10.04.2006

To Click or Not to Click

The San Francisco Chronicle today tackles an issue familiar to D.C. bloggers: taking pictures of your food in restaurants (thanks to donrockwell.com for the link). The story, which was written by a blogger, provides feedback from chefs and bloggers alike and even offers a list of "Rules for tableside shutterbugs," including this: "Read the room. A romantic boite will be more intimate than dim sum, so adjust your picture-taking to fit the mood. If your server asks you to stop, don't start an argument."

You may recall the conflict that arose when Jason of D.C. Foodies snapped camera phone pictures at Buck's Fishing and Camping and was asked to not use the photos by chef/owner Carole Greenwood. It's not mentioned in the story, but it sparked a whole debate about what a restaurant can and cannot restrict.

I try to make sure my cellphone never shows its glowing little face when in a restaurant — not for yapping with a friend, checking a text message or taking pictures. (Except for that one time when a friend's name was spelled out in onion straws atop a steak at Evening Star Cafe. Too freaky not to capture, and no, I hadn't had too much wine.) But I understand the desire to document a great dish.

So what's your take? Is snapping a pic of your food with a camera or camera phone bad table manners? Or is it all in the execution?

13 comments:

Michael said...

Bad Manners ... with a capital BM ... I'm uncomfortable about taking pictures in dining rooms and as a journalist I often have permission. Off hours, as a photo shoot, a private room, a networking reception ... OK, that's a big part of my job ... but never on my own time, in a dining room duing dining hours. But then I think doggy bags are tacky. But with the new "manners" taking over, maybe I just don't get it ...

Anonymous said...

I agree if you are just by yourself with a couple friends or a significant other taking pictures of your food is totally tacky.

Anonymous said...

taking pictures of your plate, if you really love your food, is a way to remember that happy moment before you destroy it with your fork. i was just at chez pannisse and i snapped away at my grilled mahi, and grape sorbet with muscadine syrup, and actually, even the free bread. not just because they were pretty plates, but also because i knew i won't be back for another meal while i still on a unemployed recent college grad budget. unfortunately, i failed to sit back and admire my tuscan tomato bread soup and shrimp salad appetizers. those went into stomach without a picture first.

Anonymous said...

bet they let you take all the photos you want at tj mcscratchies. not every place has to cater to people like you. what carole is saying is, keep your ego out of her restaurant. the ignorance of your argument is quite entertaining though! thanks for the opportunity to comment!

Amanda said...

Sometimes I feel like in my mission to live a more zen, in-the-moment life, cameras can really be a distraction. It takes you out of a moment and into the future, like 'I want to have this picture to remember 5 years from now' not 'I'm living in this moment and not concerned with 5 years from now.' I find myself with this urge to capture things like sunsets or fabulous views — which takes away from just simply enjoying it. I'm trying to curb that tendency. That, and I'd rather just eat the food than remember what it looked like.

TasteDC said...

classic who cares what other people think - I do it when I feel like and generally I use the photos for slideshows created on my IMac to entertain people later. Cell phones are bad manners - they affect the audio of a meal - screaming children are bad manners - they should not be allowed to sit near me, and if they do, they need to be quiet, bond somewhere else! I also take photos of the bar, the servers, whatever - they ask me to stop - I STOP!! Photos are OK in most places, but if they're taken in a public venue, then the rules are set by the powers that be, I accept them, Carole has set her rules, that's the way it is, tough if you don't like them!! Wanna see any of my recent photos on the Seattle Foodie Tour? - you'd be surprised how much the chefs, bartenders and servers enjoy having their pictures taken if you do it in the right "frame" of mind!

Anonymous said...

There seems to be a lot of "I'm right and everyone should follow me" in this thread. As in everything, moderation is the key. A few snaps of a special dish is fine. We've all seen people taking family/friend pictures in restuarants on special occassions. Just do it discretely, don't overdo it and stop if asked. Same for cell phone usage.

Jason said...

Personally speaking, I usually find amateur food photography unappealing anyways, so generally speaking I think it's a bad idea to even bother. There have been numerous times when I've read a glowing review of someone's meal and then see their accompanied picture of it and been completely turned off to the dish.
There is a very good reason why professionals are hired to take pictures of food. It's extremely easy for the picture to ruin the appeal of a dish.
So for my two cents, just don't do it and save yourself, your readers, and the restaurant the bellyache.

Anonymous said...

I think cellphones should be turned off when in a restaurant. There, That ends the whole problem!

Anonymous said...

It's important - very important - NOT to document anything. That way, if you ever mention something in passing or in a blog or whereever, no one can prove you wrong, or take exception to anything you say. Of course, then everything is hear-say, so it doesn't really matter, eh?
I wish I had thought to snap pics of the wonderful setting at Bennigan's on my latest trip (Denver)... I sent back a martini three (3) times because of food crusted on the outside of the glass, and then asked to speak to the manager -- thinking that they really should know what's going on for the diners. As she and I were talking at the table, I noticed food crusted on the knife, and promptly brought it to her attention, thinking it would underscore the importance of clean settings. It didn't seem to phase her, although she DID promise to fix it right away and sped off with the offending knife. I never DID see her, or my replacement knife, and I was gratified later when the bill came, in full, without any customary adjustment or at least an offer of a free dessert for the trouble.
Oo! Double deal... I got to comment, AND complain about an incident that's been bugging me for weeks.

Dave McIntyre said...

Hi Amanda -
Dave Mc here. Nine years ago, dining at Alain Ducasse in Paris, my wife and I saw a woman sitting very stiffly as if afraid to move. Each time the waiters presented a dish, she reached into her lap under the table cloth, pulled out a camera, and took a quick photo. (This was before camera phones or even small digital cams!) We couldn't tell if she was a restaurateur seeking inspiration or just a foodie chef's groupie. One thing we were sure of: She was American.

allan said...

The same thought ocurred to me when I started writing about restaurants on my blog. I opted not to bring the camera, hoping that my writing painted a good enough picture.

Anonymous said...

Like it or not, makes no difference to me. You do your thing, and I'll do mine.
I almpst always take photos of my plate. Several reasons, first, I'm a foodie... Love food and preparing food. Have been cooking for 74 years and have cookbooks to show for my efforts. Hvae won local, State, National, and international awards for my cooking.
Second. I pair the photo with the menu and the restaurant for future reference. What I ate when and where. Third, like to have proof when I end up in the hospital with food poisoning.
When I pay for the food, it is MINE to do with what I choose.