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Photos in restaurants- what's the big deal?

Another poster appeared to be terrified to even ask if it was OK to have a family photo take in restaurants. She laid out her reasons and backed them up as if expecting people would flay her alive for even considering. In fairness everyone who replied said to not worry about it but it got me thinking about the whole topic.

Has dining out become so commonplace that no one understands that it might actually be a special occasion that someone may want to capture?

I get it if a patron set up lights like their meal was wedding, stands on the chair or basically makes an on going scene but why get upset about the occasional flash of a camera? How does it bother you? Honestly obnoxiously loud drunks are more offensive than the flash of a camera.

Maybe I am the odd one out but I really don't pay attention to what is going on at the other tables unless they are making a scene. If someone asked the server to snap a photo of them or another guest stood to take a picture of the table I doubt I would even notice unless they were right next to me. And if that were case I would probably offer to take it for them. And if someone next to me took a quick pic of their food or drink I can't imagine getting my panties in a bunch over it.

So whats the big deal? If you are incensed by what others are doing around you why is that? What am I missing that makes taking a photo such an egregious act?

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  1. There was another thread (don't remember which one) that turned pretty aggressive about photos in restaurants, but it was more geared towards the people taking incessant pictures of their food with flash photography... not the folks taking the occasional photo.

    1. It's not people taking photos of diners who have people so anti-cameras-in-restaurants. It's the idiots who have to treat every meal like a photo shoot by taking pictures of their food. You've kind of gotten caught in the crossfire.

      1. We were recently dining at a fine-dining restaurant, where a couple was at a near-by table. They had a photographer shooting every aspect of their evening. The flash went off maybe 100 times, in a dimly-lit restaurant. Nearly every bite was recorded.

        At a UK 3-star restaurant, a couple asked us, and many others, to leave their tables, so that the photographs of their food, for their blog, would not have images of other diners. Yeah, right!

        We refused to leave our table, glared at the camera, and asked the restaurant to move those diners to a table, far from us, so that they could do some Facebook, or similar, shots.

        When I am dining, I do NOT wish to be intruded upon - by anyone.


        4 Replies
        1. re: Bill Hunt

          Seems to me the manager of the UK 3-star restaurant was remiss for not stepping in, especially if other diners were being asked to leave their tables.

          And maybe it's just me, but while I'm eating has got to be high on my list of times when I do *not* want a photographer hovering around taking pics!

          1. re: msiangal

            I felt the same way.

            The strobe was bad enough, and many diners were turning to see what was going on, and then it got worse.

            Had similar happen in a US, upper-end restaurant, in Phoenix, AZ, where someone wanted a shot of their entire table of food and wine glasses, with no one in the background. My feeling was "you have got to be kidding me," and we just went about eating, ignoring the requests. Finally, the flashes ceased. Guess that I am going to be in some food-blogger's shots, though dark and probably out of focus?


            1. re: Bill Hunt

              IMHO, the diners should have booked a private room or the restaurant for a private party.

              Where was the manager?

              I would never return to those restaurants.

          2. re: Bill Hunt

            Wow - how rude.

            I hope you got photos of them taking photos of their dinner. There are a couple of websites around that specialise in this stuff. ;)

          3. You haven't encountered the obnoxiously loud drunks WITH cameras? A truly enjoyable addition to your dining experience.

            With cameras so ubiquitous and people so into sharing pictures, it can be taken to excess. Nobody objects to an occasional photo. It's the 20 people at a birthday party, all taking photos of each other. It's the food bloggers who have to take multiple pictures of each course. It's the food bloggers at birthday parties all taking pictures of each other meals. That many flashes, you can't ignore it.

            1 Reply
            1. re: 512window

              I have yet to encounter them (do not think any afore-mentioned food photographers were drunk, but might have missed it?), and hope that I do not.


            2. I went out for supper awhile ago and the table across from us kept taking pictures, flash, flash, flash, flash, flash on and on it went through our entire meal. It became annoying, a picture or two is acceptable but entire photo shoots belong someplace else, it invades other people's quiet times.

              1. Discretion is the better part of valor AND meal photography.
                Snapping a quick shot surreptitiously with the iPhone before tucking in?
                Not bad.
                Asking diners to move/wait/pose, asking waitstaff to position plates, using a flash...all bad bad bad.
                The idea is that your fellow diners should have absolutely NO IDEA that your are taking a picture.

                7 Replies
                1. re: pedalfaster

                  Unfortunately, we are raising a generation of entitled narcissists who have the cognitive distortion that "it's all about me." Common courtesy, monitoring one's behavioral effect on others and regard for interpersonal boundaries have all been discarded in favor of the Self Almighty.

                  1. re: Chefpaulo

                    I've read this whole thread. In fact I've read a number of other threads on food photography. I have *never* seen anyone take the position that it's OK to take 30 flash shots of every dish. Nobody on these boards is in favor of tons of flash photos.

                    I live in NY and I eat out 3 or 4 times a week. You'd figure I must run into this flash problem at least once a week. But no, I don't. Occasionally I see someone snapping 2 or 3 non-flash pictures of a dish but unless I'm looking directly at them I never know when pictures are being taken. It's completely unobtrusive.

                    In my city of 8.5 million people flash photography isn't a big issue.

                    1. re: Bob Martinez

                      Thank you. You said it much better than I did.

                      My feeling is if a person is acutely aware of the occasional snap of a camera than that person needs better dining companions.

                      1. re: Bob Martinez

                        and I am so done with the sort of statement that the world is going to hell in a handbasket because of young folks. Geezers have been saying this for centuries. And I'm much closer to being a geezer than a young folk.

                        1. re: DGresh

                          I'm in the same boat as you, closer to a geezer than a kid.

                          Over the past 5 years I only was subjected to one flash photo nightmare. There was a large table next to us occupied by a family of 10. About halfway through the meal someone began taking flash pictures about every 2 minutes. Three in a row. Then 2 minutes would go by and then another 3. Pow! Pow! Pow! He wasn't shooting the food - he was taking pictures of the other people at the table.

                          This went on for at least 30 minutes. It was a pretty dark restaurant so the flash was really noticeable. Like lightning bolts. Granted, this obviously was a family occasion but the number of photos was wildly excessive. They were treating the restaurant like it was their private dining room. I looked over to see what type of idiot would do something so rude.

                          It was a man in his early 70s.

                          1. re: DGresh

                            Thanks, DGresh.

                            Agree it's not JUST an age thing :)

                      2. Usually I scan these photo threads, but don't feel compelled to respond. I have eaten at many "ocassion" restaurants and almost always there is one group/family that has a server take a flash photo of them. (Hell, I even have a few of these myself . . . mom's 80th, sis's 50th, etc). One flash, it's over, no big deal.

                        I have dined in places where I (barely) notice some non-flash food photography happening. I generally notice only because I am looking in that direction at the time. Doesn't bother me.

                        However, the other evening these photo threads came to mind. We were at a nice local Italian restaurant that has a main room and several smaller rooms. We were seated at a 2-top in the smallest of the rooms; directly across from us was a table of 10 with a mix of generations. At least 7 of the diners had camera phones and apparently the focus of the meal was to photograph their enjoyment of said meal. The constant flashes were like dining facing a strobe light. Not to mention, they kept moving around to take different group photos. I figured it would end when the appetizers arrived . . . nope, they munched as they moved. There were two other 2-tops in the room, and I could tell they were annoyed as well.

                        So, I guess the moral of the story is: one or two flash photos: fine. Multiple discreet non-flashes: fine. Multiple flashes with lots of movement: arrange a private room for the party. (Now that I think about it, mom's 80th and sis's 50th were, in fact, in private rooms.)

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: gaffk

                          Yes I advocate the private dining venue for you so you can avoid conflict with young people having fun. I am sure they noticed the icy glares...sighs and overall indignation emanating from you or did you try to politely conceal your annoyance:) ?

                          1. I have dined all over California ( and other places of course). I have to say that I have never encountered a single diner taking pics. I have encountered it at large family blow outs......family weddings.....pot lucks....food stands @ Great America....food stands at the Asparagus Festival etc. but never inside of a restaurant. Weird isn't it?

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Lillipop

                              I mentioned similar, in another "photo thread," were I stated that we dine in San Francisco about 3-4 times per month, and I cannot recall any food photography during any of those dining experiences. There HAVE been a few random shots taken of the group (wedding, anniversary, birthday?), but those were usually a single image, and most often done by a staff member. Even with those, the instances were very, very few, and far between.

                              Heck, even at the higher-end Las Vegas restaurants, I do not recall much photography, if any.

                              A shot of the "happy couple," is far different, at least to me, than a couple of shots of each and every course. Then, there is often the texting, immediately afterward, to annotate the image. I question when some of those folk actually eat.


                            2. I don't think most people can object to someone taking a quick snap of a group of people. Although I am firmly in the camp that taking a photo of your plate in a restaurant is as bad as putting elbows on the table while you are eating.

                              Mind you - even the London Mayor is at it.


                              2 Replies
                              1. re: PhilipS

                                Dang! I had hoped for so much more. Guess that I am just too easily disappointed.


                                1. re: PhilipS

                                  When I was a bit younger and cooking all of the time for my family and for gatherings...house parties....holiday meals etc. I did really believe that all aspects of food and cooking were an art form for myself and certain other people. However I was never grandiose enough to believe that people would really want to look at food photos of my creations:) I wanted my *art* to bring real world satisfaction and pleasure to the viewer and consumer of it.My late husband was a food fanatic...he was a hunter.....fisherman...gatherer...gardener....barterer..a stunningly creative home chef (who should have been a professional) a well informed imbiber of all spirits.....wines.....etc. He on the other hand would stand on chairs anyplace anytime regardless of who was attending the party to get the perfect *food photo* for his albums:) He however was NOT allowed to do it in restaurants if I were with him. He knew I would create a scene and mortify him so he kept it real when I was there:)

                                2. Normally, I'm right in line with the OP, but I had an experience this weekend that showed me how distracting photos in restaurants can be.

                                  Saturday night, busy Manhattan restaurant with attractive dim lighting, and the table across from our 2-top had flash photographs going at least a dozen times in the course of an hour. It disturbed our normal sense of sight for most of the meal (felt like I had been staring at the sun!)

                                  My dining companion and I made the best of it, but walking out of the restaurant felt like more of a relief than we'd expect from a good dining experience.

                                  In this case, there was no place for anyone to move - house was fully booked. It is a fairly intimate space, so even diners at the far side of the restaurant turned to look as the pictures were taken.

                                  Is this a situation to say something to management, even if nothing can be done? The only thing I thought of after the fact was if having brighter lighting in the room might have made the shock of the flash less jarring......

                                  12 Replies
                                  1. re: 4Snisl

                                    The people who take dozens of photos of their food in a fine dining room disrupting others are the same ones who put their dog in the shopping cart at the food store.
                                    As Ron White says: "You can't fix stupid". (Youtube)

                                    1. re: Puffin3

                                      "You can't fix stupid..."

                                      The people you describe aren't stupid. They're egocentric. They simply do what they want to do and, if management or other diners point out the negative impact of their behavior, the culprits believe the problem lies with others.

                                      1. re: Indy 67

                                        So if I ask the waiter to take a pic of us while celebrating our moms 80th birthday I am stupid, boorish and egocentric? And if I have a dog I also put them in my grocery cart?


                                        1. re: foodieX2

                                          If you want some one to take a picture of you and your mom at a restaurant I'll be happy to do it myself. If you want to have some one take a hundred pictures that's when you are crossing the line.
                                          Ya, I REALLY want to put my groceries into the shopping cart your dog has been rubbing his back side on.
                                          'Yummy' lettuce.
                                          Good old Ron. Always telling it like it is.

                                          1. re: Puffin3

                                            Never mind. Sometimes people suck. As evidenced over and over

                                          2. re: foodieX2

                                            Puffin3's post described a situation involving "dozens of photos of their food in a fine dining restaurant disrupting others." Your single photograph example is a classic example of a Straw Man logical fallacy.

                                            1. re: Indy 67

                                              How often do those "dozens of flash photos" really occur? It happened to me once in 5 years. It was really annoying but it needs to be placed in proportion.

                                              1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                Is there a quota for disturbing incidents of flash photography? If I've endured my quota will the problem go away?

                                                1. re: Indy 67

                                                  My point is that if something happens rarely it doesn't warrant an extended rant. Everyone agrees that extended flash photography is wrong.


                                                  But the rare times when they happen are not signs of the decline of Western civilization. They're blips.

                                                  1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                    Sorry, but your personal experience is not sufficient to determine the magnitude of the problem. Just because you claim this happens rarely does not make it so. And just so we're equally clear, although my encounters with extended flash photography sessions is more than one, my experience does not determine the magnitude of the problem either.

                                                    While we may agree that there's no tsunami of non-stop flash photography in restaurants, we appear to disagree on the significance of that fact. I believe that intrusive photography is one of many discourtesies that have crept into life today in favor of increasingly self-centric behavior.

                                                    Having made the points I wanted to make, I'm going to stop posting to this thread although I suspect I haven't persuaded you one iota.

                                          3. re: Indy 67

                                            Were we separated at birth? We wrote almost identical comments simultaneously. See above.

                                        2. If t here's no flash, then I don't care.

                                          It is just boorish behavior. Disturbs every other table.

                                          Don't say its less a problem than a loud drunk. Its also less a problem than a knife fight. Both are irrelevant.

                                          Check your camera at the door.

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: sal_acid

                                            Well said, sal_acid.

                                            We have limited leisure time and dinner out is one way we relax.

                                            A quick family photo is different than taking endless flash pics or snapping a photo of every plate of food.

                                            I guess we've been lucky because we've managed to avoid this situation.

                                            What happened to social skills and etiquette? Are they only CIs now? Is civility gone?

                                            Also, put away the iphone, etc. and false sense of urgency(unless it's a matter of life and death it can usually wait). Excuse yourself and go outside to take that call or send that text/email.

                                            I rememember when cell phones first became popular and a restaurant in Lake Tahoe, California, had a small sign at the host station that said "Kindly turn off your cell phones in the dining room."

                                            1. re: financialdistrictresident

                                              A restaurant that would dare to put a sign up asking that now would be looking to be sued.
                                              "Your Honor. I was not allowed to recieve a critical text message in the restaurant so I lost out on the chance to bid on EBay. I want a million bucks".
                                              In 'days of old' when people knew which restaurant they were going to they gave the baby sitter the restaurant's phone number: "DO NOT CALL us unless it's a real emergency!".

                                              1. re: Puffin3

                                                I am truly sorry your dining experiences are so terrible and that you constantly have to deal with things like this on a regular basis. It must be awful.

                                                Like bob m noted above this is such a rare occurrence for me. Whether dining in my suburban neighborhood or neighboring Boston I think I can count on one hand the times when I was bothered by someone on a cellphone or by someone taking pictures.

                                                Now that I think about it The last time was probably in the mid nineties when cell phones were huge and a sign of prestige. I was a Locke Obers and some idiot starting talking on his massive phone. It was shut down faster than you can say clam chowder. I can't think of time since that I have been in a fine dining place where someone is gabbing away.

                                                And if it makes you feel better every one on my circle gives the sitter both their cell and the number of the restaurant for emergencies only. These days our sitters just text us anyway.

                                                1. re: foodieX2

                                                  Hmmmm. I can only wonder if the fact that Locke Ober didn't tolerate cell phone conversations contributed to its declining popularity and eventual closing.

                                                2. re: Puffin3

                                                  As I have for many years, if I am running the table I prohibit photographs. I make an occasional exception for Auntie Jones'100th birthday, or a Christmas Table featuring guests from far away (and there is so much other photography going on in a restaurant then it is hardly noticeable) although we try to do such things in areas where I think photography is less intrusive. Cell phones are verboten at the table. Leave the restaurant number for emergencies. Years ago I took to stpping at the restaurant door and changing the message on my cell phone stating my name and continuing "I am going to dinner at -------- and don't want this goddamn thing disturbing me so I am turning it off. If you MUST speak to me, and I cannot fathom a reason that anyone MUST, then the restaurant number is 555-5555"

                                            2. I generally don't care. However there are limits. A couple of times we have been bothered. The last time was a table of 6 with one of the people with a large camera with a flash. He was getting out of his seat and walking around the table to take other's plates. Standing up to take pictures for an over-head view of his own. He probably took 25+ pictures and we weren't even there for their entire meal; thankfully they left about 1/2 through ours.

                                              We over heard something about his blog. Great, another self absorbed, "important" food blogger completely ignorant of other's dining around them.

                                              A couple of pictures no problem, no flash, no problem either. But there are limits and it must be getting worse because it seems that more restaurants are putting "no flash pictures" on menus.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: HoosierFoodie

                                                "A couple of pictures no problem, no flash, no problem either. But there are limits..."

                                                Exactly. A few pictures, I don't mind. But when it becomes a whole production number as if it were going to be directed by Annie Leibovitz for Vogue or Rolling Stone, absolutely not. And restaurant management should step in when the constant flashy-flash of every single plate starts up.

                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                  There's a line between taking a couple of photos of grandma's 80th birthday party and behaving rudely. All sentient people have a pretty good general idea where that line is and when it's been crossed.
                                                  What about the mother who changed her baby's diaper at the dining table? I saw it happen.
                                                  When people around her complained to the manager she'd already finished. She then proceeded to 'glare' at the people who complained as if they had done something inappropriate.

                                                  1. re: Puffin3

                                                    Written one day ago: "... if management or other diners point out the negative impact of their behavior, the culprits believe the problem lies with others."

                                              2. Ahhh, the age old question, foaming up 'hounds since bacon and butter were still words one only spoke aloud when in the company of those who could be trusted.

                                                Over time I've come to realize, being self-revealingly frank, it's not so much that I don't like people taking photographs as much as I'm pretty certain I often don't like the people taking photographs. I think that's why I'm ok when Dad snaps a shot of all the kids with Grandma at her seventieth birthday brunch, but wrankled by the guy rearranging the peas on his plate to frame a top down shot. At least, I can relate to the former, maybe grab a beer sometime. The latter, on the other hand, just seems like he's "missing the point".

                                                Truth is, in the end, I prefer an anecdote to a memento. Reflection to preservation. The pleasure of the moment to the perfection of the memory.

                                                Maybe I'm a misanthrope, but, I'm honest about it.