Camera Makers Make Bloggers Lives Easier…

Camera Makers Make Bloggers Lives Easier…

…for a price. A recent article in the Los Angeles Times (via @LauraNelson, via @RumDood) notes a startling fact: Several new models of digital cameras include a cuisine or food setting. If you aren’t interested in camera features, skip down to here to read about the problems arising from increasingly easy food photography.
Nikon’s Food Mode appears to be available on many models of its CoolPix line of point-n-clicks. Olympus calls it Cuisine Mode. Sony offers a Gourmet Mode, along with larding their cameras up with smile detection and blink prevention shutter modes. After looking at the Sony features, I suspect they also have a secret paparazzi version with a Nip-Slip Detection mode….

Sony Labs… Working for you!

There is relatively little useful information out there about what exactly these food porn shooting modes do. From what I can glean from a variety of sources, they are all macro focus modes, letting you practically crawl into the glass or plate. All seem to bump up the saturation of pictures until you can smell the herbs. Each also has some form of white-balance correction, some automatic, some on-screen, to make sure your Pisco Sour doesn’t come out blue. The fact that you have to work so hard to find useful info about this feature tells me it isn’t going to turn you into Sara Remington with the push of a button. But if it gives you the courage, or just the impetus, to do more food or cocktail shooting, that’s great.

Or is it?

It is one thing for us to take pictures of our own drinks (or dishes) to share on the web or with friends. It is a great way to add interest, promote, inform, and learn. But the LAT article focuses on what it calls the Food Paparazzi. In the picture above, a blogger named Misty Oka is snapping away in the middle of a restaurant. It’s a narrow, crowded space, and she is in the way of servers trying to work and patrons who might also like to see the show kitchen. I’m smacking her around a little because, well, she deserves it a little, but I did check out her blog Noms, Not Bombs. She has a nice chatty style of blogging, an interesting take on the LA food scene, and lots of photos. If I lived in Southern California, I’d probably add it to my RSS reader. (Misty, if it was the Times who suggested you stand there, I apologize.) And as an aside, would it have killed the Times to embed a link to Misty’s blog? This standard practice by mainstream media outlets dwarfs any and all of the outrageous behavior outlined below.
UPDATE: I contacted Misty about this piece, and she points out, as the Times does not, that the picture was taken during a closed media-only event. She been standing like that in a regular restaurant open for regular business. You can read more from her down in the first comment below.)

The article contains some really obnoxious behaviors which are apparently becoming common. If I may channel my inner Jeff Foxorthy….

  • If nearby patrons are asking to be reseated elsewhere because of flashes or shutter noises emanating from in front of your face… you might be a douchebag.
  • If your complex meal takes an hour longer than it should (with others stewing in the bar) because you are doing a five minute photoshoot with each amuse bouche and intermezzo… you might be a douchebag.
  • If you have a party of two, but reserve a table for four to accommodate your tripod(!)… you are most definitely a douchebag.

(All tales from the Time article)

Now, most of this behavior is not bloggers or other (allegedly) higher forms of journalists. But we are not immune from idiocy either.

So this month, on the eve of Ludo Bites’ grand opening, Lefebvre happily cooked a private dinner for 18 food bloggers. His wife set up a portable light box in a corner of the dining room.

Even before the bread plates hit the table, the crowd went nuts. As each new dish arrived, the bloggers rushed over to the light box to get the shot, then returned to their seats.

Lefebvre fought for patience. His forehead wrinkled in frustration as he watched the steam dissipate off bowls of escargot and plates of fish.

Finally, he broke.

Respect the food! The salmon’s getting cold! Lefebvre bellowed.

The crowd turned to stare. Six people pointed cameras at the chef. Click.

I realize that they were there for promotional purposes, but come on. Eat your serving first, then go photograph the samples! Priorities. (Here’s Misty’s story on that event, by the way. She sensibly only seems to have visited the light box once.)

Can I make a few suggestions about common sense camera etiquette in bars and restaurants? These aren’t tips. Virtually every one will make it harder for you to get the shot you want. But they will cut down the amount of hate in the world… hate directed at you.

  • No flash. Ever. It is distracting, occasionally blinding, and seldom improves your shot anyway.
  • Keep your butt in your seat. Learn to take shots from where you sit. Your camera has a macro setting (yes, it does). This will help you get acceptable shots without your needing to impede and/or direct traffic.
  • If the place is quiet, turn off the sound effects. If you are shooting real film, with a real shutter… just keep being awesome.
  • Do not take pictures that have random, unknown patrons in them. Respect people’s privacy.
  • Don’t even give the impression that your pictures might include other patrons. Whether your photos actually invade someone else’s privacy or not, if that person thinks they do… damage done.
  • The same goes for pictures of the staff, unless you ask first.
  • Consider the fellow diners in your own party as well. Do not insist on everyone waiting to until you have gotten your shots of everyone’s dishes before they dig in. Unless you want to eat alone in the future.


  1. Misty Oka

    30 April

    Hi Doug,

    What the LA Times article fails to make clear is that the picture of me is from the private event in which Chef Ludo cooked for 18 of us bloggers. As a result, there are no other patrons I’m disturbing–everyone behind me is a blogger as are the people who I look like I’m blocking in the narrow walkway (they were just trying to get the same shot that I was). Chef Ludo and all of his staff were in the kitchen, preparing and plating our next dish.

    With the all-blogger crowd, and the blogger-friendly environment (i.e. the lightbox, Chef Ludo coming to chat with us), everyone was a little freer with their style than normal. I, personally, never leave my seat to take pictures when in a restaurant specifically because it is an annoyance. All of my pictures of the overall layout of a restaurant are from when I am entering or exiting a restaurant. I also NEVER use flash.

    All of us bloggers were a little disappointed with the LA Times piece because it failed to differentiate between the casual diner who doesn’t understand that his camera flash is obnoxious and that he shouldn’t get up to take pictures and bloggers–who often put in a lot of time editing pictures taken dark settings and would never dream of disrupting other patrons and staff

    In fact, I went back to LudoBites (as a paying customer) the next night, and someone near me was repeatedly using flash AND went up to the window to take pictures of Ludo…with flash. I was really embarrassed for him…and hoped that people didn’t think he was one of the “food paparazzi.”

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  2. Doug

    30 April

    Thanks for the clarification, Misty.
    Of course the Times should have noted that your picture was taken during a closed media event, where different rules should apply.
    But then, newspapers (as demonstrated by the link thing) don’t view blogs as “media”!

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  3. Doug

    30 April

    One other thing. I don’t think that most of the stupidity talked about here comes from bloggers, or at least not bloggers with a more “journalistic” mindset.
    I suspect these folks are more photographers and/or fanboys, taking pictures for themselves.
    These oblivitrons are more into Food Porn (NTTAWWT) than Food Journalism, even of the paparazzi sort.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

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