Restaurant photography. The new “hang up and drive?”
Do you take photos in restaurants? Are you bothered when others do? Do you drool with envy when looking at other people’s snapshots or do you avoid looking at blog posts and galleries to maintain some of the mystery of a place you’ve never been, to experience the plating and atmosphere of a restaurant for yourself?
I have wondered about this from both sides of the restaurant table, as a diner and server, even from behind the kitchen door of a restaurant. Now that almost everyone seems to have a digital camera, and many blog about food, are there too many people taking too many photos?
I don’t think there’s any question that constant flash photography can be distracting and bother other diners at the table and in the dining room. But should restaurants step in and put an outright ban on flash use, or photography in general?
To gain more insight into the question, I asked MC Slim JB, a busy Boston restaurant critic, what his take on the issue would be. Here’s part of his email response:
“It’s a matter of degree. Nobody complains if somebody snaps a few “happy birthday” pics in a restaurant, but photographers who take ten pictures of every dish throughout the meal can be intrusive. There are certain places I’ve come to expect it, like O Ya, where the beauty of the platings is a big part of the experience; even the restaurant seems to be used to it (and probably values the free marketing that photo-centric food bloggers provide). When I see the would-be food-stylist types snapping away, the thought often crosses my mind: “You know, your food’s getting cold.”
“As for photography taking the thrill and mystery out of eating out, I don’t buy it. I read a lot of heavily photo-illustrated blogs and magazines, and they’re likelier to tantalize me, fire my imagination, or satisfy a curiosity about places I’m unlikely to be able to visit myself. That kind of armchair tourism is practically the backbone of the travel and leisure writing industry. If you want to avoid dinner “spoilers”, avoid reading those sites, the same way you do with movie reviews.”
My own experience in the kitchen of a restaurant (with fairly elaborate plating) was that diners who photographed their meals, while flattering to the kitchen staff to a certain degree, diminished the primary experience of eating and sharing the meal with their companions. It’s one thing to retain a memory of the evening out, another to eat preoccupied with the next blog posting.
What’s your take, as a blogger and a diner. Do you bring your camera when you eat out? Do you use, or avoid, flash? Are you bothered by other guests who ‘shoot their dinner’? And what of the photos themselves–do you read blogs with pictures of the meal, or avoid reviews that have too much visual description? Share your thoughts.