These days, restaurant diners armed with iPhones act like Hollywood paparazzi pouncing on Lindsay Lohan fresh out of rehab. Yes, it’s fun (in a food porn sort of way) to show your Facebook friends pictures of that roasted bone marrow or foie gras au torchon you’re about to devour. But how do chefs feel when they see a flurry of cameras whipped out of pockets and purses as soon as their carefully prepared food hits the table?
Bring it on, says Billy Ngo, chef/owner of midtown’s Kru and Red Lotus. “It’s kind of flattering when you see people doing that,” he says. “I see it as something positive—as free advertising.” Ditto, says Joe Wittren, owner of Slocum House in Fair Oaks. Special-occasion restaurants such as Slocum House have come to expect heavy photo action, he says, because diners often are capturing an event, not just food.
But not all restaurateurs are so magnanimous. In New York, Momofuku Ko prohibits photography inside the restaurant. (“It’s just food,” Momofuku owner David Chang says. “Eat it.”) If you must take pictures of your meal, ask permission whenever possible and never use
a flash. Even if you don’t risk raising the ire of restaurant staff, the guy sitting at the next table may not be so enthralled with your photo fetish.
FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY 101
A few tips for amateur shutterbugs, straight from local professional food photographer Ryan Donahue:
Turn off the flash
Otherwise, food with a lot of texture “can look more like a moonscape than something tasty,” says Donahue.
Get a window seat
Natural light is best for most photography. A trick: Donahue sometimes uses a white menu or napkin as an improvised reflector to bounce light coming in from the window onto the food.
Fill the frame
One of the biggest mistakes amateurs make is not getting close enough to the subject, Donahue says.
Use a utensil as a prop
A fork stabbing or scooping food from a dish can provide a sense of scale, action and contrast in a photo.