Skip to content

Should Restaurants Ban Diners from Photographing Food?

Ahi tuna. (photo by Naomi Morlan)
Photo by my favorite foodie photographer, Naomi Morlan

My Aunt Kay is notorious for decapitating relatives – in photos, anyway. All Freudian implications aside, the woman simply cannot take a decent picture. Her compositions are awful (i.e. why is the cake the only thing in focus in all her birthday shots?) and when she does manage to get a clear image of someone’s face, they are inevitably doing something unflattering: gaping in mid-yawn, chewing a big mouthful of food, or sneezing. The woman is certainly consistent; I will give her that.

Nevertheless, do we forbid Aunt Kay from waving her camera around at family functions? No, we just try to avoid her lens and feel grateful that she no longer has a concealed weapons permit.

In spite of her snap-happy nature, Aunt Kay thinks the rest of us are crazy for taking photos of food, and tells us so – loudly. Over the years, I’ve learned to ignore her disparaging comments and click away.

A few months ago, however, I read an article about a growing trend for restaurants to forbid customers from taking food photos. According to the article, not only does photography annoy other diners, but chefs worry that, if posted online, unflattering shots of their food will hurt business.

As much as I love taking food photos, I could see their point, especially in the second case. I mean, just imagine if I joined an online dating site, and the only photos I could post of myself were ones Aunt Kay had taken.

Ever since reading that paranoia-inducing article (which now, of course, I cannot find in my bookmarks) I have become self-conscious about photographing restaurant meals. Unfortunately, I’m so determined now to be stealthy that the quality of my food photos has gone downhill.

Meanwhile, I’m noticing that more and more cameras include a “food” setting on their control panel. Perhaps camera companies should take this further and create spy cameras for foodies. (Hey, I could be onto something here.)

Seriously, though, seeing cameras with food settings has convinced me that those of us who love food porn need to fight for this right by clearly establishing proper food photography etiquette. There has got to be a happy medium between abstaining from taking restaurant photos to being an obnoxious food paprazzi.

To bolster my new stance on food photography in restaurants, I found two articles. The first, On Banning Photography from Restaurants offers a nice round-up of opinions from a variety of foodies and restaurant owners. The second article, Put Away the Darn Camera lays out basic rules for politely taking photos of your food while eating in restaurants.

It seems that good food photography etiquette boils down to two simple rules:

1. Keep the flash off – No one wants to be blinded while eating.

2. Don’t turn it into a photo shoot – You are there to enjoy a good meal, after all. Take a few quick shots, then dive into your food.

What do you think? Does it bug you when other diners take pictures of their food, or do you think it’s perfectly acceptable? What do you think the etiquette for food photography should be?

Tui Snider
Follow me:
Published inTravel Photo Essays


  1. A lot of places ban pictures of products just so competition can’t get the one up on them. However if they ban pictures of food they need to ban cameras over all and that could upset a lot of consumers. I think they should just inform them no flash and be done with it

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi Amanda,

      You make some good points!

      What you said reminds me that some chefs worry, too, that if you take unflattering photos of their food and post them online that it could damage their reputation. I can really understand that. Plus, some foods taste better than they photograph. So I’m really self-conscious about which pictures I put online.


  2. I admit, I am a bit of a paparazzi, I like to take pictures anywhere, although in restaurants I try to be a little bit discreet by as you said switching off my flash and taking a few shots.

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic


      Like you, I’ve become much more discreet about snapping photos in restaurants!

      Thanks for visiting! :)

  3. Tui, I don’t mind whether folks take photos of their food, as long as they don’t try to take photos of mine! LOL! But seriously, I believe in everything in moderation. If it’s done discreetly, have at it! When it turns int a photo shoot… hey, enough already!

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi Alison!

      Well put! :)

      Thanks for dropping by my blog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *