Taking Pictures of your meals seems to be a growing trend
A couple of months ago I was sitting in a restaurant watching someone at a nearby table taking pictures of all of his dishes. He was using a tiny tabletop tripod, moving every plate to just the right position and using long exposures take advantage of the little bit of light. I’ve been seeing diners taking pictures more frequently, and asked the server if the whole tripod setup was common. He rolled his eyes and said, “everyone is taking pictures, but this guy has been in three times in the last couple of weeks, so I’m pretty sure he is the Food Dude working on a review.”
I had to kick my companion under the table to keep her from laughing.
Maybe I should have my “foodie” card revoked, but I’ve never really had any interest in photographing the things I eat. These days I refuse to take any pictures at all, and more often than not, I write the restaurant asking if they want to send photos of any of the dishes I’m reviewing. Most do, surprisingly some don’t – I never quite understand that, since good photos can make a big difference to people skimming a review.
Anyway, with the exception of an occasional idiot who is using a flash, to each his own. However, it seems there are some people that are so obsessed, they photograph every single item they eat.
JAVIER GARCIA, a 28-year-old neuroscientist at the University of California, Irvine, was in the campus pub recently having a grilled cheese sandwich. But before he took a bite, he snapped a digital picture of it, cheese artistically oozing between toasted white bread, just as he has photographed everything he has eaten in the last five years.
Every other week he posts the photos on his Web site, ejavi.com/javiDiet, providing a strangely intimate and unedited view of his life and attracting fans from as far away as Ecuador. The nearly 9,000 photos leave nothing out, not even snacks as small as a single square of shredded wheat.”
“Keeping a photographic food diary is a growing phenomenon with everything from truffle-stuffed suckling pig to humble bowls of Cheerios being captured and offered for public consumption. Indeed, the number of pictures tagged “food” on the photo-sharing Web site Flickr has increased tenfold to more than six million in the last two years, according to Tara Kirchner, the company’s marketing director. One of the largest and most active Flickr groups, called “I Ate This,” includes more than 300,000 photos that have been contributed by more than 19,000 members. There would be more, but members are limited to 50 photos a month.
I went and looked at Mr. Garcia’s site, and lasted all of sixty seconds (if you back up to his home page, it’s a bit more… interesting – and annoying).
Unlike a picture of a flower or friend, a picture of a meal recalls something smelled, touched, tasted and ultimately ingested. Carl Rosenberg, 52, a Web site developer who divides his time among San Francisco; Austin, Tex.; and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, photographs his food along the way with a Nikon D3.
“You have more of a direct connection with your food, so it forms a more essential memory of an occasion,” he said. He often places a small stuffed animal, a sheep, which he calls the Crazy Sheep, next to his food before taking a picture; reminiscent of the globe-trotting garden gnome in the French film “Amélie.”
“I think photographing food is a more accurate way to document life,” said Mr. Rosenberg, who shares photos with family and friends but does not post them. “Food isn’t going to put on a special face when you take a picture of it.”
Yup, you’d better take back my card. I can look at a recipe and taste it in my mind, but a picture? I feel nothing. How about you?
I started ChefCrush.com because I thought the explosion of gastroporn blogs was kind of amusing and I wanted to poke a little fun at both foodie hubris and celebrity chefs. I enjoy pictures of delicious-looking edibles, but I felt like the people in the trenches actually MAKING the food got very little recognition. Plus I don’t have the patience to snap away while my meal is getting cold…
Food Dude says
Your site is great :)
Well Food Dude, I guess you are coming from a completely different place than I am. As a professional
food photographer I can’t resist shooting a beautifully presented plate of food or a plate of food with gorgeous light illuminating it. I’m always amazed and impressed when I read one of your long,detailed, and expertly written reviews. I don’t express myself well with words but images are another thing. I’m compelled to do it. Now of course the guy shooting everything he eats is nutty.
Food Dude says
Well, it’s kind of different you being a pro and all.
New Haven Pizza says
Of all the photographed dishes to show with this article! It just so happens that those ribs were the impetus to my writing a response to your review of Ten01 a year or so ago. That dish conjured up thoughts of a Hidden Vally Granola bar pressed into a rib. (I wish I’d thought of that description then).
Coincidentally, I just bought my son a Sony camera for his birthday, and it’s got a “Food Mode” setting. It really brings out the richness and color of a dish (no need for tripods and lights). We’ve taken a few shots. Really nice, actually.
I sometimes photograph stuff that I bake (loaves of bread or pies) or my husband’s culinary inventions to show to friends who are interested in our recipes and just cause it’s kind of fun. But I can’t imagine photographing stuff that a) other people cooked or b) is just regular fare (a lovely image of fish sticks and mashed potatoes with frozen peas on a Thursday evening). Sometimes I think the whole purpose of the Internet is public validation for OCD.
Food Dude says
I’d agree, but then I would sound old.
The “photography in the restaurant” thing is getting a bit old. I understand the want to have a good memory of every plate one has enjoyed of a good meal, but much like Chef Achatz, I agree that the tripod-on-the-table photography can get in the way of actually *enjoying* one’s food. Granted, if one is a food photographer, it’s a bit of a different issue. Oh, and I love taking photos of my own food at home, but I’ll not take photos with anything but my phonecam while at a restaurant, and usually only the last course or something like that. I’ll be attending a few events in the near future where I’d love to take photos of food, but I’m going to get permission beforehand and ensure that I’m not bothering others while doing it. Whew…
Raven's Feast says
I have little problem with other diners taking photos of their food. It’s not distracting to my meal, nor my overall enjoyment. They’re having fun, nothing wrong with that.
I agree, good photos can tremendously add to a review. My interest is peaked by a brief critique of a restaurant’s food, a link or insert of their menu, and a photo alongside. I’ll take that any day over a lengthy play-by-play of someone else’s eating experience. Sure, a tripod seems like a bit much for the occasion, unless you were hired to shoot the food. Personally, I prefer to be inconspicuous in the act (i.e. Iphone), but overall, I find little shame in taking photos. I even took a flash photo (ceiling bounce, not a fellow diner’s eyes) when I bought my new camera and it remains to be one of the loveliest photos I’ve taken. That said, flash food photography in someone else’s joint is not my habit.
Food Dude says
I was sitting in a restaurant once, and some guy started taking pictures with a flash. It was REALLY annoying. The chef came out and asked him to leave. Everyone applauded.
Raven's Feast says
Thanks for the warning….when you just buy a new Cannon 5D though, you’re allowed the indulgence ; ) I sent the shot to the chef, who is a friend, and he appreciated it.
My $0.02: The average diner who snaps pictures of their meal nowadays seems to be a new trend of facebooking or tweeting every freakin’ thing they are doing all day. “I’m eating this” and “I’m drinking this”, etc. Arrg….
I’ll have to say, in response to stellaoks, the pro who shot some of the dishes I’ve served to winery guests made my food look REALLY GOOD. Geez, the way the strawberries were backlit and all juicy, the lettuce looking so pretty. It made me wonder who prepared that food!
Finally, the comment about someone assuming the photog was FD doing a review. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the name “Food Dude” over the past few years. The concept of never being seen in public is working, FD. It’s almost on the same level as Sasquatch lately, so many sightings or assumed sightings, none of them real….
Food Dude says
I got an email the other day that was meant for someone else, that said “oh my god! I always thought Food Dude was a man!”
For the record, yes, I am of the male species (“species” used to make all the women out there happy)
At a restaurant a few weeks ago, I overheard someone at a table next to me say “Food Dude says the soup here is really good. Her friend leaned over and said “then we should get something different – he’s an idiot”.
made my day
Marshall Manning says
For the true record, male isn’t a “species”, it’s a sex.
And I never take pictures of food at restaurants. Not only is it rude to other diners, but it reminds me of something that a long-time internet wine board denizen, Florida Jim, once said. He stopped taking a lot of pictures of his travels because he felt that it interrupted his true memory of the events, and made him more intent on taking a good photo than on enjoying the actual experience.
Food Dude says
Nice to see you commenting.
I know a lot of women who would argue that!
hard to enjoy the moment when you are staging it, I agree.
I find the whole food shots during dining out irritating myself. No matter what people are noticing
and it’s distracting. The professionals take a different approach, they are a courteous bunch as a whole.
He/ She whatever you are it gives a guy/gal a laugh to read some of your postings.
Nice break from work to sit back and check out what’s up, what’s down, and who’s on first.
Or one can just take the time it take to press a button on a shutter, you know, like 1/2 a second, and then move on with one’s life. Life isn’t so extreme as everybody makes it out to be.
Well played, pollo. Once again, moderation prevails. I love capturing a well-lit, well-prepared and presented dish, but that doesn’t mean I’ve got my camera out 24/7 or even close by every time I eat out. It’s really about manners to a certain degree, and I’d argue it’s on par with having a loud cell phone conversation in an otherwise hushed-tone setting: obnoxious and ill-timed. I’d say 90% of the time, your photographs are going to be terrible and nobody else will want to see them. I try to be polite the other 10% and snag the cream of the crop as to make my diet seem more glamorous than that of my peers :) I’ve taken to making my home meals look dreamy as of late… http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2794/4479745451_3658d1be25_b.jpg
Food Dude says
Microfoam, that picture is so wrong in such a good way. Really nice
I make photos of the food I cook, for my blog, but it feels really freaky to snap photos in a restaurant.
Mary Sue says
I do take photos of my food. Sometimes. And I try to be fairly unobtrusive when I do so. No flash, no posing, no tripod (fercryingoutloud).
Last week I was in California and I escorted my grandmother to lunch at a restaurant that boasts a Michelin star. I made the conscious decision not to take my camera and get all fussy about photos and food and instead enjoy the company of my grandmother and my parents.
Of course, as soon as the first course arrives, my mother whips out her Blackberry and starts snapping photos.