It’s My Food and I’ll Instagram It If I Want to: A Defense of Amateur Food PhotographyBy: Josh Wolford - January 23, 2013
Apart from posting a copious amount of baby photos on Facebook (nobody cares and your kid isn’t even that cute anyway), and going overboard with the politically-charged rhetoric (nobody cares and your opinion is stupid anyway), there’s not really a social media faux pas more common and more annoying than the oversharing of food photography. Personally, I enjoy a well-shot, delicious looking culinary masterpiece appearing in my news feed every once in a while. But too much is never a good thing. Unless you’re the one actually eating the food, in which case go ahead and gorge yourself you lucky prick.
Apparently, your social media followers aren’t the only ones that are becoming increasingly annoyed with your photos of that spectacular marinated pork belly with garlic-miso glaze and asian slaw. It looks like the guy who made it may be just as sick and tired of your culinary documentation as everyone else.
The New York Times has published a piece entitled “Restaurants Turn Camera Shy,” which details the growing number of high-end establishments that are taking measures to stop the flood of amateur food photography. According to the report, some restaurants are implementing bans on flash photography, and some are even outlawing photography altogether.
It’s as if their crab-stuffed ravioli with pureed parsnips in a basil aioli and pickled watermelon rind is in danger of being damaged, like an ancient fresco.
Oh I’m sorry. I thought this was America.
The following is a defense of amateur food photography, from an infrequent food photographer who is often annoyed by food photography.
The NYT points to one restaurant in particular, Momofuku Ko in New York City, that has banned photos altogether. It tells the tale of one woman, whose embarrassment has forced her to remain anonymous, and her brush with the food photography police.
“I was definitely embarrassed…I don’t want to be that person…But I was caught off guard,” she told the NYT.
“That person” was a person attempting to take a photo of her plate inside a small, Michelin-starred restaurant – a flashless photo nonetheless.
The Times goes on to name another half-dozen restaurants who have implemented restrictions on photography in their dining rooms. Many discourage flash photography only.
Table photography “totally disrupts the ambience,” said one executive chef.
“Some people are arrogant about it. They don’t understand why. But we explain that it’s one big table and we want the people around you to enjoy their meal. They pay a lot of money for this meal. It became even a distraction for the chef,” said another.
Restaurant owners and chefs: I know someone else who also paid a lot of money for their meal. Notably, the guy trying to take a photo of his food.
Not only did he pay a great deal for his meal, but it’s highly likely that this meal is special to him. He probably doesn’t get to eat the kind of high-quality food sitting in front of him everyday. Not many people do. There’s a good chance that he simply wants to remember the experience through photography, and possibly share it with his friends.
Maybe he’s a food blogger, and that’s his livelihood or hobby.
Maybe he’s…it doesn’t matter why he’s doing it. He paid for his meal and wants to take a picture of it. Loosen up a little. Take it as a compliment. Or take it as whatever. The point is, just take it. There are too many social networks that feature too much food photography. Don’t turn against the tide.
Oh, and there’s the simple fact that HE PAID FOR IT, GODD*MNIT.
Plus, any photo of your perfectly-cooked gnocchi that gets posted to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foodspotting, or any other social media service is free advertising. People rarely post photos of terrible food.
And if you’re worried about flash photography, I agree. Flash photography is usually terrible for food photos. But if I can’t see my hand in front of my face (restaurants can be pretty dim at times), how the hell is my iPhone camera going to be able to see my fennel-crusted rack of lamb with creamed leeks?
To be fair, some of the restaurateurs featured in the Times’ article have come up with interesting solutions to the problem. One chef has decided to allow patrons into the kitchen, to photograph their food before it hits the dining room. Another has offered digital photos of the food, taken by the restaurant itself when the meal is complete. But this still means that they frown upon patrons whipping out their cameras and snapping a quick pic of their own.
Don’t misunderstand me; I encourage courteous, inconspicuous food photography. Don’t draw attention to yourself and don’t act like an as*hole. Even with that, it can get annoying at times, I don’t doubt that. But to ban it or make people feel bad for wanting to document something that they paid a lot for and is probably really special to them? You can go fork yourself.[Photo via Instagram]