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Why Do People Take Photos in Restaurants?

I'm not talking about the occasional photo of your friends and family when dining out. I'm talking about sets of photos of decor, each dish eaten, the menu, etc. The reason I wonder is that so many restaurants these days have websites that have enough photos to give one a sense of both the decor and the food. I find it so disruptive to see someone snapping away, even if discretely. To me, it's the same as using a cell phone in a restaurant - an intrusion. I guess I'm particularly thinking of higher end restaurants, but at the end of the day, my philosophy about it is the same.

I want to enjoy the full experience - decor, service, food, without the "interruption". Plus, of course, my husband would be absolutely mortified, even if I did want to do it. I was recently at one restaurant where, at the bottom of the menu, it said "no cellphones and no photographs please", or something to that effect. And, doesn't the restaurant wonder why people are taking photos?

Now, I know I take photos of the food that I make at home, but I take the photos before we sit down to eat, not while we are at the table. I differentiate this from the above paragraph because on the Home Cooking board, we're sharing what we learn from the experience of cooking, and photos are often useful to show the outcome of one's efforts, particularly when it's for the Cookbook of the Month.

So, don't hate me for this query ... I just really don't understand it, though I know lots of 'hounds do this.

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  1. Well, maybe in this day and age and just about everyone having a blog etc, and people feeling the need to show their friends every little thing they do (facebook), they have to take pictures instead of linking to the restaurants website to prove that they went there.

    Also, it could be that everyone now thinks they are a food critic and they will do some sort of write up with photos to go along with it.

    That's just my two cents.

    1 Reply
    1. re: roro1831

      Maybe - but the only person I know who does this has been taking photos of every dinner she eats in a restaurant since well before the advent of digital photography and she doesn't upload anything to anywhere, she just likes to keep scrapbooks of food pictures. And she only shoots the plate, not the surroundings or people.

      I asked her why she does this the first time I ate out with her (at a rijstaffel in Amsterdam, yum!) and she said she just likes to do it, no special reason.

    2. In restaurants and in life, I like to take pictures of things that are special or interesting to me and/or that I want to remember. Often, I post my photos on chowhound. The kind of small mom and pop places I prefer to eat at usually don't have robust websites (if at all) or even any coverage by media... A lot of time, I'm photographing something's that's new to me because I want to remember it more precisely so I can research it later. Some people like to take pictures of birds; I like to take photos of food.

      In restaurants and in life, I try not to antagonize other people with rude or disruptive behavior. I do know others might find it objectionable (though, I really don't get it), so I try to be as discreet as possible. I don't use a flash, rearrange furniture, stand up, etc. and I am quick about it. I never take photos of other patrons or of their food, etc., just of what's at my own table.

      If it's an expensive restaurant or the kind of place where I think people are there for some kind of special occasion and might find my photography disruptive, I refrain altogether. But, for the most part, I'm not dining at peak dining hours or at high-end places. And, whenever possible, I try to be seated away from other patrons and with my back to them. I keep my camera off the table and out of sight when it's not in use.

      Bizarrely, my husband doesn't give a hoot whether I take photos or not, (except that he wishes I would do it quickly so the food doesn't get cold).

      While others may think it's weird that I photograph my food, since I'm doing it quickly, quietly (you can turn that electronic clicking sound off of most digital cameras), and without the flash, I don't see how disruptive it can really be unless they are watching me with close attention to begin with, which I wish they wouldn't.

      Still, I do understand your point because I feel self-conscious about it, but, when I think it through, I just don't see how it should make a difference to anyone if I stick a fork in my sandwich or take a picture of it. It's really just between me and my sandwich (and my husband, who, again, has said he's okay with it.)

      EDIT: I think it's kind of similar to something like, applying lipstick at the table (which I don't do). Really, who is harmed if someone at another table applies lipstick? No one, really. It's just one of those things you don't do (really, you should refrain from grooming at the table, right?) but, if no one is harmed by it, I don't see the problem. But, of course, as a society, we have to draw the line somewhere about what is good etiquette and what is not. Some people draw the line at photography. I draw it at grooming. :).

      On the other hand, a restaurant is private property. If they don't want you taking photos, then that's their right and they can ask you to refrain. But, if I've just (or am about to) paid for this sandwich, I don't really feel bad taking a photo of it. I've never been asked to refrain from taking photos in a restaurant (I was, though, once asked in a grocery store though), partly because I think I'm pretty discreet about it, but, if I were asked, I'd be mortified. And I'd probably never go back. I've never been back to the grocery store, by the way. And I'll tell you what, the reason I was taking the photo was because someone on Chowhound had asked, where can I find X in the the Twin Cities. I had wanted to post, you can find X at Y place and I wanted to be able relate the exact brand and flavor etc. of the item. I was simply taking a photo of the label on the jars (they had about 3 brands of this item.) I never did post about my find. Nor will I go back to that grocery store unless as a last resort. It was their right to ask me to refrain, absolutely, but it's my right not to shop there anymore.


      8 Replies
      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        P.S. I usually do nothing with these photos but upload them to my computer. But, I do often find myself referring to them years later, especially if I haven't posted on chowhound about that meal. As in, what DID I order when I ate at that place, or, was that pecans or walnuts in that dish?


        1. re: The Dairy Queen

          Maybe this is a dumb question, but what prompts you years later to want to go look at a photo of a dish that you've had?

          1. re: MMRuth

            It's usually because I want to recreate the dish at home and want to refresh my memory.

            EDIT: P.S. and I am often shocked at how poor my memory actually is. I swear my memory of a dish is so very vivid, but, I often discover that the red sauce that I remember so clearly was green sauce, or the meat I remember as minced was in big chunks or something along those lines. It turns out to be somewhat humbling to discover how flawed my memory actually is!

            1. re: MMRuth

              For me, it's not that I specifically search out a picture of a certain dish or meal but that I will go and look at old pictures and be pleasantly reminded of what I ate and where I was.
              I travel a lot and it's a great way to remember the tastes and smells of special dishes and places. Every time I see a certain picture of smoked cheese at a place in Yoyogi-uehara in Tokyo I'm reminded of my dad, on his first trip to Japan. He got drunk and cried about how delicious it was. I'm extremely happy I have that picture.
              Another picture I still remember is my first meal in Vietnam (and my first time having bun cha). I couldn't stop smiling and when I see the picture, I light up again.
              I think for a lot of us here, food is a special thing and good pictures help create good memories.

          2. re: The Dairy Queen

            TDQ - Good post. I agree with all of this.

            I like to take pictures so I can remember what I've eaten. Sometimes I post pictures on chowhound or on a blog, but usually it's just for myself or to show friends later. And, like TDQ, most of the places I eat at (and the people in them) don't mind. If someone asked me to not take pictures, I would be fine with it.

            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              Beautifully said, A to Z, TDQ. I can't answer the question better than you just did, so I will just add my +1 and this lighter to underline my support for your well-constructed post.

              thew, you nailed it, too.

              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                Thank you TDQ for explainging what I am thinking when taking photos of food at restaurants or at home.
                I am really glad there are others that do this, because I was made to feel like a gluttonous fool by one of my associates when they saw how many pictures of food I had stored on my camera, phone, and computer. The associate said that although I may not eat alot, I am a glutton becuase I aparently obsess about food.
                I don't think taking photos of good food that I have been blessed with is a sin. I love to make good food and I enjoy plating it in a beautiful way as well. I also enjoy remembering a meal because of the company shared. I realized that the associate was really the fool. But I assume that some have the same thinking as he.

              2. to answer a question with a question (it's genetic heritage)

                why take pictures of anything?

                to remember. to share. to show.

                2 Replies
                1. re: thew

                  Yes, that did cross my mind while typing that up. I wonder what it would be like to be in a restaurant where every single table had someone taking photos of the entire meal. Sort of foodie paparazzi.

                  1. re: thew


                    As long as you don't use a flash in a restaurant photography is practically invisible. Unless you're staring right at the photographer you're not aware of them. I find it *far* more annoying when a people at a nearby table are really loud. Turning you head away doesn't work for that one.

                  2. Many of the most memorable times of my life have taken place in restaurants. It's where we get together to celebrate birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, even funerals. It's where we connect with loved ones, current and future.

                    I take pictures in restaurants because I want to remember these times. This includes the people and the place. Of course, like all restaurant behavior, I try to be discreet. Most modern digital cameras can shoot in low lit areas without a flash. I usually don't use a flash.

                    I would hardly equate taking a flash-less photo, or even one or two discrete flash photos, with talking on a cell phone. If a restaurants tells me not to take a photo, I would wonder if they understand why people eat out in the first place.

                    21 Replies
                    1. re: taos

                      I sort of get the comparison to talking on a cell phone. In both cases, you're interacting with technology rather than your dining companions. The OP has said that she thinks her husband would be bothered if she took photos and, if my husband minded, I wouldn't take any either.


                        1. re: thew

                          Oh, well, if I'm dining alone, then all bets are off. I don't have to worry about offending my dining companions at all. :)


                        2. re: The Dairy Queen

                          Not at all. If I'm taking a picture of my dining companions, I'm very much interacting with them.

                          The fact that the OPs husband is bothered is really a separate issue. The topic of that post should really be "Should I do XX if my husband is bothered?" It doesn't matter what XX is. Since her husband is bothered, she probably should respect his feelings and not photograph him in restaurants. I'm not married to the OP's spouse and my family does not mind being photographed at family gatherings in restaurants.

                          1. re: taos

                            Yes - the bit about my husband was really an aside - but the issue for him, as it is fore me, isn't his having his picture taken, but taking pictures of the food/ambiance etc.

                            Anyway - I appreciate all of the candid replies.

                        3. re: taos

                          I was distinguishing in my OP between taking some photos of friends/family in a restaurant from taking photos of every aspect of the meal, every plate of food, etc.

                          1. re: MMRuth

                            OK. Thanks for clearing that up. If it can be done unobtrusively and your dining companions don't mind, I see no problem with it. if your dining companions mind, as with anything you do in in a group setting, don't do it. If it's obtrusive, as with anything you do in public, also don't do it.

                            This is common sense, isn't it?

                            1. re: taos

                              I think it often comes down to who considers what to be obtrusive.

                              1. re: MMRuth

                                This is true, of course, but funnily enough, even on the subject of taking photos in restaurants, what is generally considered acceptable (taking photos of friends, especially those situations where someone in the group is pleading with the server, "Take our photo" and there's this big, loud "CHEESE" moment the whole restaurant has to share and the entire aisle is being blocked while the server is taking the photo, not to mention the chorus of "Take one with my camera, too" that follows the first photo ), I often find obtrusive.

                                On the other hand, I still can't understand why someone is bothered if I quietly take a photo of my sandwich as long as my husband doesn't care. I believe you when you say you are bothered by it, but I don't understand it (apparently no more than you understand why I want to have photos of my food, HA!).

                                But, I suspect you are not alone in your feelings. I don't take food photos when eating out with anyone other than my husband, even if I really want to, because I'm too shy to ask (I worry that they would think it's weird or feel self-conscious about it). I think most of my friends would be surprised, actually, to know I take photos of my food. (And, that, during the entire meal I am silently wishing, "Oh, I really wish I could take a photo of that..." HA!)

                                I know you've described a scenario where someone is taking a photo of every single course, which makes me think you're thinking of far nicer restaurants than I'm thinking of. There aren't a lot of courses at the pupuseria or the pho place.

                                As far as taking photos of friends in a restaurant, I can count the number of occasions I've done so on one hand. Once at this very campy bar in Vegas (and, frankly, I don't really feel bad about much of anything I do in public in Vegas because whatever it is, it's got to be so much less tacky than most everything else going on around me), and, weirdly, at a TGIFridays once in New York about 25 years ago. Oh, I guess I remember one trip to Asia where a friend and I were the only two people in a restaurant in the midst of a big rainstorm and we were taking turns taking photos of each other, mostly, just to pass the time. Those are some of my favorite photos from that trip.

                                Usually, if I'm going to take pictures of friends, it's going to be outside the restaurant where there's more room and the light's often better and where I can try to get the restaurant sign in the photo (I'm big on signs).

                                Certainly, I've been in groups where someone insists on taking photos of the group, and to be honest, while I enjoy having those photos in my album, I am never the person taking or suggesting the photo.


                          2. re: taos

                            My sense of the interruption - of either telephone or camera - is not just the noise/light, but the very introduction of the device. In my mind, in the case of taking of loved ones at a special event, the significance of that lets me put aside the sense of interruption (which is still there), for the sake of having the photos in the future. Same with the phone - if it vibrates in one's pocket or on the chair because of an emergency, well, that takes precedent, for me, to the "intrusion".
                            Or maybe I'm just a not so old fuddy duddy. I've had two beautiful meals recently at La Grenouille, and if my choice had been go, but you have to take photos to document your entire meal, or don't go, I wouldn't have gone.

                            1. re: MMRuth

                              I'm with you, MMRuth. It feels irrational to me, I suppose, but I dislike it when people do it. I find myself staring and wondering 'why are you doing this?' I agree that if one is taking pictures of your gathering, then great, it's easy to put it aside. I've taken ONE picture of a meal (in Rio) and I was quite embarassed doing it (and you can do almost anything in Rio without fear of embarassment!). I guess we can be young and not-so-young fuddy-duddies. It's just one of my bugaboos. Go figure.

                              1. re: c oliver

                                What about taking a photograph made you embarassed? Did you think you were drawing unwanted attention? Or maybe b/c of your own annoyance of others who photograph in restaurants?

                                I have often taken photographs of food in restaurants, but I typically use my iPhone and snap a quick photo. I enjoy looking back at my photos of Chang's pork buns or brussel sprouts, for instance - yum. But I can also see how it could be distracting or annoying to other diners, especially in a high end restaurant. I assess the situation on a case by case basis, if I feel like it will draw attention, I won't do it.

                                1. re: lynnlato

                                  Well, I did mention that it's irrational. And just yesterday, I actually took one more photo in a restaurant. LOL. So now I've taken two. Horrors. I may be about to get out of control :)

                              2. re: MMRuth

                                Hmmm, interesting, well, it's only an interruption, I suppose, if it's a surprise or not part of the plan. When my husband and I go out to eat, we both know I'm probably going to photograph the food if it's something I find interesting. He's not surprised when I pull out my camera in that moment between when the food is delivered to our table and before we eat it and, in fact, if I don't take my camera out, my husband will often ask if I plan to, or, if it's okay for him to start eating.

                                I'm not familiar with La Grenouille, but, it's French-sounding and, therefore, I'm guessing it's a finer-dining restaurant that I probably wouldn't dine at unless someone else suggested it, which means we'd be eating with other people, and I wouldn't take out my camera.


                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                  I guess I see an interruption as affecting not just one's dining companions at one's table, but also those who are dining at nearby tables. There are plenty of things that one could do in a restaurant that one's dining companions might not object to that would still be intrusions/interruptions to other diners. One might dine with those who have no objection to one's dancing on the table, but surely that would be an interruption to the dining experience of others. It's just a matter of degree and I do, of course, recognize that there is a dramatic difference between dancing on tables and taking photos.

                                  1. re: MMRuth

                                    Thank you for bringing into the equation all of the other patrons in the restaurant. In some restos, the tables are quite close together and this demands certain etiquette. Unfortunately, some think that taking pictures of their plates, with flashes, and then recruiting the server to take their pictures with the food is good manners. It quite cheapened my special occasion dinner of oysters and champagne b/c my dining neighbours thought it would be a good idea to get a photo of how the salmon was presented on the plate.

                              3. re: taos

                                i totally agree....but i usually only take pics when im in a foreign land and i want to show people how amazing my meals looked....its a good thing. you wont see me taking a picture of a mcdonalds whopper!

                                1. re: missmar79

                                  I now feel like taking a picture of my next McGriddle just for sport! HA HA HA HA!

                                  1. re: kattyeyes

                                    When we were in Rio, I took pictures of the signs for fast food places and sent to a Chow-buddy who is vehemently again FF. It included McDs, KFC and also the local chains as well as the one-off places. With my light hair and skin, I'm sure the locals were thinking "oh, lord, do we really need her tourist dolllars/reis that much?"

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      ha! i began taking pix of mcdonalds ads when i was in london for about a month. this was 15 years ago, when the dollar was strong, and the ads for "extra value meals" with the price (english pounds) that turned out to be--like--- ten bucks(!!!) were very amusing/ironic to me at the time. i'd stare at the big colorful ads on the back wall of the tube station while i was waiting and just shake my head. i finally snapped some photos, which now, years later are actually really cool to have.

                                      then in my travels i've collected some other photos of mcdonalds ads-- in euros, lire, franks, rupees, greek and hungarian and bulgarian money, etc. i think it would be kind of cool and kind of scary to make a montage of them all in a big frame. although i never eat at a mcd's (abroad or at home), it is funny how the pix of the ads kind of bring immediate memories of street life in other cities & countries right back in a visceral way. the disgusting pervasiveness of mcd's (and coke) ads in other countries becomes interesting on some level. i am also prone to taking very common street-scape pix and pix from public transportation as well as the tourist pix of monuments and landmarks. although i am sure the locals have scoffed at this loony foreigner taking a pic of a mcd's ad while in the shadow of one of the wonders of the world. . . it's interesting to me-- for the very reason that it is everyday and commonplace to them.

                                      1. re: c oliver

                                        I must admit I had to snap a shot of "ПІЦА ХАТ" (Pizza Hut) when in Russia a few years ago.

                                2. I do not know WHY people take pictures in restaurants or other public places like them. I do know that I resent being included in their photo and take means to avoid it. I go for enjoyment of the food and not to be the object of anyone's curiosity or entertainment. With modern cell phones and other small cameras privacy is being more and more diminished.

                                  13 Replies
                                  1. re: feelinpeckish

                                    Even though I do certainly take photos of my food, I never take photos of other people in restaurants. I do think that is an invasion of other peoples privacy. Furthermore, my interest is in the food directly in front of me, not in the strangers who happen to be dining across the room or at the next table. In fact, I have a macro lens on my camera and the settings are such that anything (or anyone) beyond about two feet away from the plate of food I'm photographing is a complete blur. Nevertheless, I take care to point my camera only at my food and not even swipe it carelessly in the direction of others.

                                    I, too, get annoyed when people are taking of photos in a restaurant and I suspect I'm in the frame, and that's whether they are taking photos of their friends or photos of their food. But, I don't see why I can't take a photo of my sandwich if I do it discreetly.


                                    1. re: feelinpeckish

                                      there is a common misconception/idea of a "right to privacy". you have no such right when in public. The person next to you, no matter how rude you might think it is, can sit there and take hundreds of photos of you and there isn't one thing you can do about it besides leave. Worse yet, they could just follow you(hello, paparazzi)!

                                      I take Photos of the food(only) because it is a hobby(FOOD PORN!!!) and it is my right. I paid for the food, ergo I will do what I want with it, so long as its not throwing it across the dining room!:-)

                                      Of all the "annoying" things people do in restaurants, this ranks pretty low. I would rather sit next to some food nerd like myself as they snap photos of rib-eye's and chocolate tortes, than someone blowing their nose, wearing tons of Avon perfume, cackling in a near ultrasonic pitch, talk loudly about their DR's appointment for their infected boil, change their babies diaper in the booth as they eat, etc!

                                      1. re: nkeane

                                        I don't think that the statement that one's privacy is being diminished contradicts your notion of lack of "the right to privacy" whilst in public. If a restaurant's menu said "No photography, please.", would you still believe you have that right?

                                        And, I could argue that, while you believe you have the right to take photos because you paid for the food and you want to take the photos, I also paid for my food, I don't want to be in a restaurant where people are taking pictures of their food, ergo I have the right to be in a restaurant where no pictures are taken by customers. However, that doesn't quite work, as each right needs to have a corresponding duty. I'm not sure why one customer's desire to take photos trumps my desire to eat in a photo-snapping free environment. And, I suspect that, since a restaurant is a privately owned establishment, the management could ask any patron to leave - not that that would be good for business of course.

                                        (Note ... I don't actually think of all this in such strict terms ... but when one person invokes the right ....)

                                        1. re: MMRuth

                                          Though it does invite the public in, a restaurant is actually private property, and, in my opinion, absolutely has the right to ask you not to take photos. If I saw that at the bottom of the menu, I would completely respect it. I have no problem with that at all.

                                          As to your point as to what is good for business or not, I suppose it just depends on how many people want to take photos vs. how many people object to someone else taking them. Maybe such a restaurant (the kind that requests that patrons decline from photo-taking in their restaurants) will become a haven for those people who object to others taking pics of their food and, it could actually become good for business, (and now, probably because I haven't had my coffee yet, I have to take it to the absurd extreme) until it become the champion of a no-photo-taking movement that ultimately resulted in a state-wide ban on taking photos in public places. Or, maybe the restaurant should seat some diners in a photo-taking room and others in a non-photo-taking room.

                                          In all seriousness, though, I am really astonished to hear how offensive it is for you if I, off in a corner in the restaurant, with my back to you and the flash off, pull my camera out, quietly snap a photo of my sandwich and perhaps my husband's sandwich, then put my camera away. It's one of those aspects of my own behavior, with all of those precautions that I've taken, that I never dreamed could really bother someone and, I suppose, that I need to reconsider. It feels like a victimless crime to me. The kind where you might look over during the 30 seconds it took me to do all that and go, "How gauche", but the kind that wouldn't ruin your entire meal beyond a mere 30 seconds of irritation. But, apparently, I have some more thinking to do on that point as, of course, I really don't want to be an irritation to people, even if these photos bring me a great deal of joy.

                                          Interesting discussion, thank you!


                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                            Honestly - I may be making more out of this than there is to make. I was genuinely curious about it, and I wouldn't do it, and I guess I do think of it as being a bit gauche, but it's not as if I let it ruin my meal by ANY means.

                                            And, I do think there is a difference between taking a quick snap of a sandwich or two, than what it must take to "document" one's entire meal from entrance, to photographing the menu, the place settings, the bottles of wine, one's waiter, each dish brought to the table, various other photos of the dining room, etc., the gift bag one gets when leaving ....

                                            So, I guess for me there is also a difference between taking a quick snap or two, versus taking photos throughout the meal. For, me, once the meal starts, I want to enjoy it and be there in the moment, not taking photos to record the meal for posterity. At the end of the day, my original query really was WHY do people what to document an entire meal (and often it seems, every entire meal they eat out) for posterity. Someday is someone just going to start video taping an entire meal?

                                            The issue of my not liking it being done is a different one from wondering while other people like to do it, which is the one I was trying to understand.

                                            Merry Christmas!

                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                              Ya know, TDQ, I suspect if everyone were as discreet as you clearly are, then rarely would anyone notice it and therefore it would never have become a subject for discussion. Does that make sense? And, as I mentioned, it's one of my irrational perhaps "thangs." You can take pictures next to me anytime :)

                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                That's a good way to put it. If people don't notice, shoot away. If people do a whiplash thing and stare, it's time to put the camera away.

                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                  Thank you, MMRuth and c oliver and your additional comments. I'm glad to know that my efforts to be discreet do make at least a little difference. There are situations where I feel very self-conscious taking photos, so don't. It's not that I've gotten the "whiplash/staring thing" (haha chowser, funny!) , yet, but I just get that sense that I would. In any situation, I suppose, it's important to pay attention to social cues, if your goal is to make sure you're not offending others. Isn't that what society is? Setting aside aside some individual comforts and desires in order to make it possible for us to all live in harmony?

                                                  I can assure you that I won't be taking photos at the small, very intimate, romantic, fine dining restaurant my husband is taking me out to as my Christmas gift. Even though I haven't stepped foot on the premises yet, I already know it's not going to be camera-welcome. But, it is one of those places where I will later, wish I could remember more about my meal, But, such is life. Hopefully, they'll let me keep the menu.

                                                  And, yes, (belated) Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it, and happy 2010 to everyone. Can't believe the new millennium is a decade old!


                                              2. re: MMRuth

                                                To answer your question, yes I would respect a 'no pics' policy by the restaurant. Just as I would/do respect cash-only, no cellphone, shirt and tie, etc...policies. That being said, If you have a desire to eat in a photo free zone, go to a restaurant that is one. It is unfair of you to demand or expect a condition that is different than the owners of the restaurant would like. If the owners or manager do not mind people taking pictures, than it is up to you to do one of two things: deal with it, or leave. Getting angy or offended by the perfectly acceptable(to the establishment) behavior of other patrons is goofy to me.

                                              3. re: nkeane

                                                Using your logic, it's OK to wear offending perfume, lance a boil, change a soiled diaper, etc. because this justifies you becoming an offender as well. Strange logic. Where exactly are you eating?

                                                1. re: nkeane


                                                  Jfood agrees there is no "right to privacy" but there are rights to civility, consideration and being a member of a society. It is this "i will do what I want, F$ck the rest of the people" attitude that drives many people crazy, jfood included.

                                                  And your last paragraph sums it up nicely. Everyone has differing opinions of the priorites of disturbances. Jfood could not care less if people at the next table, no matter how close, take a picture of the food, or anything else (w/o flash). And the other stuff is part of the equation as well.

                                                  You can not teach good manners in a restaurant (too late and not the restaurant's or the other patrons' jobs), that has to be done at home. And if anyone feels they have a right to do whatever they want without any regard for those around them, then it is the parents who have failed.

                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                    Damn! You always say it better than I can think it. Right on!!!!

                                                  2. re: nkeane

                                                    This is true when one is in public. A restaurant is not a public place, per se. Which is why paparazzi photographs are taken from the street looking into the bldg. They have every right to stand on the street and photograph into the restaurant, your house, etc. but they cannot enter private property and snap away.

                                                2. I don't but I have to admit I like seeing pictures of other people's dinners in restaurants which probably makes me worst because I'm not sharing but want others to do the work--kind of like people who read People magazine and want the papparrazzi to do the dirty work. I have heard some dieticians will help clients by having them take pictures of the food they eat so they can analyze it for them. I know a different case from what you're talking about, and different from family/friends.

                                                  1. Guilty as charged. I find that including pictures of the food I describe on my blog (yes, I write about restaurants I visit quite a bit) makes it simply more fun to look at, and I've been getting more hits, frankly, since I've introduced photos.

                                                    I tend to not use flash unless absolutely necessary, and stick to only taking pics of the food, not the decor, place mats, or whatever else you mention.

                                                    I doubt that is any more disruptive than a group of friends taking pictures of each other all night b/c there is some sort of celebration.

                                                    1. I dont do it . Several years ago we went to Europe with another couple and they took mulitple photos of every meal / plate/ setting and it made me exceedingly uncomfortable..I think it detracts from the intimacy of a meal and what i want to focus on at my table. And I suspect that my husband would go batshit if I did. But I honestly cant recall being aware of others doing it in Boston restaurants so folks must be quite discreet

                                                      1. I do it or blogging purposes, and for a few newspaper columns. I don't use a flash, so if me holding a camera is distrurbing to you, I'd suggest looking at someone other than me. I'm not that good looking anyway. Happy Holidays!

                                                        1. I still remember being blinded for several minutes at a very nice, but dimly lit restaurant where a something was being celebrated at the next table. At some point, someone turned on the photo switch and all brought out their cameras and flashes and (this was when flash cameras had indiviudal bulbs) and for about three minutes the flash bulbs were blasting. Waiters were also blinded.

                                                          That hideous memory puts subtle food photography into a rather innocuous catagory for me.

                                                          1. i used to feel that it was inappropriate to take pix of food in a restaurant, but i've changed my mind. i think it's okay, especially if the person is, or takes special pains to be, quick and discreet.

                                                            i think regular folks who are not *remotely* into food take pix of food sometimes. my mom would take pix of beautiful holiday table settings or party buffets (before the rest of us destroyed everything LOL!), and it's common for folks to take pix of a wedding cake. it's big, it's unusual, it's pretty, it's special, whatever! so when i really thought about it, it made sense that folks who are a little more into food would think their plate of bulgogi very fetching and special and want a photo to remember or share with others. maybe it's to help them cook, maybe it's to show someone who lives far away, who will never experience the dish-- maybe there are dark things i'd rather not contemplate, which they will do with their personal stash of "food porn" ;-P

                                                            that said, it is a *very* excpetional and rare plate of food that will get *me* to snap a blurry iphone shot of it, and i've never brought a camera to a restaurant in order to get food pix. but in short, i'd rather see someone take a pic of their plate than of their companions (where unsuspecting folks can also get in the shot)-- although i can understand the reasons for both actions. my rules of etiquette would be leave the flash off, leave the tripod off, be quick and don't make a production, and we're all fine.

                                                            1. I hardly take pics of food (am too busy eating to take out a camera and snap away) but am currently in Maui and have been taking photos of my meals just so I can remember my vacation. Pics are quick with no flash. They are definitely not good quality as I took my small cheapo camera and am trying to be as discreet and quick as possible. It's really for documentation for myself -- nothing else. It literally takes 10 seconds to turn on my camera and snap a couple of shots. I don't participate in any social networking sites. I don't have a blog. I don't find it any different than taking a pic of the waterfalls I've hiked to or the fish I've seen snorkeling. And the pics don't necessarily have to be about food or scenic vistas. I snap pics of stupid little things like DH stepping in dog poo and me with my hand sticking out of the car window holding the dog poo tissue while we drive around looking for a garbage can. I'm sure many people would be wondering why I'm taking pictures of gross things. But to me the photos are my form of a travel journal. I'm not the type of person to write in a travel journal. The pics tell a story and help me remember what I've done as my memory gets crappier as I get older.

                                                              The Hawaii hounds have also been really good to me helping me plan my itinerary. So the food pics will also help me remember what I've eaten so I can write out a better trip report. I know my reports will never be as thorough as someone like Bill Hunt (who has really written very in-depth reports about Hawaii). But I hope that this info would help others.

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                I had a thought the other day. We've been in Sonoma for a week and had some terrific meals. Since it seems almost every restaurant, even little divey places, has a website with their menu, that if I wish, I can make a folder (online) and put the resto menus in there. I find the written description tells me about the actual food rather than just the "purty pitchers."

                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                  For some reason, many places in Maui did not have menus online. And the ones that did were very outdated as I visited a lot of places that had menus that changed on a daily basis based on what was fresh that day. Good thing that it worked for you that you were able to do it for your Sonoma trip.

                                                                  I think people process things differently. For me, a picture is worth a thousand words. I don't process words very well but am very good with diagrams and charts. All throughout my years of schooling, I had to create a lot of diagrams when I studied for exams. I could read a paragraph for ages and still not understand the nuances of it. But once I transformed the paragraph into a pic, it got through my thick skull quickly.

                                                                  1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                    Good point. I definitely process using words. To me a photo is just a "purty pitcher." Plus it doesn't tell me anything that's IN it, just what it looks like. I rarely write a true review of a resto here but when I do it's usually based on the written menu that I've either asked for or gotten on line. My palate and memory just aren't good enough.

                                                              2. I took a photo of a bowl of soup that I ate at a restaurant in Mexico. I posted it on Flickr. It has been viewed more than 4000 times in the past eighteen months. Clearly, there are people out there who really, really, REALLY want to look at photos of food from restaurants! Some of my other Flickr photos from restaurants also have 1000+ plus views. Flickr shows you the referrer, and I can see that tons of people are searching online for things like "picture of food at restaurant ABC in City XYZ" (yup, lots of people with poor searching skills out there!). I don't take photos all the time, I never use a flash, and I don't let it interrupt the flow of the meal. However, it seems like I'm doing a public service!

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: Jetgirly

                                                                  Wow! That's a pretty powerful stat. I would feel like a rock star if anything I photographed garnered 1000+ views, nevermind 4000+! Thanks for sharing and keep up the good work! :) Or should I say, "Rock on!"

                                                                2. I have also never been a fan of people taking pix in restaurants -- especially with an annoying flash -- although I guess if it's done so it doesn't interfere with my meal I wouldn't mind. A recent, rather extreme and obnoxious experience at a Nougatine Saturday lunch comes to mind...a table of about 10, I'm guessing an engagement celebration with extended family. There was a professional photographer with a huge camera and powerful flash circling the table the entire time snapping pix. Since I was facing them, I saw spots during the whole meal. Your bad, Nougatine -- I was amazed that they would allow this intrusion!

                                                                  1. People are so annoyed by everything these days... ; /

                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                    1. re: mess

                                                                      One could argue that there are more things (at least when dining in a restaurant) about which to be annoyed. (grin)

                                                                      1. re: MMRuth

                                                                        Certainly, one could apply that rule to simply leaving the house, but if you spend your time sweating these things, you might as well never go out. My theory, which applies to many, many "annoyances" within the restaurant world, from the staff side to the patron side, going out to dine is a sheer luxury by a lot of standards, so I say, go out, enjoy great food, enjoy good conversation, forget the rest (grin)

                                                                        1. re: mess

                                                                          Grinning back at ya - but I did find it a bit difficult to enjoy the experience with the constant flash. And as you note, dining out is a luxury. If I had been at a wedding or if the meal had been on the house, well that's another matter altogether!

                                                                          1. re: City Kid

                                                                            All I am saying is that people get themselves so worked up over so many things that I have just come to let go and just enjoy life as it comes ;]

                                                                    2. When my wife and I were lucky enough to enjoy dinner at The French Laundry we asked our server about this very thing because of all the posts I see here which include photos. The response was that they do not encourage it, but will allow if, though they try as much as they can to discourage the use of flash and tripods to minimize the disruption.

                                                                      Anyone who has been to The French Laundry can't help but conclude that everything they do is to provide a special experience for their diners, and I think they would do almost anything to make that happen, within reason. So I wasn't very surprised at that answer. But to preserve the good will of other diners, I'd bet the staff there would form a human wall to shield an offended guest from the sight of photography...... if they had to.

                                                                      In fairness, though, dinner at The French Laundry, to many people, rivals a visit to the Taj Mahal, Niagara Falls, or the Eiffel Tower. With that in mind, it may not be the best place at which to expect people to keep their cameras in their pockets..

                                                                      7 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Midlife

                                                                        BUT---did you or did you not take pictures??????????????

                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                          Nope. Thought about it, but we have a copy of The French Laundry Cookbook and saved the menu from that evening. To tell you the truth we were too entranced by the experience to think about taking pictures during the meal. I've d.escribed it as pure ballet

                                                                          We did go back the next morning and took some pictures of the outside and the garden. Ran into a staff member who offered a short tour of it. Keller has a wonderful bay laurel tree in the side courtyard and roses that they told us were planted back when the first restaurant to use the space was established.

                                                                          Found this if you want lots of pics of the food and grounds: http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/T20VEw...

                                                                          1. re: Midlife

                                                                            Love that clothespin. I may just copy that idea.

                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                              They actually let us take the clothespins with us. At $240 a head, I think it didn't affect the bottom line much. And the bill is written on a laundry tag too. Pure theater, the whole thing.

                                                                              link to photo of bill from the yelp post.l:

                                                                        2. re: Midlife

                                                                          I wouldn't dare take photos --of the food, or of my dining companions--in a place like TFL.


                                                                          1. re: Midlife

                                                                            Maybe restaurants like the French Laundry could take a page from Disney and offer shots of your food just before serving, taken in the kitchen by a professional. On the way out, you could see photos of your dinner by number and decide which ones to order. (Tongue in cheek in case anyone misreads the tone).

                                                                          2. This has been a rather enlightening thread. I thank all of you for your contributions and POV. After my family, my three greatest passions are: food, collectible dishes and photography. My camera goes with me most places that I go. The majority of the photos I make are of food, dishes and travel. I have been doing the food photos for years (both what I prepare at home and what we order in restaurants). At restaurants it's done discretely, with no flash whenever possible. And certainly no tripod! The photos are made when the food is first brought out. I do not continually make pictures during the meal. My spouse encourages this and has actually gone back to our hotel room a few times and gotten my camera for me.

                                                                            I don't include other guests in the restaurant in my pictures, but once I had people at the table next to me ask me if I would make photos of them and their dinner and e-mail the pictures to them. Was happy to do that, btw. (That also happened once when I was getting shots of bare feet on the beach, but that's another story.)

                                                                            We enjoy looking at the photos of our food and remembering where we were and what we were doing. And sometimes I might want to try to recreate the dish at home. Since I'm a visual person, a picture really is worth a thousand words. For a long time I was a margarita purist - none of those weird flavours and such, just tequila, orange liqueur, lime juice, salted rim and lime wedge. Then one time in Santa Fe, I ordered a prickly pear margarita. It was a gorgeous drink and tasted delicious too. Looking back at the photo of that drink, my spouse and I are both transported back to a wonderful memory. And I'm reminded that sometimes other flavoured margaritas are not a bad thing.

                                                                            Besides enjoying the photos ourselves, I also use some of them on my blog or on a few message boards devoted to food and collectible dinnerware. I get loads of hits on my flickr food photos, so I know people are interested in these kinds of pictures. And I've had some of the restaurants contact me to see if they can use my photos on their webpages and such.

                                                                            The last few years when we go out to eat it is mostly at off peak hours. (I've been ill and had to have a bone marrow transplant last summer). Often times we have been the only guests in the restaurant. I would hate to think I was disturbing other patrons, and do my best to be unobtrusive. If a restaurant were to have a no photography policy, I would be sad, but would of course, respect that. Luckily I have not run into that situation.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: decolady

                                                                              What a gracious post. It also puts the focus on what's really important in life. Thanks.

                                                                            2. I can't imagine why anyone would be bothered by other people taking pictures unless they were yelling for their subjects (food?) to hold still, or taking pictures of you without asking.

                                                                              In other words, why would anyone care what another diner does if they're just minding their own business? and if that business happens to be photography, then so be it. Just as I don't care that people converse in restaurants, I wouldn't care that people photograph in restaurants either.

                                                                              I'm a photographer, but I don't have a small camera, so I never can remember bringing a camera out wit me; I usually don't care to take pictures of food unless it's amazing food that I would want engraved in my memory forever, and when I encounter such food, I always have to borrow the DH's cellphone.

                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                              1. re: kerosundae

                                                                                Interesting recent experience at a restaurant on this topic:


                                                                                1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                  Well, having just returned from a trip to the city that naturally included a number of restaurant visits, I guess one can and should be flexible/use common sense.

                                                                                  I have a food blog, and find that simply writing about the food without some tasty visuals is just not the same. That said, I would never (and didn't) take out my camera at Yasuda, for example, much as I would've liked to.

                                                                                  At Convivio, I took a few pics sans flash (and they didn't come out well, duh) but soon gave up b/c the quality of the food was so incredibly underwhelming it probably won't even get its own post.

                                                                                  I think if one is respectful of one's surroundings, one can pretty much figure out when picture taking is appropriate and acceptable, and when it isn't.

                                                                                  I doubt anyone at the Oyster Bar would care.

                                                                                  1. re: linguafood

                                                                                    i think you could have taken pics at yasuda, and as long as it was respectful, it would be ok

                                                                                    1. re: thew

                                                                                      nah. i was sitting at the bar... it just would've been awkward. at a table, things might have been different. besides, i was doing the matsu prix fixe, so was getting 1 to 2 nigiri at a time -- none of which would've been impressive in a pic on their own. a whole plate of them (and i saw a bunch of amazing plates being taken to tables) would've been harder to resist.

                                                                                      the flavor, of course..... impossible to see. mmmmmmmmmmmm.

                                                                                1. I write a local food blog, and will occasionally take a photo of a dish that I think is especially beautiful. Never more than one, and I certainly wouldn't if a chef objected. People who take photos of every dish brought to the table drive me crazy.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                    +1. Most of the nonprofessional photos I see tell me far less than even a poorly written description. I did have a Chinese red-braised pork shank recently that I couldn't resist snapping. It helped that there was another person in the place taking pix. I frequently ask for a copy of the menu if it was a noteworthy meal. Then I can describe it better. I recently saw a (bad) picture of a bowl of steamed clams. Come on; that tells me nothing about the taste...and don't they all pretty much look alike.

                                                                                  2. Flash photography in a restaurant pisses me off. It immediately draws my attention away from my food, my conversation and my guests. Folk who want to take non-flash pictures of their meal don't bother me a bit but for the life of me I don't understand why they aren't infatuated with the conversation at their table. Dining out for me is equal parts companionship, conversation, food and atmosphere.

                                                                                    9 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: steve h.

                                                                                      Ah, but, sir, there are annoying exceptions to a great rule of yours.

                                                                                      1. re: steve h.

                                                                                        if the photo takes a second to take it really doesnt take away from the conversation or the friends very much, does it? especially as the photos are taken when the food arrives before it is eaten, and the taking of the photo can easily be integrated into the ooh aah discussion that comes along with the dishes

                                                                                        1. re: thew

                                                                                          Careful. You're not allowed to be logical on this topic.

                                                                                          1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                            I think manners are frequently not logical. I guess there's no logical reason to remove one's hat indoors but it's good manners. Or chewing with one's mouth open. Nothing illogical about that. But....

                                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                                              If someone is taking a few pictures without using a flash the only way you'd know about it is if it's in your field of vision. The "problem" can be solved by turning your head 45 degrees. It's not the same as a table of overly loud talkers. It's not the same as a screaming baby 10 feet away which the parents ignore or kids running around the restaurant. It's different from someone having a loud inane cell phone conversation that lasts 10 minutes.

                                                                                              In other words on a scale of 1 to 10 where a 10 is getting smacked in the face with a raw wet fish and a 1 is the sound of a cat walking past the restaurant, a few non flash pictures rates as a 1.

                                                                                              I invite the people who are troubled by this innocuous behavior to look around the restaurant the next time they see a few pictures being snapped. I guarantee there are other things going on that are much, much, worse.

                                                                                              1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                Well said. I couldn't agree with you more! Averting one's eyes is a great device for dealing with so many of life's minor annoyances. +1!

                                                                                                1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                  You're arguing against a straw man here. If you reread this thread (as I just did) you'll find that there are very few posters who object to flashless photos being taken so long as there's no big posing production going on that disturbs other diners. The consensus is that "someone... taking a few pictures without using a flash" is perfectly acceptable.

                                                                                                  Of course, there are always a few fringe types who object to anything that the queen of England wouldn't do, just as there are always a few who insist that anything short of murdering their fellow diners is their God-given right. But by and large we are a (dare I say it?) reasonable bunch of 'Hounds.

                                                                                                  1. re: BobB

                                                                                                    I think if it were unobtrusive, people wouldn't notice...and it is usually unobtrusive. But I've been with people who stand up to get a better angle, move things around, etc. I rarely am aware of phone use in restaurants any more. The equipment has improved and people are hopefully more aware. There are offenders and we always notice the presence rather than the absence of an annoying behavior.

                                                                                                    1. re: BobB

                                                                                                      True. And, the Queen of England notwithstanding, it's not as if I'll scowl at photo takers, or pelt them with bread rolls or anything. I promise.

                                                                                          2. We take pictures of our food at various times. The most recent was on my birthday at a high end steakhouse. My husband and I sat on a banquette and our favorite server asked us if we would like a picture of ourselves. I took a picture of the special birthday dessert they brought because of the way the painted raspberry coulis on the plate. Every year when we visit the food and wine festival at Epcot, we take pictures of all our selections to remember them. During our two cruises in 2008, we took pictures of our appetizers, entrees, and desserts as well as dining companions during dinner. There is a time not to take pictures, of course. I pride myself on perception and am not quite obsessed enough to take pictures in an environment that is not conducive to it. Many others were doing the same, and if I were ever asked not to, I would refrain from doing so. My camera is 1/2" by 4" in size, black, and small. Most people don't even notice.