Should we take pictures of food and wine in restaurants?

I love instagram and twitter. And facebook. Wouldn’t it be great if one day I didn’t need to do any proper work – just taking instagrams, writing tweets, posting to facebook. That would be epic! I am moving towards it, little by little.

What’s that? I heard you: this Goode chap doesn’t do any proper work anyway. OK, I get you. My work isn’t arduous by conventional standards. It would be horrifying if I had to actually do a job, like most people do.

But I have an important question, that’s social media related. Should we be taking pictures of our food? And the wine that we drink, in restaurants?

Isn’t a restaurant meal a time to relax, enjoy good company, and have a pleasant gastronomic experience? Isn’t it a bit vulgar to be taking a picture of the plate in front of us, when our attention should be fully focused on our companions? Shouldn’t we really have a no phones on the table policy in restaurants?

I do love my phone, but I am getting increasingly worried about the effect that filming or photographing everything has on our actual engagement with reality. If you go to a concert or sporting event, a sizeable proportion of people are holding phones up, filming everything. For what reason? There is, I suspect, a subtle psychological process that takes place when we are behind our phones, which impacts on our involvement with the world around us. We move from being participants to observers.

Still, I take pictures of food. I quite like the policy that Heston Blumenthal’s restaurants have stated. Rather than banning the practice, they have set constraints. No flash photography. No standing up to take the picture. No shifting round the dishes. That seems like a sensible stance to take.

And wine? Generally speaking, I don’t think you should take a picture of a bottle of wine unless you are drinking it. It just seems odd to take a picture of a grand bottle in your cellar, or in a posh wine shop, that you aren’t actually consuming.

7 comments to Should we take pictures of food and wine in restaurants?

  • Caleb

    Agreed on all accounts. Photos are personal, whether work- or pleasure-related. So long as you don’t disturb others, no need to step in and prohibit phones altogether. Though, I do agree, we should be encouraged to just have a meal and enjoy each other’s company — completely uninterrupted — from time to time.

  • David Crossley

    I would hope that taking a photo of the wine bottle label (I don’t photograph food, though maybe I did a couple of years ago at places like The Ledbury) is not distracting for other diners. I don’t stand up and I only use flash if the restaurant is dark and dingy. It takes four seconds.

    Why do I photograph the wine bottle? I document every wine I drink, and of course, like you, I write about it, though in theory I have a “proper” job, albeit hardly arduous.

    What do I think about restaurants which might impose a total ban on such practices? Get a life and lose an ego! Of course they are entitled to impose whatever rules they wish, as we are entitled to think we’d rather eat food cooked by more liberal minded people.

  • I find as a diner that taking pictures interrupts the flow and ambiance of the meal. Trouble is I suspect that is a generation thing.

    If others take photos then they need to be discreet so I’m with Heston on this, but am curious as to how this is going to be communicated discreetly to diners.

  • Sorry Graham I’m with David on this one.I don’t photograph food unless it is exceptional but I do record each bottle I drink, good or bad, and that includes photos these days.

  • Interesting post and topical, as always.

    Food photos – Not annoying other diners is obviously a good idea. Most cameras are probably good enough to give a reasonably accurate picture of the dish – so restaurants shouldn’t really mind customers taking a picture and posting it. But I think the interesting angle is the rare dish that looks crap but tastes great – I am thinking the scallop and mushroom photo at the Clove Club that Jamie has posted next.

    On the point of spoiling the moment I totally agree. I’m a very big fan of enjoying the moment and the face to face time and the flow of the conversation. I think it’s better to actually enjoy it than be busy documenting to all your fans how much you are enjoying it. Whilst recognising their usefulness, one of the reasons I don’t own a smartphone is not to be 100% on line all the time. And being a bit old-fashioned I would say ‘phones off in a restaurant, unless you’re a Dr. on-call or something.

    As for photographing wines you are not drinking, don’t agree. If I saw something from my birth year or with a weird label or a Petrvs 82 or whatever, I’d definitely want that snap.

  • Gavin

    I rarely take photos of my food, unless it’s exceptional. Even then, I probably wouldn’t if I were with friends for the meal (I often eat alone in restaurants…). On the other hand, I do wonder about people who claim that someone on another table taking a photo with their phone has spoiled the dining experience — really?

  • It’s an interesting argument. From the restaurant’s point of view I would have thought, as a lot of these images find their way to food blogs, that you would want your product to be shown at it’s best. As most restaurants (at night anyway) tend to be dimly lit, good photography with a smartphone is a challenge. To a lesser extent the same applies to wine. A winery would want the label to be distinctly obvious if the image is being ‘shared’. Personally I take the odd picture of a meal if it’s a work of art and like the majority here will take a picture of a good bottle that I may not have had before but only for my own reference.

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