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Camera's in restaurants

I have a general question for the people who take pictures of the food in restaurants. What type of camera do you bring in? In all my dining experience, I've never actually seen anyone taking pictures in a restaurant. I have a Nikon D80 DSLR, Canon point and shoot and the iPhone camera. While the last thing I would want to do is take a picture with a flash, that would eliminate the point and shoot depending on the light in the restaurant because of the lack of functionality. Ideally I'd like to bring in the Nikon, but its a rather large camera like most DSLRs. The iPhone camera is a great camera phone, but still won't do what I'm hoping for. I'm going to Alinea in Chicago in two weeks, o ya in Boston in April and Paris for a week in May. I'd like to be able to take some pictures of the food at all places, but not sure what the most discreet way to do it without disrupting other diners.

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  1. Since you know where you are going, would it be possible to ask the restaurant their policy or work out a way that you could fulfill your wish without disturbing the ambience...... I've wondered the same thing by the way.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Lenox637

      I have thought about that, but in case they don't want me to, I don't want to be the reservation pegged as the guy who "might bring in a camera."

      1. re: BeanTownGolfer

        You could always call the restaurant and, without identifying yourself, ask them what their policy is.

    2. I bring my D40 with me with pretty big Sigma 1.4f lens. The lens is quick enough where I don't usually need a flash in low-light. My strategy is to keep my camera in my purse at first, and then only when everything is brought out to the table and the server leaves, pop the camera out for a few quick pictures. Maybe it's just me, but I don't want the server to see I have a camera and then try to plate things differently.

      If it's a fancy enough restaurant where most people aren't in t-shirts and jeans though, I keep the camera in the purse and enjoy my meal.

      1. I just upgraded from a D80 to a D90 and added a 60mm macro. I have no problem taking the camera to any restaurant. I paid how much for this food? I think I have the right to snap a few pics so long as Im not using a flash, or getting up and using a tripod and studio lights!!

        1. Hi, I have always loved taking photos of my meals.
          In the more upscale places, however I have always refrained. Recently I had a meal at Degustation in NY - it was a 10 course tasting and I wanted to write a report on CH afterwards. I knew I'd forget what the dishes were so I used my I-phone to snap a pic of each course. I have to say it was pretty discreet and worked quite well!

          1. as long as no flash is involved, it should be totally cool. I've wanted to take pics of a room, not just the food and always ask first

            1. don't forget that you may use a menu or other similar object to reflect light onto your subject. my GF and i have developed a little routine where she holds the menu to provide extra light and shield my actions.

              i've also placed a business card behind wine and beer glasses to make the beverage 'Pop'.

              i hope you enjoy O Ya, it's one of our Faves.

              1. I agree with other posters - no flash.

                I've got to say, the increase in resto food photos can get extremely annoying, particularly when there's a flash involved. Last week at my neighborhood Pho joint, TWO separate tables were taking flash photos of the pho (WHY?). What made it horrible is that there are mirrors on the walls (I was surrounded by three sides of mirrors) and the flashes were blinding reflecting off all those mirrors. It really sucks to be caught off guard by a bright flash in a dim resto when you're trying to enjoy your meal. My eyes are such that flashes and bright lights blind me completely, sometimes for several minutes. What's even worse is when it's multiple shots like in the pho joint - we had to completely suspend all conversation and I had to hide by eyes until it was "safe" again and the tables had finally put their cameras away.

                If you really want to take a photo, please ask the resto and in any event, do not use a flash. If you are worried about being pegged as "the guy who might bring a camera" - isn't it better to be that then pegged as that $!%$# who took flash photos in the dining room, upset other diners and violated the resto's rules?

                1. I have a Rebel XSi but I don't bring it out to restaurants. I have a little Canon point and shoot that I usually set to macro mode and either hope for good lighting or balance it on the top of a glass.

                  1. Discretion is key out of respect for your fellow diners (and dining companions). My husband and I were at a 3 star restaurant in Spain last summer enjoying our meal when a nearby diner started taking pictures of each course, making a big deal about getting the proper angle, etc. It was extremely distracting. I also felt kind of bad for the guy because he seemed more concerned about getting the perfect shot than just enjoying the wonderful meal. A quick, discreet, flash-free photo is fine but this guy was ridiculous!

                    1. I have an Olympus 750, it is a couple of years old. It has a Cuisine setting. Very small and very discrete. It does a great job without bothering other diners.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: Candy

                        Does it also have a Fast Food setting?

                        1. re: psb

                          what would that be? a setting where everything looked less greasy, squished and downright putrid than it really looks in person?LMAO, that would be great.......get served a grey piece of rumproast, take a picture, and it comes out looking like a filet mignon oscar!!!

                          1. re: nkeane

                            >what would that be?
                            i'm not sure but i think it would involve digital super-sizing.
                            i was a little curious about the cuisine mode ... i find it tough
                            to estimate the depth of field for food shots and i think a lot
                            of digital pictures look a little clinical [i dont have very good
                            digital processing chops].

                            does anybody use a tilt-shift lens for food pix?

                            1. re: psb

                              I, too, have an Olympus with a cuisine setting, and I'm disappointed in it - don't find it gives me any better photos than Auto (as in automatic, not as in Ford) or portrait, for instance. I believe it's supposed to cut back on the flash and go to closeup, but that doesn't seem to occur. Anyone else have either the problem or the solution?

                              1. re: psb

                                true, the real problem with food pics(at least close ups) is depth of field. A lot of the blog pics I see are far to clinical and lacking softness. You get great detail, and texture but you dont get an honest picture of what the dish looked like at the restaurant, on the plate, when you ate it. I dont mind taking shots where The depth of field is somewhat too shallow to get the entire dish in focus, as it lends a subtle mystique to the shot. The other secret in a dark room is to get yourself a pen light(some blackberrys have a spotlight on the back of them!!totally awesome feature.....) that is a white light, and light the dish from about 45degrees over head and off to one side.If your light is too strong you can put a menu or napkin in front of the light to difuse it a bit. You get detail without using a flash(way less distrubing to your fellow diners) and it makes your subject pop!

                        2. I use a Casio EX-S10. It's a pocket-sized point-and-shoot with a food mode that invokes macro focus and high saturation. The only additionaI adjustment I make is turning off the flash unless absolutely necessary and upping the ISO if the environment is a dark one. Sony is now coming out with some new point-and-shoot cameras with a mode called "Gourmet." I suspect it's similar to the "Food" and "Cuisine" modes on competing cameras.

                          1. and i thought you were going to complain about security cameras watching people eating.

                            1. For no flash shots:

                              1. Crank ISO as high as it will go
                              2. Shoot RAW if possible
                              3. Use aperature-priority with the lowest f-stop on the fastest lens I have (f1.8 or lower if you can).
                              4. If that still cases my shutter speeds to be too low to hand-hold, then I might even set exposure compensation down a stop, which will increase the speed a little, and then I’ll push the exposure in post (preferably in RAW).
                              5. Lastly, I’ll use various forms of noise reduction to help on the grain/noise front.

                              Also generally, make sure you do not capture any other patrons in your shots, keep the photography to a minimum (like no 15 shots on one plate), no standing or crouching above your plate (drawing attention to your table and what you are doing) - you know things that disturb the experience of the other patrons.