Is it rude to take pictures of food?

In his latest restaurant review, Giles Coren has the following to say about foodbloggers taking photos of food:

I think photographing one’s food in a restaurant is easily as rude, disrespectful and brutish as making a phone call, scrolling a BlackBerry or dropping one’s trousers in the middle of the room and taking a massive dump. And the next time I see it happen, I am going to complain to the waiter and see what transpires. Just for larks.

Although I am not a foodblogger, I take pictures of my plate from time to time. It is a bit odd, I suppose, but if you are interested in food then it’s nice to see what people are eating, as well as reading their words about it. And I think that going to the trouble of taking a picture demonstrates a keen interest. Interest = good. I’m pleased that people are interested in what they are eating and drinking. If I was a chef, I’d be delighted if people were taking my creations seriously enough to snap them on their digital cameras and share them with the world.

The picture above is from a meal at Umu, London’s top Kyoto-style restuarant, which was the location for the Koshu of Japan launch which I have just written up.

14 comments to Is it rude to take pictures of food?

  • Is it rude to take pictures of food?

    I think it is and I couldn’t agree more about taking phone calls in the middle of a dinner. Why is it that the person calling always seem more important than the person in front of you?

  • Steve

    Coren is a witless cock who can’t even work up a half-decent gag out of his disgust, but snapping your dinner is pretty f***ing tragic. Still, when we all succumb to Alzheimers at least we’ll leave a useful record of the meals we ate for future social historians.

  • After three decades as a chef, sommelier, wine writer and educator, I’ve been taken thousands of pictures on bottles, barrels, grapes in the vineyard, food on the markets a dishes at restaurants – all over the world. There’s nothing stupid or rude about it. It so natural.
    IF you love food (I do), you like to show other foodies what you eat and what it looks likes.
    I guess Giles Goren doesn’t own a camera, or know how to use one! Or, even worse, he’s not a true foodie. So, my question is, how can he write about food and restaurants, when he think it’s rude to picture food?
    Another theory may well be that Giles are stressed by the fact, that a picture tells more than he can describe in words.

    Anyway, I bring my camera to any top restaurant in the world, but I always ask the waiter or chef if it is ok to take som pictures on the food. And almost all of them are happy to let me do do. I guess they see it as a great opportunity to inspire people to make their reservations at the restuarant.

    chef, sommelier and wine writer with a camera!

  • My friends and I do it all the time and share the images on twitter.
    It’s great publicity for the restaurants and I’ve never had a complaint from the staff about it. They’re usually happy to pose too!
    I guess if you pulled out a big SLR with external flash you might disturb fellow diners, but most camera phones don’t even have flashes, so there’s no risk of upsetting the rest of the room.

  • I don’t think it’s odd at all! I love to take pictures of my plate. It’s like a work of art. I think taking phone calls at the table is rude though. It’s just a matter of opinion, I suppose.

  • p.s. I note that my comment is awaiting moderation. I am awaiting moderation myself, but somehow it rarely seems to happen.

  • I used to sketch the dishes set before me but as the food was stone cold by the time I was ready to eat it I resorted to using my camera. A visual record of good food well presented heightens the pleasure of recall and sharing the memory of a meal with others. Consideration is called for and photographs should be discreetly taken.
    Some would say that writing notes at table is rude…

  • I have a wine and gastronomy tour company and amongst the one day tour offers is a half day cooking class and a luxury wine and gastronomy tour. At both of the lunches on these days, the clients like to take photos of their food and indeed, so do I. I publish on Facebook and Twitter and send photos to the restaurants concerned. The chefs are very pleased as they so rarely see photos of their own food plated and looking beautiful. I think the key here is to do it in a rather discreet way if you can i.e. not jumping around the table to get the perfect angle but just quietly taking a picture of the food in front of you. I don’t see how this can compare to taking ‘phone calls at the table (if you must answer, go outside!) and the other comparison of taking a dump is just ridiculous! It’s much more about the appreciation of the chef who has taken so much care with the food.

  • I’m absolutely with Michel and you, Jamie – it’s generally done discretely and it’s a good idea to firstly check with the waiter (who almost always seem flattered that you’re so enthusiastic). However, talking on a mobile phone at the dinner table is quite another thing.

    (From a probably completely biased food and drink blogger.)

  • I think it’s fine as long as you use your manners and ask the restaurant. I would never use flash – flash and food = bad images. Actually I probably have never used my camera – but taken a few discrete photos with i-phone.

    Restaurants always say yes – they love that you love their food enough to take a snap. In our own restaurant I think its terrifc that someone is interested enough to photograph what they are eating and possibly blog it.

    Maybe the journalist feels threatened that web and blogging etc are making his role less important.

    As for phone calls in restaurants – this is a no no – that certainly is rude, particularly to your dining companions.


  • anthony, thank you for your comment – the first time someone posts here, they are moderated, but on subsequent occasions they can post free of moderation – it is to catch spammers, of which there are legion

  • I totally agreed that it is rude sometimes to not ask the waiters about taking pics of the food. Most of them are pleased about it. If I am lucky I get offers to take pics of their kitchen and crew. How fun!

  • Well if we want to take Giles seriously, and this is already pushing the limits of my patience, we can look at the argument he makes and ask about its foundation. Does he think photographing food is as rude as answering your phone or taking a dump because it impedes on the experience of those around the photographer in a way that answering your phone or taking a dump impede on everybody around you? I mean, presumably, the examples of phone use and defecation are there to imply that taking pictures is harmful to the ambience for everybody in the restaurant. So would he be okay with a hidden camera taking photos because it’s so discrete? So how discrete is discrete enough? Or does Giles only hate the act of photography no matter how discrete? For example, if a man is holding up a useless artifact that looks just like a camera and he mimes out the act of taking a photo of his food, even though no picture is taken because it’s just a toy with the appearance of a camera, is Giles okay with that? Is it the gest of looking like you’re taking a picture or the actual act of photographing food that offends him so?

    Anyway, I guess try to be discrete when you take photos in case there’s a Giles near you. But I’m sure you can take a photo about as discretely as somebody can sneeze or laugh or any other number of acceptable things to do in a restaurant setting.

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