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Is it rude to take food photos at high end restaurants in France?

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hanlong Jan 25, 2011 10:11 AM

I do this all the time back at home in the US, just wondering is it bad etiquette to do so in France?

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  1. Parigi RE: hanlong Jan 25, 2011 10:31 AM

    Whether you are in a high-end or low-end eatery, the polite thing is always to ask the waiter first if it is ok.
    I never take pics but have friends who take pics of every dish from every angle, sigh.
    There have been all kinds of reactions in our experience.
    Some restaurants said fine.
    Others are delighted and want to help us take the pics.
    Chez Spring I was told that it was ok if we were discreet about it, but otherwise "the restaurant is not a museum". Fair.
    One high-end restaurant graciously explained to my shutterbug friend that taking pics would disturb the other diners. Again, fair. In France, the issue of privacy is taken extremely seriously. This is a point that many of my non-French friends do not always consider.

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      Maximilien RE: hanlong Jan 25, 2011 11:17 AM

      Ask the waiter, be discreet (don't use a flash or tripod EVER) and don't over do it.

      I've done it at Gagnaire, Le cinq, L'Atelier and other places with no issue.

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      1. sunshine842 RE: hanlong Jan 25, 2011 11:46 AM

        Unless you are under contract to a magazine or newspaper, don't do it. If you ARE under contract to a magazine or newspaper, make arrangements with the restaurant to do the photography when you can properly set up lights and tablescape to show the food in its best possible light.

        This has to be one of the most unbelievably obnoxious trends to have surfaced in recent years...nearly every time I go into a restaurant in Paris, someone is taking photos of their plate, and they usually forget to turn off the flash...and from the food blogs I've seen, it doesn't help anyway -- the pictures all come out underexposed and blurred, like so much oatmeal.

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        1. re: sunshine842
          hychka RE: sunshine842 Jan 25, 2011 12:04 PM

          Sunshine842 is right.

          You'd think these people were children on the loose in DisneyWorld!!

          When I see this behavior, the maitre d' gets an earfull.

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          1. re: hychka
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            allende RE: hychka Jan 25, 2011 12:54 PM

            Amen

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        2. souphie RE: hanlong Jan 25, 2011 01:20 PM

          Don't let the lecturers impress you. If taking pictures make sense for you, do it. it's your meal and you're paying fot it. Now there is a question as to how much it is worth it -- pics are a distraction for you, and most food pics you see on blogs hurt the eyes. But that is entirely your decision, and if people don't like that you're taking pics, let them stay home.

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          1. re: souphie
            Busk RE: souphie Jan 25, 2011 05:00 PM

            This.

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            1. re: souphie
              uhockey RE: souphie Jan 25, 2011 05:05 PM

              Third this. What many of these chefs are doing is art - as long as you are discreet, flash free, and not taking pictures of other diners I'd say it is far less offensive than the lady wearing a gallon of perfume, the loud talker who has drank too much, or anyone so inconsiderate as to answer their phone in a restaurant.

              http://uhockey.blogspot.com (yes, there are pictures.)

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              1. re: souphie
                Jay F RE: souphie Jan 26, 2011 07:18 AM

                >>>>if people don't like that you're taking pics, let them stay home.<<<<

                Lovely.

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              2. t
                tuilehomme RE: hanlong Jan 25, 2011 01:32 PM

                I agree that it is best to ask, and be discreet about it. A quick snap with a cell phone is what I do and it doesn't get in anyone's way or distract anyone.

                To the naysayers I comment - it's my food, I'm paying for it, it's my vacation, and as long as it isn't against the restos policy, or is a problem with others at the table, then I'm going to go ahead and snap a photo as a memento not only of something special but also a memorable event. I've been taking food photos for years and have never had any problem whatsoever. If people can take photos of others, say, celebrating a birthday, anniversary, etc., there should be no problem photographing the food.

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                1. re: tuilehomme
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                  Ptipois RE: tuilehomme Jan 25, 2011 01:45 PM

                  Everybody has their own way of looking at it. I've never had problems taking food photos. However (unless I was working on a book for the chef and needed to keep a precise memory of every dish I ate) I used to feel really awkward using a big SLR. A good compact camera a better option.
                  Now I use nothing but the Lumix GF1 which gives you SLR quality with the size of a compact. It is discrete and beautiful.
                  Some rules : compact, always. No tripod, ever. No flash, ever. Flash ruins the photo anyway, I don't understand why people use it.
                  I never ever asked the permission to take pictures and nobody ever denied it to me. Except the last time at Spring but (Parigi if you're passing by) if the person who told you "the restaurant is not a museum" is the one I'm thinking of, he is no longer there and cannot be considered representative of the house.

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                  1. re: Ptipois
                    Parigi RE: Ptipois Jan 25, 2011 02:05 PM

                    "(Parigi if you're passing by) if the person who told you "the restaurant is not a museum" is the one I'm thinking of, he is no longer there"

                    As of last Saturday, he still was. Hint: it was of course not zen master Daniel.

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                    1. re: Parigi
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                      Ptipois RE: Parigi Jan 25, 2011 02:16 PM

                      I know it was not Daniel. So that must be a different person.

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                  hanlong RE: pikawicca Jan 25, 2011 01:41 PM

                  Wow lots of responses.

                  Let me be clear that I don't use flash or tripod or anything distracting. i know better than to do that. I'm just saying is the concept of food photography in general considered rude in France? If I was flashing away and causing a ruckus obviously it will be disctracting to the people around me.

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                  1. re: hanlong
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                    Ptipois RE: hanlong Jan 25, 2011 02:01 PM

                    Simply, the answer is no.

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                    1. re: Ptipois
                      Yank RE: Ptipois Jan 26, 2011 02:49 AM

                      Pti, once again the correct answer simply & directly put.

                      To my American country folk I'll ask: Have you ever seen a French person taking pictures of their food in France?

                      The answer to that should give you a clue as to correct behavior.

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                      1. re: Yank
                        Parigi RE: Yank Jan 26, 2011 03:31 AM

                        Uh, mon amie Pti did just that.
                        If I may compare…
                        When Pti took pics, both her camera and her gesture was very low-key. The camera did not seem larger than her palm. And she made an effort to make the gesture lightning-quick. Other diners did not notice her taking pics at al!
                        When another friend of mine took pics in restos, it was an entirely different story. Half a dozen flashes with every dish - start, main, dessert; plus, she even got up in one resto to pose with a friend in another corner of the room. Finally we had to beg her to stop.

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                        1. re: Parigi
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                          Ptipois RE: Parigi Jan 26, 2011 05:53 AM

                          Fortunately I have the GF1 which has such great default white balance and light management that I can snap discreetly with very little preparation, and the photo is nearly always good. All I have to care about is the composition, and that takes three seconds at most. Add to that a steady hand as much as you can manage it, and you've got it.

                          I think it is not impossible to be discreet using a DSLR, but if I thought it necessary to use a tripod, or worse a flash, I would never take pictures in restaurants.

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                        2. re: Yank
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                          Ptipois RE: Yank Jan 26, 2011 05:47 AM

                          I was answering the question "Is the concept of food photography in general considered rude in France?" and my answer was no, it isn't. I'm afraid you misunderstood me dear Yank.

                          As I was writing yesterday in a mysteriously disappeared post, if you think French persons don't take pictures of their food, just go to a Paris restaurant which happens to welcome five or six different French food bloggers at the same time. It is not uncommon at recently opened places.

                          I think there's a severely overlooked point about this matter:
                          When photography is frowned at by restaurateurs or is done in such a way that it becomes a nuisance, it is not photography that is annoying, it is the obnoxiousness of the people who take the pictures. It is perfectly possible to take pictures (which is your right unless the restaurant decides otherwise) without bothering anyone. And really, according to my experience, obnoxious photo shooters take terrible pictures, however sophisticated their gear is. Discreet ones take good pictures. So I'd say, don't do it if you can't take good pictures :-)

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                          1. re: Ptipois
                            Yank RE: Ptipois Jan 26, 2011 01:00 PM

                            Sorry I misunderstood.
                            Still don't agree with taking food pics in restaurants. Discreet or not it is still an imposition upon other diners.

                            As to the French not taking pictures in restaurants I've never experienced it, but then again we all know that Paris is not France.
                            Yank (AKA Country Hick)

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                            1. re: Yank
                              Das Ubergeek RE: Yank Jan 26, 2011 01:13 PM

                              I saw it all over the place in Lyon and Dijon.

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                              1. re: Yank
                                thew RE: Yank Jan 26, 2011 03:33 PM

                                if it is discreet how does it impose on other diners?

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                                1. re: thew
                                  Yank RE: thew Jan 27, 2011 11:01 AM

                                  I guess if they're discreet enough I wouldn't even know they were snapping so couldn't & wouldn't be upset.

                                  Hasn't happened so far that I know of.

                                  As somebody said upthread most snappers are not discreet, use flash & take lousy pictures.

                                  I find when I'm taking food pictures at home as I prepare a recipe for my blog that its difficult to get anything worthwhile without quite a lot of staging & composing. Tying to get a good picture in a restaurant setting discreetly is very very difficult. Thus most are obvious , intrusive to others and still take lousy pictures.

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                      2. j
                        jaykayen RE: hanlong Jan 25, 2011 01:44 PM

                        Foot long DSLR? I hate those things.

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                        1. Das Ubergeek RE: hanlong Jan 25, 2011 02:44 PM

                          Not if you're discreet about it, but honestly, you're going to get fatigued doing it because if you have any Chowhound sixth sense at all, it will be very hard to have a bad meal in France. (Don't ask me about the awful pho in Montparnasse...)

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                          1. mangeur RE: hanlong Jan 25, 2011 04:36 PM

                            There have been amazing changes and upgrades in photography since this question first raised its ugly head. Cameras are now so small and so programmable that the awkward viewing machinations and subsequent flashes are truly antediluvian. Most of the pro-photography people voicing opinions on this thread pocket their shots without your slightest notice.

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                            1. re: mangeur
                              hychka RE: mangeur Jan 25, 2011 05:14 PM

                              My concern is with the strobe light flashes of some cameras repeatedly snapped and snapped. How could anyone be upset ( besides the chef) if someone was taking pictures without calling attention to themselves and limiting the subjects to their food and party?

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                              1. re: hychka
                                mangeur RE: hychka Jan 25, 2011 05:22 PM

                                There are some chefs who do not want their plates photographed because of fear of copies, either inferior or without proper acknowledgment. And that's okay if that is their fear.

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                            2. ThisNThat RE: hanlong Jan 26, 2011 03:45 AM

                              I had a personal experience at Auberge de'lill where one patron took photos of every single course/plate that was brought out. It was distracting and the rest of the room obviously noticed. I wouldn't recommend it, but if you very discreetly took one photo I don't think it would be on the same level. I do agree with other posters that you would want to ask permission. The last thing you want to do is tick off your French waiter!

                              (I was somewhat relieved that the camera buff was wearing a sweater with the Canadian flag on it.)

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                              1. thew RE: hanlong Jan 26, 2011 03:57 AM

                                feel free.
                                it's a restaurant, not a military installation or museum. don't use a flash. dont jump around. don't look for the best angle. don't get strangers in your pictures.

                                enjoy yourself

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                                1. re: thew
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                                  Ptipois RE: thew Jan 26, 2011 05:55 AM

                                  Very well put.

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                                2. sunshine842 RE: hanlong Jan 26, 2011 04:00 AM

                                  If someone is capable of subtly taking *a* photograph in such a manner that no one else in the room notices (after permission is asked and received, of course), I reserve the right to think it's a bit precious and a lot unnecessary, but if I don't notice, I can't be bothered.

                                  However...there are VERY few people who are capable of this...the majority forget to turn off their flash, then proceed to rearrange the whole table, and either stand up or hold the camera high above the table to get "that perfect shot" (or some ostentatious combination thereof)...meanwhile they've disturbed everyone else in the room and let their carefully-prepared hot meal begin to go cold while they faff around being the Ultimate Foodie Blogger, impressing everyone with just how Important they are..

                                  The first group I can at least tolerate -- the second should be trundled out to the dumpster, as they've obviously never learned to behave in a restaurant nor to appreciate food prepared to order for their enjoyment.

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                                  1. re: sunshine842
                                    hychka RE: sunshine842 Jan 26, 2011 05:06 AM

                                    I'm with sunshine842.

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                                    1. re: sunshine842
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                                      commisVA RE: sunshine842 Jan 26, 2011 05:06 AM

                                      You can take as many pictures as you want but need to do it with discretion...
                                      No flash, quickly done, small camera in and out of the pocket....

                                      As a chef (I work in a fine dining French place), I find a bit weird is people with shorts and sandals.
                                      I personally like to put a crisp white shirt and a jacket when dining out.

                                      And the worst is when I am looking through the pass and I see guest drinking their scotch with the Lobster in the red wine reduction...or drinking coffee through dinner
                                      (oui oui ca arrive, et souvent)

                                      But that is for me way more more difficult to understand then someone taking discreetly some pics of their food.

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                                    2. menton1 RE: hanlong Jan 26, 2011 05:34 AM

                                      The French are particularly nonplussed about photo taking in ANY store, including restaurants. Definitely ask permission, and you will probably get a lot more No's than Yes's. Even a few scornful sneers.

                                      Probably a good idea to just not do it.

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                                        Avalondaughter RE: hanlong Jan 26, 2011 05:54 AM

                                        I found I was able to take food photos pretty discreetly and no one seemed to mind. I followed certain rules though.

                                        1. No interior shots of the restaurant if it's a big open space, or if you are seated very close. For example I took only photos of the food at La Coupole. I wanted photos of the interior badly, but it really seemed as if it would distract other diners as we were in close quarters.

                                        2. Keep people out of it. I was in one restaurant where there was an entire wall of rotisseries. It would have been a great shot, but the cooks were constantly in and out of that area and I didn't want to distract them. I considered playing the part of "silly tourist" and ask them to pose for me with their rotisseries. I had a feeling I probably wouldn't have been the first person to do so, but I decided to just let them work.

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                                        1. beaulieu RE: hanlong Jan 26, 2011 06:46 AM

                                          I take photos of every dish, the dining room and the front of the restaurant at restaurants all around the world, including France. I use a no flash, quick focussing, pocket camera. Ocasionally there isn't enought light and I skip it. I don't have to compose the shot as it is cropped on the computer anyway. I receive a lot of thank yous from chefs for my blog posts and have had only one serious complaint; the chef thought it unfair that I did a blog post of a disappointing meal when he happened not to be there. Actually my note taking is much more disruptive than my photo taking.

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                                          1. re: beaulieu
                                            menton1 RE: beaulieu Jan 26, 2011 07:07 AM

                                            I couldn't help but chuckle at that chef's complaint, Beaulieu. So if he's not there, (and how is a diner supposed to know) he feels that it's ok to serve a below average meal? Crazy logic!!

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                                            1. re: menton1
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                                              vielleanglaise RE: menton1 Jan 26, 2011 07:40 AM

                                              If I take photos as a "private citizen" in a restaurant in France, I wouldn't ask permission, and I don't think the restaurant would mind.

                                              If you're making money or notoriety (hey bloggers!) from those images, I think you should ask, in France, or elsewhere. .

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                                              1. re: vielleanglaise
                                                sunshine842 RE: vielleanglaise Jan 26, 2011 08:33 AM

                                                if you're posting photos on the internet, you should ask. If they are *strictly* for private use and will never be seen in public, you should still ask, but it's not quite as dire.

                                                If you post photos of someone taken on private property (which a restaurant is) and they don't want to have that photo posted on the web, they have the right to sue you in France...and they win sometimes.

                                                If someone's walking by on the street, that's a different matter...but you're still obligated to take it down at their request.

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                                            2. re: beaulieu
                                              mangeur RE: beaulieu Jan 26, 2011 11:04 AM

                                              "Actually my note taking is much more disruptive than my photo taking."

                                              Oh, yes! I remember a sole male diner at lunch at Roellinger who subtly (but not so much that I was aware of his every notation) removed a notebook at every course. I don't remember if he also took photos, but his notetaking was quite disconcerting. I really don't know why it should have been, but it was.

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                                              1. re: mangeur
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                                                Ptipois RE: mangeur Jan 26, 2011 03:00 PM

                                                Chefs are infinitely more paranoid about note-taking than about picture-taking (about which they are generally not paranoid at all except for a few isolated cases). To them there's "restaurant reviewer" written all over it. That can lead to unpleasant questioning if not worse.

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                                                1. re: Ptipois
                                                  thew RE: Ptipois Jan 26, 2011 03:34 PM

                                                  funny - the times i was (mistakenly) spotted as a reviewer it only improved service

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                                                  1. re: thew
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                                                    Ptipois RE: thew Jan 26, 2011 11:08 PM

                                                    That is another consequence of the same feeling of insecurity. But you see the picture.

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                                                    1. re: thew
                                                      uhockey RE: thew Jan 27, 2011 02:00 AM

                                                      Agree with this - not that it was intentional since I was merely scribbling down the ingredients in a rather complex dish description - but next thing I know there were "gift" dishes from the chef arriving outside the normal amuses and canapes.

                                                      http://uhockey.blogspot.com

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                                                      1. re: uhockey
                                                        Parigi RE: uhockey Jan 27, 2011 03:17 AM

                                                        Génial. Next time I will scrablle something, anything, tick tack toe, whatever.

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                                                    2. re: Ptipois
                                                      mangeur RE: Ptipois Jan 26, 2011 03:48 PM

                                                      The guy I referred to was well received, had a very good relationship with servers, was in no way offensive. Jolly good guy...except that kept making those infernal notes....

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                                                      1. re: mangeur
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                                                        Ptipois RE: mangeur Jan 26, 2011 11:08 PM

                                                        Then he was, um, a friendly reviewer :-)

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                                                  foodiemahoodie RE: hanlong Jan 27, 2011 04:05 AM

                                                  Ask.

                                                  If they say yes, don't use a flash (one of the newer Nikons can shoot under low light, - say a D3 or newer ).

                                                  As to the guy who said shooting with a flash often isn't an advantage - it is ALWAYS a disadvantage unless the flash is attached to a light box or some kind of specific-purpose lighting set up. A flash on a camera has all the romance of a WeeGee shot, or a murder scne snap - hell, you might as well put chalk marks around the food.

                                                  Shooting natural light will look much better. And bringing in a tabletop set up - unless you're a pro shooting for a magazine, book, or website - just use a fast lens at a high ISO.

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                                                  1. re: foodiemahoodie
                                                    Parigi RE: foodiemahoodie Jan 27, 2011 05:49 AM

                                                    For those of you who encounter unsubtle flashers, don't get mad, get even. Pull down your pants and show your ass, ruin the shot. Flash the flasher. Win-win.
                                                    I have not done this but have vowed to do so - and urge all of you good people with good taste to do so - if ever I encounter a flash mob dancing to the music of doe-a-deer, yuk !

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                                                    1. re: foodiemahoodie
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                                                      Ptipois RE: foodiemahoodie Jan 27, 2011 06:15 AM

                                                      I really like the murder scene snap analogy for flashlit food photos. It's so accurate.

                                                      I think the fast lens is most of the time enough. High ISOs can ruin the sharpness in artificial light and/or introduce noise, but that depends on your camera.

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                                                    2. The Chowhound Team RE: hanlong Jan 27, 2011 12:13 PM

                                                      We're going to lock this discussion now, as it's turning into a discussion that's more about photography in restaurants and not specific to France. That discussion is better held on the Not About Food board, so plese feel free to start a new discussion there if you'd like to continue that tangent.

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