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Banning food photography in restaurants?

Posted on January 28, 2013 by DL

Food photography is a big part of feedmycamera. In fact it’s a big part of our lives. When I first started food blogging, I took great inspirations from chocolateuze and Helen from grab your fork. In particular I remember reading Helen’s about me page, where she writes

‘Food taste better when it’s shared with friends’

I took  this to mean, shared with friends at the table and online. However in recent months, two particular articles have been brought to my attention that may end food blogging, as we know it. I’d like to bring these articles to light and give my perspective on the issue’s that have been raised.

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The first article up for discussion is an article in the New York Times in which it reports that restaurants in New York City have begun banning customers from taking photos of their food, they argue that it’s a distraction for the chefs and other customers.

I feel that there is some merit to this, I feel that those who use flash in restaurants are just plain rude. I even go as far to say that if you visit a place like Quay, one should not bring a big massive DSLR, but rather something like an ILC ( Interchangeable lens camera without the bulk, sometimes called ‘EVIL’  Camera- Electronic viewfinder interchangeable lens camera’). That’s what we personally do here at feedmycamera. If it’s a fancy restaurant, We usually ask if it’s okay for us to take photos and we usually bring our little Olympus E-P3, rather than the Nikon D800. Sure the photo won’t be as nice, but it’s small, unobtrusive and produces acceptable images. If the lighting was very poor, and the images would not turn out nice, a judgment is made weather a post would go up at all.  We never use flash at fancy restaurants.

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So I think part of the problem with foodstagraming is the lack of etiquette and respect for chefs, restaurant owners and other guest. Just because we paid for our meals, it doesn’t mean we can go Willy Wonka and start a rave party with our camera’s flash. Show some respect for the chefs and other restaurant goers! Don’t turn on flash and for heaven’s sake please be discrete when taking photos!

The other part of the problem is the photo itself, even if all etiquettes are followed; chefs are still worried about the potential misrepresentation of their dishes. Flash and poor camera phones can lead to dark and unattractive photos. This is where I think the restaurants have got it all wrong, I personally think, aside from the ugly effects of in  camera flashes, a dish should be presented in a way that, no matter what angle the photo is taken from, it would look presentable, and if the dish is sloppy, no matter how hard we try, we can’t magically turn a sloppy dish into a 3 Michelin star dish. If it’s the dark photos they are worried about, what does this say about your lighting? Even if you disgard photography,  is it even sufficient for customers to see what they’re eating? Are you even showing your food in the best possible light?

The consequences of banning foodstagram is huge, I’m not sure if chefs and restaurant owners realized that it’s these food photographers, bloggers and foodstagramers that are advertising their restaurants for free?

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That leads me to another topic about advertising for restaurants. A new system called ‘Reviewer card’ has been circling the scene. The reviewer card is basically a card that you flash to restaurants to indicate to them that your going to review their restaurant.   On the face of it, this may seem like a possible solution, reviewer card sets a minimum requirement such as credentials and photo quality and only those with these so called ‘ licenses’ are allowed to take photos, thus eliminating the usual complaints on photographers misrepresentation of dishes. However, users of these cards can expect to gain A-list services, discounts, free meals and so on. I find this VERY concerning! Reviews SHOULD be unbiased, free from any form of bribery or coercion.

The issues being raised here are still in its infant stages, but we should expect to face these issues sooner or later.  I firmly believe that banning food photography from restaurants is not in the chef’s and restaurants owner’s best interest, along with the success of shows like masterchef, us food bloggers and foodstagramers are an essential part of the food chain (pun not intended). It is these food bloggers who some people follow, and it’s these foodstagrammers that recommends restaurants to their family and friends. Banning them will only decrease customer turn over and treating them like kings will only lead to biased reviews that will eventually back fire. A solution needs to be found, but what would it be? What are your thoughts? Are you for or against food photography at restaurants?

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