told me to go talk to the manager and get permission, which I did. But by then I was so self conscious about taking pictures and thought everyone was watching me that I ended up not taking very many photos and not doing that particular blog entry.
A grocery store is hardly an intimate environment, I know, but the idea that photos are being used as a way to copy, imitate or otherwise mimic, duplicate or rip-off an idea or concept are not uncommon on the other side of the lens. Most restaurants in which I've taken photos have been a lot less paranoid than the grocery store for sure.
re: Seth Chadwick
What do you think Mystery Shoppers are? They're paid spies; paid to see how each installation is doing as far as time, customer service and quality of product. I think quality is subjective and is based on how close the purchased product comes to meeting the corporate policy and ops manual.
Shopping the competition happens all the time. I've done it a lot, just to see who's doing what and how well my operations stack up (nor not). Never underestimate a corporate spy, they're very devious :-D
That article indicates to me that, like tipping, the local custom varies from locale to locale. I have taken who knows how many photos and never once have I received anything other than a smile or a curious question about what I am doing. One server even asked if I wanted her to take a photo of me holding my plate of food!
Additionally, I use my flash, but keep it low to the food and the table, tablecloth, plate and food itself absorbs a lot of it. When I first started taking photos with flash, I was very concerned about other patrons and would lean over and ask if they would be bothered by my flash on my camera. After asking questions and asking others in my party if there are nasty looks from other tables, I have yet to get said nasty looks or have anyone protest. I still do ask, but most are simply amused when I am taking a shot of my house salad or they don't care.
As for the banning of cameras, I think restaurants do that at their own risk. I can only imagine Aunt Millie taking out the digital cam to get a photo of her niece's Sweet 16 birthday dinner only to be told that no photos can be taken. Yikes!
I'm not a blogger, and I'm no professional photographer, but I take pictures in restaurants to share with friends and for the memory of what would hopefully be a great meal. And I love looking at other people's pictures.
I try to be very discreet, and never use the flash because I think it would be really instrusive for anyone sitting near me. So, unfortunately, I do end up with yellow-ish photos, or worse, blurred. It's defintely easier now that I have a digital camera -- they're also a little more forgiving of dim lighting, and you can see right away if your picture's bad and quickly reshoot.
Some people really do get nice pictures!
re: Debbie M
Well, from the restaurant's perspective, I can appreciate that they might not want to have their customers photographed "accidentally, or on purpose". This is especially true of celeb hot spots in NY and LA, but applies equally to any establishment where people might not want to be seen (for whatever reason, e.g., a diner is with someone they should NOT be with).
As a blogger, I found that article quite interesting. I dont think I've ever had anyone comment on my camera in a restaurant, although I have been a bit self-conscious in some of the nicer places.
I try not to use flash very often, but to all of you shutterbugs, how is it possible to never use flash in many of the dimmer restaurants? I hate blogs that publish lots of dim, yellow-ish food photos. Is it just a matter of really long exposures? Do you need an SLR?
It's very difficult without flash because the lighting is not only dim but gives a strange color cast to the photo. To do it right without a flash you need a camera that has image stabilization, so you can take a long exposure, and custom white balance, so you can get at least close to what your eye sees (since your brain cancels out that yellow-orange color automatically).
You don't need an SLR, but SLR images usually are less grainy/noisy if you have to crank up the ISO for low light. And the "brighter" lenses (apertures of 1.4-2.8) give you more flexibility of reduce the depth of field so that only a small portion of the image, the portion you want viewers to pay attention to, is in sharp focus.
Some food pix linked for recent ChowHound posts (all flashed):