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Your first foray into shooting your dinner

No, not a hunting post!

Do you photograph food? I tend to seldom think about taking photo's, but I sure enjoy seeing them when related to chowhounding experiences. Another post led me to think about the first time I was motivated to "shoot" my food.

I'm interested in hearing about what motivated you and what circumstances you feel comfortable or interested in clicking away!

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  1. The first time it dawned on me to photograph my meal was at a very traditional hot springs lodge in the mountains of Japan in the mid '90's. My cousin, who had lived in Japan for decades, had insisted that I experience this aspect of Japanese culture.

    Meals came with the lodging. Dozens of beautifully composed little plates and bowls were arranged on a low table in my room. The older lady whose job seemed to be orienting me hovered nearby and made a point of making sure I saw the slices of canned ham on one plate. I suspect they were afraid I would find the dishes too exotic and wanted to be sure I had something familiar! Once she was sure I was happy she quietly slipped out.

    I started to sample, each bite was better than the last. About half way into the meal it occurred to me that I would never be able to adequately describe this - and the idea to photograph my meal first occurred to me!

    I wish digital had been around then so I could share the images here!

    1 Reply
    1. re: meatn3

      I think the title of your post has scared others away!

      I too avoided it all day because the thought of shooting a bird or even catching a crab to me is hideous!

      Anyway - I have been taking pictures of my meals for a very long time...my dh is mortified by this, but like you - sometimes a meal is hard to describe - or in fact remember at all after some time - no matter how memorable it was!

      I too wish I could see your Japanese meal - it sounds wonderful!

    2. There are some other threads related to this subject you might want to read.
      I have a pocket camera. Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W220 Point & Shoot. Does video, too. About $150. Very discreet in size! Shoots great pics at low light with 12.1 megapixels.

      I try and wait till waiters turn their backs and aren't looking. I have the camera at the ready, by my side or in my lap. I often use a glass as a mini-tripod so low light shots aren't blurred. I normally don't use a flash. If you can pull it off a small LED flashlight can come in handy to accentuate the plate. You can put paper or layers of transparent tape over the flash to reduce flash output to a minimum on cheaper cameras where total manual control is not possible. Even a table napkin will work.
      When it comes to shooting pictures of the restaurant's interior I may use the flash and I don't try to be discreet. Taking these kinds of pictures, where you can feign shooting a picture of your party or companions is common.
      If you feel discretion is irrelevant (like on vacation, where you may never return), then do what you please. Some waiters like the attention and like being in the picture or taking pictures of you. This gives them the sense that you are just a photo nut (and not necessarily a foodie), and will think less of you shooting shots of the food. Just shooting the food openly and staging it may have caused us to get better service than we might of otherwise been given. I know the Chowhound staff is against Hounds making any reference to or suggestion about that they are Chowhounds.
      I have taken my $4,000 Nikon rig into a restaurant and often somebody is intimidated or too curious. I don't do that any more.
      The hardest thing is to get people to wait to eat. I often dig in and then say "shoot!" Then I'm trying to move food around or find an angle where you can't tell it's been molested.
      I shot some recently (Los Mariachis Bar and Grill) where you can clearly see steam rising from the plate. I was taking a lot of shots there and you can see the server's arm in one shot!

      1. Haha! yeah, I sort of still feel like that internally because of the manners. But I figure I don't mind being embarassed by my enthusiasm. I don't use a flash and most neighboring tables don't even notice.

        But within my group, all of my friends and most of my casual acquiantances know I'm a complete food nerd. They're used to my enthusiasm and geeky excitement.

        Whether in fine dining places or casual eateries, waiters and owners usually recognize that my enthusiasm is genuine and I really appreciate their food and efforts. As I result I usually end up striking fun conversations with them. But that's always been my basic attitude to these kinds of things, show respect, curiousity and enthusiasm and people will usually be nice and helpful to you.

        1. He he. I also thought it was going to be a hunting post.

          Before the whole blogging and foodie craze started, I did take pics of some meals so I would remember them. I treated it like a souvenir. Generally happened when I was traveling. Never shared them with anyone except for my travel companions. Didn't think that anybody else would have been interested. I remembered getting from very strange looks because people didn't do that back in those days. I don't do it anymore because I've gotten lazier.

          1. Yikes! When I saw the title I was remembering (not too fondly) pulling buckshot out of pheasant with needlenosed pliers...

            I always feel conspicuous in a restaurant taking pics of food. Even on "no flash", my Canon on macro mode is best, but my iphone takes great pics (at least good enough for the web), it's very discreet (OK, looks like I'm being rude and texting during dinner).

            1 Reply
            1. re: hsk

              I think your phone is a great alternative.

            2. Too bad. I thought I was going to be able to share some spearfishing tails.

              1 Reply
              1. re: scubadoo97

                A new post...!

                Tales or tails, it's all good.

              2. I started doing so when I had my first phone with a camera. I love food photos but hated the thought of lugging around a camera when I'm out. But I always have my phone with me. Rather easy to whip out the phone, snap a few pics and keep going. Of course, most of my friends these days are food nuts so we are all taking pics or ask for copies anyway. We always have the flash off in a nicer place but in a casual or street stand, the flash is on.

                Now on vacation, I usually have my camera with me from being out all day taking sights. Same flash rules as above. Nicer place, put it on museum setting and hope I can get my hands steady enough by propping on something.

                My twitter feed is almost exclusively of food shots and hardly anything else.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Jase

                  Jase: You haven't posted any pictures to Chowhound!
                  HSK: are the three you have posted from your iphone? Which one? The 3G is said to have decent image quality, while earlier ones suck.

                  The problem with cellphone cameras is that they typically have no flash, no auto-focus, no digital zoom, no photo correction application, no adjustments in size or quality, no white balance and no color filters.
                  The resolution (of cellphones), is OK for Chowhound for the dismal 520 X 390 pixels, low quality images they convert your picture files to.
                  Our Cybershot was less than $200 and is smaller than some phones. It takes great pictures! Most recent pictures on here were shot with it, though it is hard to tell how good they are. The conversion software of Chowhound really turns the images to mush.

                  1. re: Scargod

                    No I haven't. I don't post much relative to my reading and I find uploading photos a hassle most of the time. I usually use the photos as a reminder and sample of what we had and where. So I try not to get all photo geeky about it. Otherwise I'd never get around to eating. It's also easier for me to do a write up later having the photos in front of me as cues, so quality is not a top priority, convenience is.

                    I just don't want to carry another device with me that I'd hardly use. My phone is the Palm Pre. 3 megapixel, flash, takes decent low light photos without a flash, digital zoom. Good enough for my above purpose. Also while it's on the phone, easy enough to twitter and upload to Facebook instead of downloading from the camera. Something you can do quickly if other people go to bathroom or you're waiting for the car, no hassle at all.

                    1. re: Scargod

                      I do have a 3g, decent enough pics for the web. I totally agree with you about real cameras vs. cellphone cameras, my Canon takes WAAAYYY better pics but at 72dpi it doesn't really matter. The most recent pic I posted here was taken with my Canon, that's the only one I use when traveling outside Canada (because my iphone is locked to Rogers so it stays in the hotel room most of the time). Although after it was reduced, it would have looked the same it it had been taken with my iphone. But standards change, I still remember thinking my old treo took great pictures (not!).

                  2. When I was stationed in the Army at Ft. Monmoth, New Jersey, I was served a tray of food one evening at the mess hall. I immediately dashed back to the barracks and got my camera. On the tray were 5 items. Not in the 30 year's since, has anyone been able to identify a single item on that tray other than the bread. I still have no idea what it was...

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Leper

                      That really made me laugh! You must have had fun showing that photo over the years.