This is just a sampling of the photos of food I’ve taken in restaurants during the past year.
I started thinking about how many times I take photos of whatever I’m served at a restaurant after I read this article from the New York Times, which takes a look at how many people are in fact taking food photos in restaurants. At least a few restaurants are either cracking down on the practice or else going to great lengths — offering digital images of dinner to customers, letting them into the kitchen to snap photos there — to stop it.
Even when I have no plans to write about whatever it is I’m eating, I’m more likely than not to snap it for posterity. The crazy thing about it is that doing this — whipping out my iPhone during brunch or dinner for a quick photo — doesn’t make me stand out in the least. Lots of people do it — not just food writers or bloggers like me.
There have been times, usually when I’m working, that I’ve felt really awkward pulling out my phone to take a photo of my dinner. I never use a flash, and I try to be as clandestine as possible during those moments; I don’t want to be noticed and I definitely don’t want to bother other diners. When I’m in a crowded bar or a noisy restaurant, though, I can’t say I worry that much at all about taking photos during a meal. No one at a restaurant has ever said a word to me about it.
Those photos I take for places I am writing about do matter to me. I think when I post a review here, it adds something to show you some photographs of the food I actually ate. It’s not styled or perfectly lit, it’s real.
But there have been plenty of times that I’ve snapped absolutely pointless food photos. The last time I did it was on Sunday, at brunch. I took that photo, messed with filters on Instagram, then posted it. As I was doing that, I looked up to see my husband grinning at me. “In the habit, huh?” he said. I felt chagrined, to be sure.
The thing that really stuck with me from the article and made me rethink my habit of constant snaps, especially those non-work related, was this part:
Chef David Bouley said table photography “totally disrupts the ambiance.”
“It’s a disaster in terms of momentum, settling into the meal, the great conversation that develops,” he said. “It’s hard to build a memorable evening when flashes are flying every six minutes.”
I’ve gone on more than once about how part of the pleasure of dining out is eating with other people. Catching up, discussing your lives, enjoying the company of friends. Smart phones kill that vibe. I’ve been trying to pay more attention lately to my own actions. When I’m out for a drink with a group of friends, for instance, why is it my instinct to pull out my phone and scroll through Instagram? When I’m at the dinner table at home or at a restaurant with my husband, why am I doing the same thing? I’m feeling even more chagrined as I write this blog.
It’s one thing if I’m working. But it’s another thing when something becomes habit, like it most certainly has with a lot of diners, including this one. So you might miss that photo of my salmon Benedict at Dixie Quicks on Sunday morning. Next time I think I’ll be too busy eating it to snap it.
Do you take photos when you’re dining out? Has an Omaha restaurant ever asked you to stop? Sound off in the comments.