Wednesday, September 27, 2006

[photography] SF Chron on taking pics in restaurants

From today's SF Chronicle an article on foodbloggers taking pictures in restaurants. Becks&Posh, Chez Pim, Bunrab, Gastronomie and My Epicurean Debauchery are all mentioned. It gives some good tips on taking unobtrusive photos.

I've gotten less wimpy about taking pictures in restaurants, but still somewhat dislike doing it, especially in a quiet, dark spot (and then the photos don't turn out anyway!). Also, sometimes I just want to focus on enjoying my meal and my company--though I'm often with my husband or close friends, I worry it's a bit rude to my dining companions if we're not as close. Anyone else have tips for getting good photos in restaurants? Or thoughts on whether or not you like to take the pictures?

PS--Thanks to Sarah from the Delicious Life for passing on the article.

This Post was written by Erin from Erin's Kitchen


Liz said...

Honestly, my best advice is to go to the restaurant with the intent of eating and taking pictures.

By which I mean, don't take your camera along on an intimate dinner or significant occasion- that's when you should be focusimg on the meal and the company.

I'm not a fantastic photographer myself, but I find I actually take better pictures when I'm with folks who won't say things like, "Are you going to take pictures of everything we eat???". Most of my good friends know I'm going to do this and will even pose if I ask nicely.

Hope this helps!

Kalyn said...

Interesting article. In Salt Lake where there are a lot fewer food bloggers (only 3 that I know of) I've found that restaurants are thrilled to have me take photos. Since I'm not really reviewing the restaurant, I usually ask for permission in advance and give them my blog business card. I've never had a restaurant even hesitate to say yes, although sometimes they seem a big puzzled as to what I want the photos for.

sam said...

I am the opposite to sarah - I have gotten more and more wimpy about taking photos in restaurants to the extent I rarely do these days unless I am out of town or it is lunchtime, or I am in a suitable crowd.

I spoke to the journalist for almost an hour, and I think there were loads more interesting aspects to this question (which I am sure I bored him with ;) but way too much info for him to put in an article.

It is an interesting subject and I know from conversations here before now, different people feel strongly about it in different ways.

I certainly don't feel I have 'the right' to photograph my food. A lot depends on the mood of the restaurant.

I definitely feel 100x more confident when being a tourist. Then I feel like I am holiday and it doesnt feel so strange photographing any and everything.

But locallly, at dinnertime, unless it was a birthday or something, I wouldn't take my camera and if I saw something on the spur of the moment I couldn't help but photograph then it would be on the cell phone only.

I like Liz's suggestion.
Unlike Kalyn - I would never ask or make myself known as a blogger in a restaurant. And unlike the article suggests, I would never tell the establishment if they asked. I was asked once at Fred 62 in LA and I told them I was a tourist (accent helps). I think they were worried about their interior and I never used the photos on my blog out of respect for their concern.

Sam said...

oops - i guess i meant erin not sarah. Sorry ladies.

Garrett said...

I agree, I take photos at some places but overall I try not too. After I went to one restaurant and took a few snaps, the waiter asked why, and my friend noted that I was doing it for my website.

All the sudden service drastically improved and dessert was free. In some ways, that was fun, but it wasn't an honest dining experience there. Before I couldn't get the eyes of the waiter and the appetizer was cold. Suddenly we became worth serving.

Plus, in some ways, I think it's slightly rude as well.

L Vanel said...

This comes at an interesting time for me because I have been considering asking for a table by the window for certain lunch reservations. I've been debating whether I want to tell them flat out that it's because I want to do a little 'billet' on their restaurant (this is the word in French for post to a blog).

I have a few folders of one handed camera under the table at night photos from a couple of years ago - when I look back on blurry yellow night shots I took at various times of my food recording life, I realize that night shots are rarely worth it. I barely ever take photos when I have dining companions, actually.

Someone should write an article on drawing in restaurants, actually.

thepassionatecook said...

I do like to take pictures in restaurants, not necessarily for the "good memories" as T. Keller puts it, but because I want to blog about them later and what's a post about food without a picture of the food.

Finding it quite intrusive and attracting too much attention from other patrons, I have tried with my phone's camera, but the pictures are absolutely crap. Which means I'd have to take my SLR and there's no way to be discreet about that!

Also, my husband hates me taking pictures in smart restaurants, so i don't. and i have to say i enjoy it more without taking pictures and notes. if i liked it, i try to go back later with jeanne (cooksister) who is even worse than me!

i'd agree that it can ruin a lovely meal and all romance is certainly gone once you take out your camera (as it proves that you're not really focussing on the person you're with, but rather interested in getting a good shot of a slab of butter).
But I have never, ever, been told off for taking pictures by staff, although admittedly I make a point of asking beforehand these days.

i also don't think i've a right to take pictures and defend it over my dead body, but i also don't really understand why they shouldn't allow us bloggers to take pictures? after all, we're not using them commercially, so what's the problem? and if it's about distracting other patrons from their food, are they going to ban couples from having an argument? or what about people with verbal diarrhea? They put me off my food much more than any camera could!

Lisa the Waitress said...

I always try to take pictures; I usually go with the intention of taking the pictures, and everyone I go with knows this. I have rarely been asked why, but when I am, I just laugh and tell them I have a compulsive need to photograph everything I eat. I don't care if they think I am crazy.

The only place I didn't take pictures was the French Laundry, which was very quiet and austere (like church); almost a year later, my dining companion told me I should have taken the pictures anyway - we were tourists and our $700 should have more than paid for taking the pictures. They already thought we were yokels from the Midwest.

My advice on taking pictures in restaurants is:
-never, ever use a flash
-use your water glass or something as a tripod to avoid shake
-be fast and discreet; but if you can't and you're called out, just use my excuse. I would never hand out my card or tell them why I'm there, because that goes against my policy of annonymity (sorry if that's spelled wrong). I find most restaurant owners and the proprietors of new businesses google themselves anyway and find my review.

Lisa the Waitress said...

I guess I should have read the article first; seems we had the same advice!

Vanessa said...

If I can remember to put my camera inmy bag I'll use it. I also have a very small tripod called a gorillapod and it is fabulous.

Madeline said...

For me, it all depends on the restaurant. I was in a beer garden area of a restaurant in Cleveland and didn't feel silly at all taking a picture. But I wouldn't even think of taking a camera out in the dining room of an upscale place. I think I would be too embarassed, but I embarass easily!

Gabriella True said...

There is no way taking a photo of your meal is more intrusive than people talking on their cell phones in restaurants. I know I have said that before but I am just saying again.

Now, if you were to stand up and move stuff around on the table, then that would be absurd and intrusive but a quick snapshot is fine in my book.