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Taking pictures of food in restaurants

Roasted oyster mushrooms, avocado and almond salad

Roasted oyster mushrooms, avocado and almond salad

When I first started posting regularly on this blog, an editor assured me that I would not need to haul a big camera around. A semi-decent cellphone pic would be just fine.

Now, nearly a year later, I end up taking pictures of my food even when I don’t intend to post them on the blog. It’s become almost second nature to reach for my iPhone the second food hits the table in a restaurant.

I can never resist taking pictures at Dynamic Dish, where the food is as photogenic as it is delicious. The restaurant is also ideally lit during the daytime, and the unvarnished wooden tables provide just the right background. I also think that chef/owner David Sweeney has a very keen understanding of how people eat with their eyes.

I’m curious if anyone else has gotten into the habit of taking pictures of restaurant food as a matter of course. I’m noticing this more and more when I go out; I don’t imagine all these photo takers are food bloggers.

Roasted red pepper and celery root soup

Roasted red pepper and celery root soup

34 comments Add your comment


October 14th, 2010
12:51 pm

I’m definitely guilty. Never use a flash, be quick, ask permission when possible.


October 14th, 2010
1:11 pm

I do it at home, and in restaurants as well. It’s a great way to remember a great (or not so great) meal.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ajcdinecritic, John Kessler. John Kessler said: Taking pictures of food in restaurants [...]


October 14th, 2010
2:46 pm

I think that we’ve talked about this before on this blog. I think that you mentioned that you only do it if the restaurant/chef is ok with it.

I know some places get very annoyed with people taking twenty minutes photographing their food before they even touch it which ties up the table. They tend to swallow their frustration because it shows people’s interest and can generate interest online.

I think one place in SF actually set-up a spot in the dinining room that could be used to take beauty shots of the dishes. Until the chef walked out and yelled at them to just eat the food.


October 14th, 2010
3:09 pm

I am embarrassed as it never occurred to me to ask permission. I just figured when they set the food down in front of me it officially became mine to do with what I please. I do try to be courteous to others around (flash/no flash). I love sending the pics to friends as we are all self proclaimed foodies!!

Whenever we go on cruises...

October 14th, 2010
3:33 pm

…we are amazed at how many people take pictures of the food that is served at dinner in the main dining rooms…


October 14th, 2010
3:37 pm

I do it all the time — it’s really the only way I can remember the details of a great meal months or years later.


October 14th, 2010
3:59 pm

Enter your comments here Hi Kar: They were introduced into Britain and France by the Romans in the 4th century BC. From there they were introduced into Africa and the Africans brought the seeds with them on slave ships to North America. I’m not sure when the North Africans were introduced to them but I assume somewhere between the 4th century BC and the early 1600’s which is when they first showed up in the U. S. colonies.

Robert Givens

October 14th, 2010
4:26 pm

I usually have a picture posted on FaceBook before I take a bite.


October 14th, 2010
4:30 pm

Thank Beatriz.


October 14th, 2010
5:28 pm

Glad I’m not your girlfriend. Hate to think what you’d want to do to me.


October 14th, 2010
5:34 pm

We do! Especially if we are out of town doing a trip report, eating in lovely places. I have friends who love the “food porn” aspect of it all. I use a Canon point and shoot and my husband uses a bigger Canon camera.


October 14th, 2010
5:44 pm

You people should get a life. You have a picture posted on Facebook before you take a bit? Who the X$%@ cares?

Tom Mills

October 14th, 2010
6:30 pm

I travel a lot for business and I’m a bit of a foodie. My Windows phone helps me pass the time while eating out. I post comments and statuses on Facebook with it. So it was natural for me to start taking pictures and uploading them. I usually do it when the food or the restaurant motivates me to capture the moment. My friends have fun commenting (and sometimes drooling) over my pictures. My latest ones were taken last night at Jasper’s in Austin (Kent Rathburn’s restaurant). Unfortunately, the yummy ribs didn’t stay on my plate long enough to be photographed. I also like to take pictures of the kitchen if possible. My photos run the gamut from the Beacon Drive-in in Spartanburg (heart attack on a plate) to Pink’s in L.A.; the dessert room at the Four Season’s Las Colinas brunch or the tableside preparation of Bananas Foster at Brennan’s in N.O. Sometimes my home cooking will turn out good enough to post, too.

Ing Ing

October 14th, 2010
6:32 pm

I am sooo guilty and my friends tease me. I am quick to post to Facebook and share with friends all over the world. On a trip to NYC my travel buddies thought it was strange that I snapped pictures of food and drinks every place we stopped. Later when we retuned home they were happy I captured the memories. Hmmm… my favorite upload…. has to be the Martini I had at Surin the day I “quit” lent. Classic picture indeed!


October 14th, 2010
6:40 pm

I agree with loukeeda. Once the food is set down, it’s mine to photograph, eat, pack, whatever. It’s nice not to be disruptive to other diners, though.

The people at Dynamic Dish used to maintain a blog with amazing glamour shots of the food.

Also see Running With Tweezers, which is linked here on the right.


October 14th, 2010
7:10 pm

I’m completely guilty…though I do my best to make it quick as I can. I know most chefs can’t stand the foodies that show up with a mini tripod and spend 10 minutes trying to get a good shot while their food gets cold. Plus, as soon as a server sees you taking pictures of your plate, you might as well have a giant neon sign on your head that screams “BLOGGER”.


October 14th, 2010
7:54 pm

One should certainly respect the sensibilities of fellow diners. Having said that, once the food hits the table, there’s no functional distinction between wolfing it down or using it as a photo prop. For that matter, scoop it into a doggy bag and carry it back to the Keys to feed Spooner Your Old Hound.

As for Louise: Not having seen you, we’re not sure what our reaction would be, or how interested we’d be in having you as a girlfriend. Just sayin’


October 14th, 2010
8:51 pm

My friends and I all do this, and we call it food porn. “Oh, you’re heading to Napa? Don’t forget to send food porn.”


October 14th, 2010
10:40 pm

Really??? I understand a widely read food journalist like Mr. Kessler taking pictures of his food to share with the rest of us, but I am shocked that self absorbed “foodies” take pictures of their meals as well. Well, I suppose I should not be too surprised. Message to picture taking facebookers- NO ONE CARES what your bistro steak or your rissoto with truffle shavings looks like. None of your friends after looking at your slideshow of your dinner say, “Man look at that marbling” or “Wow, RAMPS, what a surprise and look how they compliment that fine piece of ahi, truly sublime”. You may think, “how foodie of me” while snapping away at your meal, but trust me the other patrons and restaurant staff are laughing their tails off and in the back of their head’s thinking how lucky they are that they are not related to or friends with the foodpic table.


October 14th, 2010
11:29 pm

Food pictures serve a utilitarian purpose. If I’m served something I want to share with a friend who might not ‘get’ the dish, I take a picture of it. Asian restaurants commonly have picture books that show what the ‘Happy Family” or “Three Dragons” dish that would show breaded or grilled items, veggies used is you’re allergic to, say, mushrooms (like I am).

As for other reasons: if you’re someone like Jeff Varasano (pizza tech extraordinaire) who started a personal mission to master the science & art of pizza (and the owner of Varasano’s in Buckhead), you take pictures of every crust, every cheese & at what temperature and with which flour and… well, it paid off in an amazing product. Remember: you can’t copyright food. The name ‘Big Mac” can be copyrighted, but ask the folks at Shoneys (or Bob’s Big Boy to be more exact) about a triple decker burger idea.

As for anyone that thinks that people shouldn’t take pictures of their food (or folks who like using the shift key on keyboard to insert cartoon swear words), deal with it. We bought it, and we can put it in a baggie and stick it in our pocket if we want. Stop worrying about what others are doing that don’t affect you. Go get a hobby.

Abdo Restaurants

October 15th, 2010
1:31 am

Food is one of most remarkable subjects for photography since every person just could not live without eating. It also helps to sell food in restaurants when it displays the dishes on the menu and on billboards.We really Love to take pictures of Food.

Thanks for sharing

Restaurants Montreal


October 15th, 2010
8:46 am

almost everything I eat I post pictures of, assuming I can take a picture without flash. Use a ultracompact camera in macro mode w/ no flash, so I sit by a lot of windows and look for the best lit spots when I walk in. Because I prefer macro food-only shots, I usually am not noticed.


October 15th, 2010
9:09 am

Trust me, I the foodpic people just provide a little smirk and then I go about enjoying my meal with the rest of the sane world. Hobbies I have, just glad that is not one of them. Totally agree that some restaurants need to have pictures of their food so as not to confuse the customers and Jeff Verasano benefited greatly from his picture taking to create his version of a perfect pizza. The major difference is those examples are professionals that used pictures to help their businesses. If your idea of a good time is to critique your meal with laser pointers, then have at it. It is a free country, but INMHO it is one step away from D+D with 12 sided dice.


October 15th, 2010
1:20 pm

Geez, I have a friend who does this. Do y’all take pictures of it when it comes out the other end, too?


October 15th, 2010
1:52 pm

Yes, almost always, but I am a food blogger.

John Kessler

October 15th, 2010
4:36 pm

Interesting to see how this topic struck a nerve. Mike: ewwwww. funny, but ewwww….


October 16th, 2010
12:08 pm

This ‘trend’ has to be the most obnoxious and asinine thing to come
around in the last five years.

brown hornet

October 16th, 2010
8:13 pm

If you didn’t have pictures of food on the menu, Obama voters and illegal aliens would starve to death.


October 16th, 2010
9:42 pm

I post the pics on Facebook and tell my friends what I ate, how good it was and why they should go there.


October 17th, 2010
7:26 am

It’s been my habit since I was 12. I have tons taken with film camera. It’s so neat to see printed pictures of food. I was so glad the digital camera was invented and got one as a present from my parents in 1999.

John Kessler

October 17th, 2010
10:53 am

Since you were 12? Dang, Lucy, you’re hardcore!

Owen Renn

October 18th, 2010
10:25 am

I’m as guilty as you can be on photographing food as soon as it hits the table, I found a cool iPhone app too that let’s people tag / share dishes from nearby restaurants too called Foodspotting, check out – it definitely came in handy on a trip to Charleston this weekend.

Food porn!


October 20th, 2010
4:13 pm

I love taking a picture of a beautiful dish I’m about enjoy and send it to friend that will be jealous of the gluttony I am about to partake in.