Things that happen when you bring a camera to a restaurant

Food photographer in actionThe propensity to photograph my food has become less earnest over the years. Nowadays, I bring the camera out at restaurants that have already won me over after repeat visits, excepting those far-off places that I will have little chance of patronizing again.

The number of incidents that I’ve experienced as a person visibly documenting my meal has consequently lessened, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a storehouse of fond (and not so fond) memories from yesterday. Here are some of the most memorable occasions, triggered in part by the discussions we’ve been having in the Forum and throughout the site.

At Atlanta’s Bacchanalia: Richard, one of the wait staff, noticed that I was having trouble training my lens on the veal sweatbreads in the dim light. He came by to shine his blue pen light on my dish so that I could have a focal point – what a sweetheart! Later, the diners that had been observing my food photography at the table next to me struck up a conversation, resulting in an offer to sample from their bottle of pinot noir. I was floored by her willingness to share with a total stranger. Georgians sure are a friendly lot.

At Chocoatl Chocolate Boutique: I was enjoying a cup of cocoa with my SLR on the table when a table neighbour, who also sported his Canon 40D, started chatting to me about my Canon XTi. We engaged ourselves in an hour of camera geekery while we enjoyed our drinks. He turned out to be the photographer for Chocoatl’s website and menu, whose visuals I had been admiring all afternoon.

At Bistro Sakana: While fussing with table props during one sunny lunch hour, I met the owner of the nearby Luscious Hair Salon and his brother Paul who was visiting from Sydney. Paul, who thought it a riot that someone was styling their meal, offered me a rare occasion to be in the shot with my food (unfortunately, the photos didn’t turn out). Upon coming across our interaction, the patio server politely remarked, “Oh, I see you’ve met the girl with the camera”. As it was only my second visit, I must have left quite an impression during my first time 3 weeks prior – eep.

At Alpha Global Sushi & Bar: As a regular of this fantastic izakaya, owners Keisuke and Yuji have gotten accustomed to the presence of my lens. One day, I asked Keisuke to surprise me with a cocktail. My only criterion was that it needed to be photogenic. So he concocted a drink and dubbed it “The Canon”.

At Parkside: As I was quietly snapping a photo of my Dine Out Vancouver meal at one of the city’s more elitist restaurants, the bartender came by to inform me that photography was not acceptable inside Parkside. Mortified, I apologized and clarified if it was flash photography that offended them (I never use flash). Nope, he said, all photography was verboten. I obediently began to pack away my camera, only to hear him guffaw and tell me that he was just pulling my leg. That was some joke, jerk. No sympathy from me when Parkside made way for L’Altro Buca. I’m certainly not eager to return there for Italian bistroness, if that’s what they think customer service should be.

Do you have any anecdotes as a result of your food photography?


5 Responses to “Things that happen when you bring a camera to a restaurant”

  1. Posted on August 6th, 2009

    i’ve been taking pictures of food (90% of the time with cameraphones and point and shoots ‘coz i didn’t get my slr until 2005) since 2000 and blogging them or posting them to flickr.

    I never use a flash and try to be unobrusive and never had issues in restaurants.

    the only time i have had issues was just after the opening of Prado cafe on Commercial back in 2006 (I think it was 2006). I was taking photos with my 2 megapixel cameraphone (with the flash off) from the outside and the staff member came running after me and demanded I delete the photos. I was a wee bit shocked but I deleted them. It’s not as if the Prado was that photogenic :-) nor were my photos that bad!

  2. Posted on August 7th, 2009

    I’m always self conscious about shooting my food as it really seems to irk some people—especially if you’re flash goes off in a dimly lit dining room.

    One time I had the server rush back to my table saying the chef hadn’t realized I would be documenting my meal and could he replate to make it prettier! Ha ha! Busted cutting corners on presentation!

  3. Posted on August 7th, 2009

    I heard Prado was a little heavy-handed when they were first getting started, but man that’s ridiculous. Roland, there’s no way you should have had to delete those photos. They may have had a case were you inside, due to it being private property. But from a public space, anything you can see is fair game.

  4. Posted on August 9th, 2009

    I remember for a school photography assignment I had to take pictures of “bad” food and “good” food and for the bad had picked cakes and pastries from my favorite pastry shop Stubbe chocolates and “good” was vegetables from market vendors.
    Well, the prof really enjoyed my cake pics and commented in my assignment that they were “mouthwatering”.
    It was very funny!

  5. Posted on August 16th, 2009

    Would’ve definitely told Prado to stick it. Who do they think they are? Sonny Corleone?

    (Get over yourselves, Prado.)

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