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Do you take pictures of all that you eat?

Do you obsessively take pictures of everything you eat, or do you think it’s plain rude? Now, imagine a scenario where the wait staff prevents you from doing so. It’s happening in some restaurants in New York. So, is this a shock or a big relief?

brunch Updated: Apr 27, 2013 17:18 IST
Shreya Sethuraman
Shreya Sethuraman
Hindustan Times

You’re at a fancy restaurant and place an order for your favourite dish. While you wait for it to arrive, you ‘check in’ via Facebook. When the dish is eventually placed on your table, you begin taking pictures of it. After getting the ‘perfect’ shot, you share it online, and finally, dig in.

However, imagine a scenario where the wait staff prevents you from doing so. It’s happening in some restaurants in New York. So, is this a shock or a big relief?

Mumbai-based food and wine writer Antoine Lewis (he carries his iPad to restaurants specifically to take food shots) explains why some restaurants have decided to intervene. “Chefs believe food must be had at the right temperature, and the food they prepare is the representation of their restaurant,” he says. “Besides, an amateur is not really equipped with the skills to take good pictures.”

That rule sounds the death knell for food bloggers like Charis Bhagianathan. "I know it can be irritating for others, but I can’t eat if I don’t take photos," she says.


How it began

The reason we now shoot our food so much is simple: we can. We’re so used to recording every bit of our lives – the weekend escape, the sleeping dog, the cute party outfit – that it was inevitable we capture our gastronomic adventures too.

Smartphones have transformed even non-food bloggers into people who record what they eat. “Food blogging started with folks just writing about food they enjoyed,” says Bhagianathan. “Slowly the scope grew to include reviews and ads.”

Today, every other tech-friendly person blogs about food. The pictures might be tempting, but what about the accompanying text? Mumbai food writer Rushina Ghildiyal explains why food blogging has become so popular. “Our phones now have brilliant cameras. And today, restaurants run after bloggers,” she says. She adds that food blogging has seen a significant boom in the last two years. “People now have an opinion and want to express themselves,” she explains.

Vicarious eating
Many people believe that if you share pictures of what you’re eating, you’re sharing your dining experience with others. “I think it’s one of the best ways to compliment a chef,” says Nishant Choubey, executive sous chef with Dusit Devarana, New Delhi, a Bird Group Resort.

Saurabh Khanijo, CEO, Kylin Premier, which serves Pan Asian cuisine, disagrees. Despite Kylin’s menu asking people not to take pictures, it’s difficult to control them when they’re on a clicking spree. “Customers are often offended when they’re asked to stop taking pictures,” he says.

Delhi food blogger Deeba Rajpal prefers asking for permission before she begins. “Be sensitive to others. And never, ever use a flash,” she says.

PR executive Shipra Sharma believes the practice makes you seem like a wannabe. “We’re at a restaurant, not a photography workshop! Besides, just because you have a swanky phone doesn’t mean you shoot everything,” she says.

The social media boom has been a big catalyst. “Apps like Instagram allow people to be creative with their food pictures,” says food writer Ghildiyal.

People usually ‘check in’ via Facebook, so that their friends know where they’re dining. “We’re only helping the restaurants we’re dining at gain more popularity. Why would any chef have a problem?” wonders Delhi consultant and foodie Smita Bhattacharya.

So, will a rule banning trigger-happy photographers in restaurants work in India? “No,” says Lewis. “It’s too new for India, where we’re still getting accustomed to restaurant etiquette. Banning people from taking pictures will be a foolhardy decision.” Agrees Delhi-based pastry chef Kishi Arora. “Word of mouth publicity is the best publicity,” he says.

Still, when you’re eating out next time, it might be polite to ask fellow diners for permission before your fingers go click click. You don’t want anyone to photobomb your risotto, do you? “Be sensitive to others in the restaurant, and never, ever use a flash ”
Deeba Rajpal, Delhi food blogger

How to get the plate to pose
Aspiring food photographers, follow these tips and you’re good to go!
Get a table with the best light. Low lighting at restaurants means you would want to use a flash and in turn, disturb others.
Position your dish in the best way possible.
Avoid unnecessary tableware. That will only end up as shadows, and thus, give you something unflattering.
Have a clean background.
Have the staff place the dish on the table rather than serve it to you.
Don’t take too long, especially if you’re dining with others.
Courtesy: Antoine Lewis

From HT Brunch, April 28

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First Published: Apr 26, 2013 13:20 IST