Upscale Restaurants Are Starting to Ban Food Photography


A new piece over at The New York Times is bringing to light an issue that, to be honest, we hadn’t realized had gotten so bad. Apparently, amateur food photography is out of control, forcing many restaurants to begin implementing bans or other photo related policies.

We’ve all seen someone pull out their iPhone and not-so-discreetly snap an Instagram photo of their entrée, but some of what chef David Bouley describes to the NYT goes way beyond that:

There are those who use a flash and annoy everyone around them. There are those who come equipped with gorillapods — those small, flexible tripods to use on their tables. There are even those who stand on their chairs to shoot their plates from above.

Given the intimate nature of many high-end eateries, a lot of them are now instituting flash photography bans, and some won’t even let you use your smartphone. At Momofuku Ko in New York, one patron was called out by an employee from the open kitchen for pulling out her iPhone for a quick picture. The restaurant only seats 12, so she was understandably embarrassed.

Granted, the article does come off a bit extreme, as if the problem has become so serious that you won’t get through a nice meal without someone pulling out a 5D and some strobes. But it seems that amateur food photography is no longer the stuff of jokes, it’s an actual problem.

Restaurants Turn Camera Shy [NYTimes via Popular Photography]

Image credits: Food photography by adactio.

  • Jason Wright

    This is possibly the best reply to anything I have ever read on the Internet.
    Well written, thought out and completely logical and relevant.
    It will obviously be ignored and lead to a flame war, sorry :(

  • Kris Wood

    I’m all for this, now I can dress like a waiter and confiscate a load of cameras, thus adding to my kit without having to pay for the pleasure.

  • ibjhb

    And legally they could issue you a trespass warning…

  • Adrienne Fletcher

    Exactly. In general social sharing is good for business but phones/cameras should be kept at a minimum at ANY meal.

  • Charlie

    I’ve decided that I’m gonna start photographing food a day after I’ve eaten it. It will resemble most of the posts here by then!

  • Jim t Kirk

    Stop taking pictures of your food you stupid fucks.

  • fmfm

    Well, so much for my scam of putting cat turds in food and taking photos to launch lawsuits.

  • Ken Jones

    The wife and I went to the only 5 star / 5 diamond restaurant in South Carolina. The Woodlands had been voted one the top restaurants in the nation by several respected organizations. While we’ve been to some very nice restaurants and when traveling we will never eat at any chain and always seek out local fare, the experience of The Woodlands was so beyond anything either of us had experienced it is hard to describe.

    Each course looked like something styled for some hoity-toity, high end food magazine. …and that was what we were supposed to eat! The presentation was without fault (not that we would have the expertise to find one), the food tasted out of this world, the attention to detail was perfect, the staff supremely attentive without hoovering, and the price was through the roof, but worth every penny.

    So, when I try to tell folks about our experiences and how the food was presented I can understand the desire to have a photograph to show. Thing is, even if I had thought of it, I think it would have been extremely crass to do so.

    The Woodlands is now closed and the experience will be with me for a long time. I find it hard to believe I will ever experience that quality of a meal ever again.

    Maybe one day…

  • CrackerJacker

    Huzzah!!! Thank god someone is stepping in to remind people of that old chestnut: etiquette.

  • Jeremy Nicoll

    Man, I was about to bring a whole crew into a restaurant for a shoot of my next meal. I suppose I’m going to have to tell the makeup artist, the light guys, and the camera guys the gig is probably off. I was really looking forward to using my octoboxes too. We were probably only going to be taking up about 1/10 of the entire dining area. I guess restaurants just don’t want customers to be eating at their places.

  • Michael Comeau

    Photographing food in fancy restaurants has nothing to do with food, nothing to do with photography, and everything to do with wanting people to know you’re eating at a certain place. For some people it’s just fun, and for others it’s a way to brag.

  • Steve Lucas

    You pay for it, it’s yours to do what you want with it. That’s called business.

  • Photog

    Thanks! Looks like Momofuku Ko will not be getting business from me!

  • tcliff1

    I use the multi-strobe flash if I need to reheat my food,

  • Alexander Hoekstra

    Do restaurants not realize that food photography on any level has the potential to promote their restaurants, even bring in more customers?

  • Wallerus

    I’ll never understand food photography, but that may just be why I don’t do it. I would only see an issue with intellectual capital. I’ve worked in a restaurant as both server and cook, and the secret sauce (or dish whichever) is the intel. Do these restaurants fear that other places will try to replicate their dishes? Just some food for thought <–see what I did there. it was punny right? Thanks folks I'll be here all week. Cheers!

  • Rika

    This is gonna kill Yelp.

  • Nate Opgenorth

    First off I rarely do this…I mean you gotta cook a very fine meal indeed to get a picture of your food in my DSLR…hell its a compliment, at least if I was a chef! I don’t get the issue…If I pull on my 6D and shoot on silent mode hand held quick why is that such a fricken problem? Especially if someone is paying for an overpriced piece of meat, even if it is good. I mean if I take a picture of my dish you better believe its good enough Ill credit the restaurant and tell my friends about it. I get the whole flash thing because I hate flash in general and find it disruptive but people are very paranoid about the possibility of ending up in a picture or near a camera these days, its like they are trying to not get “caught” ALL the time. Understandable if your on probation or your at a party and don’t want to end up tagged on Facebook all boozed up but if I really was interested in invading your privacy I’d probably be far off with an L lens and as stealth as a sniper!

  • Nate Opgenorth

    Thats dirty but I like that. Get on there level!

  • Nate Opgenorth

    That ridiculous. Then they should ban smartphones with cameras on them like government buildings. Discriminating against people who happen to carry a DSLR with them is dumb. You know how many times Ill do some street photography as I walk to the restaurant? Doesn’t mean Im gonna shove my DSLR in your face, it usually hangs around my neck discretely as I pay little attention to it. Maybe I’m not a control freak but I personally do not care what so ever. People need to grow some balls. Its one thing to walk into a restaurant with intent to take pictures with a handful of L lenses and flashes/strobes and its one thing to be like every other photographer that doesn’t want to have to buy another camera to throw in their pocket because after they photograph street stuff they plan to eat, and no I’m not putting my $3000+ DSLR kit in the car unless it an armored personal carrier.

  • Rohn Engh

    Part of the cost of a good meal in a good restaurant in NYC is the atmosphere. Or as they say, “the real estate.” If you must take pictures of your meal in NYC, it would be better to stroll a few yards across the street into Central Park, and make a cozy picnic of it. No one would object to you taking pictures.

  • subl1mation

    They should be happy they’re getting business, I hope these wankers get boycotted.

  • Jared Skye

    Good. If you bring a gorilla pod to a restaurant to take pictures of your food you suck at life.

  • Michael Clark

    Until it disrupts the atmosphere in a high end restaurant whose reputation is built around that upscale atmosphere as much as the food.

  • popsmcgee

    I don’t think I could enjoy my meal knowing I’m paying 2,000 bucks for it.

  • brap

    f____y___ stupid ass high end wankers. People sharing photos of your over priced plates is free advertisement. Idiots

  • NursultanTulyakbay

    No need to get snooty.

  • angie

    If you’re paying $2,000 for a meal, you should be able to enjoy it any way you see fit. If taking pictures of it is included in that enjoyment and you’re being discrete about it, enjoy. Though I wouldn’t even think to do that, but I also wouldn’t think to drop $2k on a meal.

  • Ridz MN

    Probably we can take pictures of the eateries that ban food photography and post them online so that we food snappers can avoid them. In a way, that would be the negative advertisement that they are seeking to avoid.

  • Teresa Morelock Owens

    If Im paying 2,000 bucks for a meal I want a picture to remember it by

  • AMPers90

    I AGREE. :)

  • fedupintx

    I could easily afford both, but if my wife found out I bought the D600, I would be eating that food by myself, out in the dog house…

  • byoung328

    There’s a fine line here. If someone is on top of their chair they should be told to get down. That’s completely over the top. Flashes are over the top also. Yelling at someone from the kitchen in a small setting over an iPhone is just as over the top. It shows a total lack of class, especially when you’re charging $500 a meal like they do at Ko. Instead of the photo interrupting one or two other customers you have now created an unnecessary scene that interrupts everyone. At your typical $100 a plate restaurant in a smaller city a single incident like that could turn into a social media nightmare really fast.

  • byoung328

    ..or Yelp is going to kill some restaurants.

  • KImberly

    seriously all the crap going on in the world and THIS is a issue that actually ran in “New York Times” Give me a break. lol

  • Happy_Tinfoil_Cat

    Well, it _is_ New York, where the mere sighting of a child in the restaurant would offend. A vocal part of the population wants us to cater to their every whim whilst depriving anyone else of any tiny pleasure they’d have to endure gazing upon.

  • pogomcl

    is good– if people want to shoot food photography, they ought to make an appointment and have their property releases ready. Is only right. It is also very bad for the restaurants publicity because often such photos are really bad and bring the restaurant / establishment bad reputation.

  • Dave

    is it really the case of annoying other customers or is it that they are afraid of customers creating lawsuits like the ones going on with subway restaurants right now over not actually selling 12inch footlongs?

  • Nate Opgenorth

    Ahaha! So true…

  • rhonda

    i agree. i never had a 2,000 meal and dont expect to. ill cook it myself first. heck come to my house and ill cook for you for 2,000

  • William Bray

    it is a major problem everywhere

  • someonespadre

    I find photos of half eaten dinners posted by proud diners disgusting. I really don’t want to see your restaurant meal.


    Don’t these people cook at home? How invasive and rude – I feel for the restauranteurs. I would never dream of photographing inside a restaurant without the proprietor’s permission. Not to mention, a model release.

  • Sonny Kwan

    I understand the big DSLR in a restaurant , unless they hire you. but iPhone won’t fly. besides it’s the post the people post that bring people to their restaurants , It’s like ban on talking on a cell phone in a restaurant. Stupid ! because some people talk much louder and have the worst topics in discussion. You want to say Shut Up! I’m eating!

  • Lux

    All amateur photographers are annoying as hell. The more obstacles that stand in their way, the more it makes room for people with real talent. Also, you don’t need a camera to remember something. I had a Death by Chocolate dessert as a teen in 1996 in Williamsburg, VA. It was one of the tastiest experiences I’ve ever had, and I didn’t bring a camera but I still remember it. Gawd….

  • Ken Jones

    They must have be enjoying the tasting menu. I can understand their desire to share, but decorum is probably a concept foreign to them.

    If I’m paying a premium for a meal I most certainly don’t want there to be distractions. Enjoy your meal the way you want as long as you’re not causing me to not enjoy my meal to the fullest.

    …just another symptom of the “Me” mentality.

  • Thomas Aymond

    They’re probably posting their pictures to that new app DinnDinn…I heard it’s growing incredibly quickly.

  • anonym

    You cheapen humanity.

  • Jonesey12

    Taking pictures of food in and of itself isn’t the problem. The problem is stupid, rude people who use flash photography in restaurants without regard to the impact they’re having on other diners. Thankfully, I’ve never seen an idiot stand on a chair or pull out a tripod in the middle of meal service, but I HAVE been blinded by flash coming from neighboring tables at restaurants, all the way from a Chili’s to two- and three-Michelin-star restaurants. (Like, really? You take pictures of food at Chili’s? How lame are you?) If I owned a restaurant I’d have a zero-tolerance no-flash-photography policy. I’d kick diners out who use flash.

  • Whatever

    Clearly snapping a photo is not the problem. Disturbing guests with elaborate antics while you attempt to do that is what they have an issue with.

    Use your head.