Saturday, April 24, 2010

Food and Photography

This blog was triggered by a full page article in the Food section, LA Times, on the Getty Museum's new exhibit of same. "Tasteful Pictures" covers the last 150 years in food photography.

"None of these pictures were made by a digital camera," crows Virginia Heckert, curator of the exhibit. The earliest photo was shot by Roger Fenton in 1860.

I thought about today and the way so many find it necessary to whip out a cell phone or digital camera and record what was put in front of us. (Yes, I'm guilty because I ask Richie to do it.) And then I wondered what restaurants/chefs thought about it. Are there rules?

What I discovered is a virtual mania for food photos! Shooters put them on MySpace, YouTube and God only knows what all else. So much so that some chefs and front-of-the-house staff will tell you not to do it as the flash annoys other guests; there is an expectation of privacy (of sorts) in a restaurant and that they (resto staff) don't want you taking pictures of other guests.

Here are the rules that I learned:

1. Don't make a big deal of taking the photo. Don't kneel on the banquette, stand on a chair or move everything around on the table (which delays service and, more importantly, your food gets cold.)

2. No flash! It irritates others and, if you're really banging away, I'd remind that a flash every seven seconds can cause seizures in people prone to having them. Use the "candlelight" setting on your digital camera. I doubt that cell phone cameras have that setting (mine at least is Bang Flash Picture Taken) so perhaps if you feel you absolutely must have this picture, very carefully study the subject and then take one (and only one) shot of it with the flash.

3. If you're told "No!" tell them you're writing a blog on the place (and love it) or want to recommend it to friends and ask if you might come back at a less busy time and shoot them.

Sidebar: A University of Wisconsin program studied 43 people who were told to take a picture of everything they ate -- and those people lost weight! Something about having to think about what you were about to put in your stomach. Photos of your food also lets physicians know portion sizes which can often be the problem.

This public service announcement was brought to you by Furious Chefs, Inc.

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