IM­PER­FECT

What’s with all the food snaps? Is it a case of shoot­ing to kill the dining ex­pe­ri­ence? Matt Pre­ston brings food blog­gers and In­sta­gram­mers into fo­cus.

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - On Sunday - Read Matt’s seven tips for get­ting a bet­ter shot in a res­tau­rant at de­li­cious.com.au.

@mattscra­vat @Mattscra­vat

OVER THE past few years chefs have been called ev­ery­thing from pre­cious and pre­ten­tious to to­tal prats for ban­ning din­ers from tak­ing pho­tos of their cre­ations in restau­rants. Chefs ar­gue that this ‘no pho­tos please’ at­ti­tude comes from spend­ing months craft­ing a dish and thou­sands of dol­lars pro­fes­sion­ally shoot­ing it to cre­ate the best im­age for the res­tau­rant only for us to spend a few sec­onds cap­tur­ing it and then post­ing our dodgy am­a­teur ef­forts for the world to see – even if it makes the dish look rub­bish.

While I’m tempted to call the wambu­lance here, this point opens up a dis­cus­sion about whether post­ing food on so­cial me­dia skews online ado­ra­tion to­wards pretty dishes rather than the tasti­est. This is per­haps why desserts and cakes gen­er­ally at­tract more likes than savoury dishes – one look at In­sta­gram shows you that too much of the time it’s a mat­ter of shoot­ing style over sub­stance.

Then there’s the frus­tra­tion from chefs who have timed the cook­ing of dishes so they ar­rive si­mul­ta­ne­ously at the table in per­fect con­di­tion only to look on as the table turns into a fren­zied pa­parazzi pack and the dishes get cold while ev­ery­one tries to get the per­fect an­gle. Why does ev­ery­one need to shoot each dish? Couldn’t they share the pho­tos? Or just post the pro­fes­sion­ally shot photo of the dish from the res­tau­rant’s web­site? Yes, I agree this misses the point slightly.

More mea­sured are the com­plaints that peo­ple shoot­ing their lunch or din­ner im­pacts neg­a­tively on the en­joy­ment of the other din­ers. This is cer­tainly the case when you’re con­stantly us­ing a flash at din­ner or stand­ing up and mov­ing around the table look­ing for the right an­gle and the best light.

Of­ten, though, there’s also a fi­nan­cial im­per­a­tive at play here, one that restau­ra­teurs rarely talk about on the record. Some gripe that blog­gers and keen In­sta­gram­mers come in and only or­der the two most ’grammed dishes, drink only tap wa­ter and leave no tip. This not only makes them un­pop­u­lar with the staff, but also means the table isn’t earn­ing enough dol­lars when it could have been booked by big­ger spenders. If they take ages shoot­ing the food and sit at the table for too long it only com­pounds the loss. What’s that wambu­lance num­ber again?

Lest we for­get, how­ever, chefs and restau­ra­teurs are pri­mar­ily in the busi­ness of mak­ing money to put food on the table for their fam­i­lies, and there’s no rea­son why profit should be a dirty word in the res­tau­rant world or any busi­ness for that mat­ter.

This ob­ses­sion with shoot­ing food, though show­ing signs of abat­ing marginally, is a mas­sive part of brag­ging about our lives on so­cial me­dia, so it seems we need to agree on a few ba­sic rules for tak­ing pho­tos in restau­rants to keep ev­ery­one happy. Then we can main­tain the vi­tal (but slightly ques­tion­able) role that pic­tures of your pud­ding takes in fill­ing that online brag book and shar­ing places you love with other peo­ple who will love them, too, which surely is a good thing for chefs and restau­rants.

THE RULES

• Be dis­creet when tak­ing pho­tos. • Re­spect the pri­vacy of other cus­tomers and do ev­ery­thing you can to avoid dam­ag­ing their ex­pe­ri­ence. • Never stand up or stand on the fur­ni­ture to take a ‘killer’ over­head shot. • Don’t use flash. Ever. • Don’t spend an age dis­cussing the best an­gle. • Don’t dis­re­spect the hard work of the kitchen with more than a few sec­onds’ de­lay be­fore at­tack­ing your dish with your cut­lery. • No tripods, long lenses or ex­pen­sive large SLR cam­eras un­less you are on as­sign­ment for a mag­a­zine, news­pa­per or other le­git­i­mate source that’s pay­ing you for your pho­tos and your time. In which case you would have asked ahead to take pho­tos and the good places usu­ally in­sist you take those pho­tos out­side ser­vice time so you don’t dis­turb the pay­ing cus­tomers. • Take your photo quickly and with­out fuss and get on with the im­por­tant mat­ter – eat­ing the thing. That, af­ter all, is surely why you or­dered it. • Some­times the food will look shit – es­pe­cially if you’ve used a flash – so don’t post it (un­less it was a horrible dish and you’re pre­pared to ex­plain why). • If post­ing pho­tos of what you eat is part of want­ing to be a cred­i­ble in­de­pen­dent food voice, then don’t post dishes you’ve been given for free or paid to write about un­less you de­clare it. Avoid shoddy, shady #spon­con deals or end­ing up in the bit­ing #Cous­cous­for­com­ment posts. • Don’t post at the table. En­joy the com­pany you’re with and the ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s not a live sport. • Be a par­tic­i­pant in the meal. • Fol­low the res­tau­rant’s rules. If you’re un­sure, you can al­ways ask, but do this be­fore you’ve or­dered so you can still leave if you’re re­fused. • If you’re asked by a staff mem­ber to stop tak­ing pho­tos, com­ply with the re­quest. Even though you’re pay­ing you’re still a guest. If you stick with all th­ese rules, how­ever, this shouldn’t ever hap­pen.

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