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Is it ok to photograph your food?!

It sounds like a silly question, but I always feel quite naughty when taking photos of my food in restaurants. Is there any reason that I shouldn't do it or should I just snap away regardless?

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  1. There have been other threads on this. I think the consensus has been it is polite to ask your server if it's OK, and never use a flash.

    1. I don't see any reason not to. I've photographed a few items that I've been really impressed with in the past. I think it's okay as long as you avoid drawing attention to yourself and if you also avoid capturing the staff and other patrons in the picture since they may not want to be photographed.

      1. learn to shoot without flash. i'm ok with folk taking pictures with their digital cameras but the flash thing is rude and annoying. canon, others, make decent cameras the size of a bar of soap that allow you to take web-worthy shots without disturbing neighboring diners.

        asking permission from management prior to shooting is always a wise move.

        1. mojoeater and steve h. have it exactly right. Ask the restaurant and go without the flash. Presuming the restaurant says it's ok, snap all you like, so far as I'm concerned.

          1. two words-camera phone!

              1. re: alexthepink

                Ah...but have you asked your food if it WANTS to be photographed?

              2. I photograph my food all the time because I'm a food blogger and pictures tell (almost) all. I try to be discrete about it, as to not draw a scene, but I do it nonetheless.


                1. I have a new Olympus with a Cuisine setting and many others which will allow me to take photos in many places discreetly. There is even a candlelight setting and flash is very minimal. I was glad to get it. We like to photograph food and hate the idea on bothering others.

                  As jillp once said about our group of friends that when we travel we don't send back photos of where we have, we send back photos of what we ate.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Candy

                    Oooh a camera with a cuisine setting? Nice! Do you like it/ have you noticed your pictures of food coming out any better?

                    1. re: Chew on That

                      It is the Olympus Stylus 750. I am still learning to use it and the only drawback has been a lack of viewfinder in bright light. Here is a photo with it taken in a very intimate dimly lit restaurant. http://s3.photobucket.com/albums/y75/... No one except the people at the table we were at noticed we were photographing everything. The camera is incredible a lot of presets for different settings. Check t out on Amazon or elsewhere. I thought is was a real deal at $169 with no tax or shipping.

                      1. re: Candy

                        Another thing about it that I really find valuable on the Olympus is the ability to avoid hand-shake which is often noticiable in small light weight cameras. It also has a setting called sports, It allows you to take action shots that aren't blurred. Does video too of course.

                      2. re: Chew on That

                        My camera also has a food setting: autoflash, macro focus, high saturation. Of course, all these settings can be adjusted manually, but it's nice to have them packaged in one quick setting. It's a Casio EX770. I like it primariliy because it fits in my pocket, but the food setting is very helpful. The pictures are noticably better than without it.

                    2. I got beat up pretty bad last time I brought this issue up on this board, but here are the guidelines I follow:

                      -- Yes, photography is fine unless you are told otherwise.
                      -- The photography should be limited to the food you have paid for; photography of other customers and staff is not acceptable unless you have their permission.
                      -- Good photos without flash are not always possible. If your camera is not a digital SLR, it may not have a wide enough range of possible ISO settings to take flashless indoor shots without noisy results. If using a flash is necessary, aim right at the food and get in close so as not to bother others.
                      -- Don't use tripods or other bothersome types of apparatus.
                      -- Take your pictures quickly. Don't fuss with multiple attempts that are more likely to disturb others. You can crop and fix photos later.
                      -- Use of flash and photography in general may be more of an issue in fine-dining restaurants that take pride in a specific ambience and finely-tuned plate presentations. It is less likely to be an issue in casual restaurants.
                      -- If approached and asked why you are taking photos (has never happened in my experience) be honest in your reply. If it's for a blog, say so. If it's just for personal use, say so.

                      No interest in debating others on these issues -- just sharing my thoughts for the benefit of the OP.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: silverbear

                        Good rules of thumb.

                        Restaurants are so used to people taking pics of their food these days, it doesn't seem to be a big deal. I only started doing this recently, only for some special dinners, and have never had any issues from the restaurant or other diners. It seems to me it's also free PR for the restaurant (unless the review is negative, but then again, still free PR).

                        1. re: silverbear

                          Silverbear's are all good guidelines. However, I totally disagree with those who said you should ask your server or the management. This just gets everyone worried about whether they should say yes or no and isn't worth the trouble.
                          I have taken photos of my food in hundreds in hundreds of restaurants in L.A. and a few other cities, and never once been asked to stop. In a few cases, especially Asian restaurants, the servers have happily helped display the platters as they are more used to people taking pictures.
                          As for the flash issue, I don't sweat it too much. I managed without it at Mozza, but at the usual more casual places I just use it if I really need it.

                          1. re: silverbear

                            Great guidelines, sb.

                            Each and everyone of those rules I follow and in the two plus years of food blogging, I have not had one instance where I have been asked to stop taking photos. I honestly answer the curious and get reactions of bemusement to awe to interest. In fact, the neighboring parties and staff are often quick to ask if they can help by taking photos of me and my party, to which I graciously accept and everyone joins in the fun.

                            1. re: silverbear

                              I follow all of these guidelines - thanks for putting them into writing! I feel better about my picture taking now :)

                            2. There was a recent thread about someone who had a bad experience with photographing their meal: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/413926 .

                              I'm not a food photographer or a blogger, so that affects how I feel about other people taking photos of their meals - the biggest thing, for me, is that the photographer be judicious in the use of a flash (or just do without). I have an old eye injury and one of my eyes doesn't dilate properly - repeated use of a flash in a darkened room (not dark, but you know what I mean) leaves me blind for several hours in that affected eye.

                              On the other hand, I love seeing photos of different meals and frequently find myself salivating over some 'Hound's blog.

                              Guess it's just a request to be respectful and unobtrusive - and I'd guess that asking for permission, especially in select places, might be a good idea.

                              1. If you are not serious enough to invest in a camera that can produce adequate photos of food without a flash, you are not dedicated enough to be bothering the other patrons.

                                Some will argue, "What about those birthday tables who pose and ask the waiter to flash a group photo?" Well, I'm not a big fan of that (particularly when called on to get up and stand behind others) but at least there is one picture and maybe a quick back-up and it is over. These foodies with their blogs photograph every single course, supplemented by the entrance, the bar area, every page of the menu, and sometimes I'm surprised I don't see their bill and charge card. If done discreetly, fine. But NO FLASH. And no getting up from your seat repeatedly for better plating and angles. If you detect even the slightest angry glance from a neighbor, you are being intrusive and/or obstructive (need to decide on the correct terminology). I came to a restaurant, not your set.

                                I admit I enjoy some of the photo displays I read and admire on my L.A. board and others. But if I am at a high-end restaurant treating family or good friends to an occasion and hopefully a memorable meal, and you at the next table repeatedly break the lighting with flash photography or endlessly intrude into the aisle to position yourself to best capture every single dish, I am definitely going to ask the management to make YOU move.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: nosh

                                  yeah, the flash thing is getting annoying lately. tons more bloggers now. don't get me wrong, i both rely on and appreciate a bunch of blogs. still, when the price of entry approaches zero, quantity has the potential to swamp quality. i suspect this trend will continue for awhile. we'll see. some backlash is inevetible.

                                2. lots of good pointers in this thread, some have some differences of opinion.

                                  - jfood hates flash photography in a resto. jfood would vote for no flashes
                                  - asking the resto. Only common courtesy to ask. how would you feel if someone came into your house and started snapping pictures of all your stuff.

                                  just a couple of $0.02's.