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Told off for taking photos at Blue Hill [moved from Manhattan board]

I had dinner at Blue Hill last week. First time, so was very much looking forward to it. I was astounded though when I was told not to take any more flash photos. Up to that point I was really enjoying myself but I have to say that kind of ruined the evening a little bit for me. I felt very patronised, like being back in school and scolded by the teacher! In retrospect I understand that flash can be distracting in a dark room and I definitely wouldn't want to annoy any of my fellow diners or detract from their dining experience. But then again surely a couple of celebratory photos isn't such a big deal and people don't mind? I'm not really sure what to think - am I being overly sensitive and shouldn't have let this get to me, or is Blue Hill right and I should stop taking flash photos in restaurants?

The food itself was good, although nothing so exciting that I feel the need to return anytime soon - I've enjoyed the food numerous other NY much more. But it was good and worth trying at least once.

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  1. Honestly, I'd almost rather have a return to smoking than to have to keep putting up with flash photography around me at almost every dinner. It's a shame that the countless number of people doing this wind up hurting those who are celebrating an event and just want a couple of shots, but its gotten way out of hand in my opinion.

    Specifically in your case, I would have talked to the waiter or manager in advance and explained that you only wanted a couple of celebratory shots & asked how to go about getting them. It also doesnt hurt to quietly warn a couple of the closest tables about upcoming flashes. Of course, the solution is for the restaurant to not put you in this situation at all and to have signage at the door.

    1. " am I being overly sensitive and shouldn't have let this get to me, or is Blue Hill right and I should stop taking flash photos in restaurants?"

      Blue Hill is right. You are part of a shared experience when dining and others don't want to see your flash or, as it often times includes, the nonsense that goes on with picture-taking: "Now, Sandy, you come over here. Paul stay right there. Ready? Get the waiter, 'Will you take a picture of us? Make sure you get us all in.' Ready? 1-2-3."

      Blue Hill is not one of those types of restaurants. Take your photos outside upon arrival or departure.

      1. People taking flash photos at restaurants is very annoying... Maybe you should get a better low light camera?

        1. <But then again surely a couple of celebratory photos isn't such a big deal and people don't mind?>

          Imagine if everyone in the restaurant came to that conclusion, and each diner decided to take just "a couple of celebratory photos." Turn off your flash.

          1. I dined recently at a restaurant the same caliber as Blue Hill. There was a table that took about 3-4 flash photos. I have to say, it was v. annoying. Even the waiters kept looking to see what was going on.

            1. I have to agree with the rest. The flash is very intrusive and can ruin the dining experience for others.

              1. Flash photography in a restaurant is extremely annoying-plus. Turn the flash off and ask for permission. If you need a flash, sorry, not on board at all.

                1. I would have told you the same thing .. it really isnt good manners/classy to take pictures esp flash pictures in a restaurant!!

                  1. I can maybe, MAYBE, get behind one or two quick photos, as long as there's no, "Helen, move the table and give us your best air-guitar!". What annoys me is taking pictures of the food, course by course, person by person, for some silly blog.

                    20 Replies
                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                      Thank you! I was just about to post the same thing. God forbid the day I am ever sitting next to Kevin Eats. Love the pictures and commentary, but could NOT stand to eat at the next table. The whole concept is so intrusive and rude to other diners, flash or not.

                      1. re: BubblyOne

                        If there's no flash, how would you even know it is taking place?

                        1. re: Buckethead

                          A lot of auto-focus cameras give that beep-beep sound when the focus is set. Likewsie there are some that send out a "red" light to help in lower light with the auto-focus.

                          Bottom line is please be considerate of those around you.

                          1. re: jfood

                            "A lot of auto-focus cameras give that beep-beep sound when the focus is set.
                            given how noisy many restaurants can be, i don't think you'd necessarily hear that beep unless you're sitting at the photographer's table. then again, canine ears are likely a bit more sensitive than the rest of ours ;)

                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                              Oh if restaurants would only allow me to join jfood. Better than the kibble i get every night. :-)

                              And the noise levels at restaurants recently has definitely increased, unfortunately. But there is that infra-red signal that goes out on some AF comeras, though.

                        2. re: BubblyOne

                          Yeah, I'm not sure how it's bothersome to people if there's no clicking sound, no flash, nothing. Everyone has their quirks, I find it amusing to see some people go through the more showy gestures of the whole wine ritual.

                          But if I whip out my phone or camera and snap a pic without using a flash and there's no sound, how is that an intrusive concept?

                          1. re: Jase

                            A pic or 2, yes. I'm talking about the people that feel the need to document EVERY course, moving the plate to get the best possible angle, having to listen to the annoying conversations/comparisons, etc. especially if you are unfortunate enough to be seated banquette-style.
                            I'll agree though, sometimes the wine ritual is just as bad.

                            1. re: BubblyOne

                              Even then I don't see how that is intrusive to you? I find the showy wine ritual amusing but it doesn't intrude upon me. How is me talking about my food, moving the plate around and snapping a pic of each course bothering you. If I'm doing all this with no loud noises, flashes or anything above normal level of noise and movement.

                              How is that different from someone who's eating and discussing their dishes with their dining companions?

                              1. re: Jase

                                Obviously it must bother a majority of diners, otherwise there would not be a ban on phones and cameras at more high-end restaurants of late. Maybe revert to the smoking days-would you care for blogging or non-blogging?

                                1. re: BubblyOne

                                  Talking on cell phones and flash photography should be banned because it intrudes on people. But you still haven't explained to me how by snapping a quiet no flash shot or moving a plate around intrudes upon your dining experience and should be banned.

                                  1. re: Jase

                                    jfood already said it best- "Bottom line is please be considerate of those around you". And I never said it should be banned, just that it is being banned at more high-end places.

                                    1. re: Jase

                                      Sorry, but if you believe in banning cell phone you must also believe in banning conversation. Someone speaking on a cell phone at the same decibel level as people around them is TOTALLY different than flash photography. It intrudes on NOONE except those who can give no other reason other than "it bothers me." Everyone is speaking at a restaurant but not everyone is flashing bulbs or LEDs.

                                      One word - CONSIDERATION for photo and cell.

                                      1. re: jfood

                                        agreed... the problem is that some people dont know that cellphones are npretty good, you dont need to yell ... my damn roommate does this all the time and i have to tell him to shut up..he just doesnt realize

                                        1. re: jfood

                                          Sorry, you're right, just got on a roll there. I don't mean to say ban cell phones. I'm one of those that eats solo a lot and will quietly look at my cellphone.

                                          I guess I'm just having an issue with Bubblyone's original assertion that the concept is intrusive to other diners regardless of lack of flash, noise, etc. I've yet to see a response that explains how me snapping a flashless, noiseless picture or moving my plate around intrudes on people.

                                          1. re: Jase

                                            not to worry. jfood has been waving this flag for a while. it sometimes get a tad...

                                            1. re: jfood

                                              Yeah, I should know better. I normally stay away from tipping and these types of threads. But I was in an annoyed at illogical thought process mood yesterday due to work.

                                  2. re: BubblyOne

                                    For details oriented chowhounds, I think it's important to document every course, but let's document taste and texture, not presentation.

                                    1. re: limster

                                      you can document presentation with a picture.

                                    2. re: BubblyOne

                                      If you are not at the table with these people who are documenting their food and moving their plates around, why do you care or even notice? Flash that lights up the whole area is one thing, but what people do with their own food, including non-flash photography, on their own table is none of your business.

                              2. thanks everyone. i understand all your points and have now seen the light! i have also done some googling on the issue it really seems to be a contentious matter. lots of discussions, especially on the issue of food blogs etc. momofuku ko for example has completly banned photography. i don't have a blog but have taken photos of (good) food, mostly because its reminds of how joyous eating it was whenever i look at them (almost like re-living the moment). but it honestly never occurred to me that it was bothering other people. it seems silly that it hasn't really, flash is obtrusive, but it just didn't.
                                so... blue hill is right and i'll be more conscious of when/how i take photos, and it will always be definitely without flash!

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: belma79

                                  Even though I did not see your post in time to respond (before you answered), I would have been another voice in the "please don't take flash photos in a restaurant" group. Yes, those flashes really are intrusive to everyone within sight of the blinding light.

                                  It was refreshing to read your answer, belma79. Thank you for letting everyone know that you've taken their advice to heart. Too often when I read a post asking for "am I right?" thoughts, the OP refuses to listen when someone attempts to show another side of the situation and the whole discussion disintegrates. That didn't happen here. You asked for an opinion, the answer was forthcoming and you graciously accepted the conclusion which was opposite of your original thought. Again, thank you. You've brought some civility to my Monday.

                                  1. re: Sherri

                                    Thanks Sherri. Yes, all your answers definitely made a difference. It's not that I had a really strong position on the issue before, but I just didn't really think about it. Blue Hill prompted me to do this - even though my initial response was surprise and annoyance at them (who likes being scolded I guess!) later I realised that perhaps they had a point - hence the post. It was good to have such clear responses from everyone, it really made the matter quite simple.

                                    1. re: belma79

                                      I agree with Sherri -- very graceful and mature of you!

                                    2. re: Sherri

                                      I agree--it's nice to see the acceptive response. Too often, people vent w/ the idea that they only want to be mollified. This is refreshing.

                                  2. There is another aspect to the downside of flash photography. The flashing can trigger epilepsy or certain types of severe migraines for some.

                                    I have that situation - with warning I can turn away and close my eyes. Without warning I have about 20 minutes to get home before the next three days are lost to a migraine. Consequently I have not been a fan of public flashing ( ;-D ) since childhood.

                                    1. Excuse your self, and take the picture. One. not a few. You went to the restaurant to celebrate your ability to do so, as did the other diners. You are entitled to one picture.

                                      1. I don't mind a few celebratory flashes at all. People are having fun enjoying a special event together. But obviously you can't use flash in a restaurant: the reponses on this thread have made it clear that eveyone else finds taking photos to be a major irritant. On the other hand, I hate cell phone use in restaurants.

                                        Just curious: Belma, are you filipina? There is a cultural abhorrance of "scolding" in the Philippines.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                          No, not filipina! Perhaps 'scolded' was the wrong choice of word!

                                        2. This is difficult because I know that a lot of well meaning 'hounds and bloggers routinely take photos in restaurants, but at the end of the day it is really distracting, particularly if you are taking flash photos.

                                          Enjoy the company of your dining companions and savor your food, then paint a picture with words if you want to share the experience with others. Most restaurants have websites with plenty of food photos.

                                            1. Tip for you flashers: I was at a nice restuarant once and was thinking the folks next to me were a bit tacky with their flash photography. Then they turned to me and my friends and cheerfully said "give us your email and we'll send shots of you!" This improved my attitude toward them, and I later enjoyed the pics!

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: danna

                                                Most people really wouldnt care about getting pictures of the food and would just be annoyed by the people using flash. Have some class, and just dont use flash.

                                                1. re: danna

                                                  not sure giving total strangers your email address is such a hot idea...but it could be the NJ-upbringing coming out.

                                                2. I think most people would understand the need/desire to memorialize a very special occassion (an engangement, Aunt Maude's 60th wedding anniversary; Grand Pop's 100th birthday), but the photographer should be sensitive to the fact that their flashes intrude on another's "space". Ask those at surrounding tables if they would mind if you took a few shots, just to get a flavor for the festivities, then take the rest of the group shots later, maybe in the resto lobby.

                                                  1. AGAIN:

                                                    jfood talking quietly on his cell phone (that vibratred his leg rather than rang with a dog barking or with "God Bless America") - NOT INTRUSIVE.

                                                    Some jackass or jackass-ette yelling on their cell phone loud enough not to need the phoine - INTRUSIVE.

                                                    People enjoying themselves and each other on a special event taking a few flash shots - NOT INTRUSIVE. I am not so important, not a descendent of the emperor, nor have something stuck so far up where the sun don't shine that I begrudge others having a reasonable good time. If you hate other people so much, stay at home!

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                      Yes, but there are a lot more jackasses (and jackass-ettes) out there than Jfoods. I would put the figure at around 20 to 1.

                                                      1. re: ShakenNotStirred

                                                        Unfortunately waaaaay higher that 20:1 when you count the people who do not need a cell phone on their ear to cause this disturbance.

                                                        1. re: ShakenNotStirred

                                                          I really disagree. I think the jackasses just stand out. I really do believe that most people are considerate of others...stop the cynicism!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                                        2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                          Ooh, we know Sam's in a good mood when he starts talking about jackasses!

                                                          To me this is a different type of lowest common denominator type problem. If it bothers enough people, and it appears it does, then examine your conscience (former parochial school girl here) and see if you're part of the problem.

                                                        3. Shouldn't be using the flash. That is very disturbing to others who are trying to enjoy their meals. Lots of time people have the anti red-eye on which causes a strobe effect even more annoying.

                                                          I give the restaurant props for discouraging this habit.