Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Eating Out Photography Etiquette Tips

Amongst us bloggers we always joke about how annoyed people get with us and our camera-carrying ways.

Picture this. Out in a restaurant with a couple of friends, lovely banter, gorgeous interior….the ordered food hits the table.

"STOP!" a cry is heard, Mission Impossible theme plays, as the camera is swiped out of it's hiding space, cutlery is rearranged, food is pushed and pulled into appropriate positions….and by the time food is consumed it's all gone ghastly cold.

Hmm. Not so nice for everyone really hey? Whilst I certainly hope nobody is this bad, I do think bloggers can get a bit of a bad rap, even just in jest, for being nuisances and making everyone wait with rumbling bellies.

Picture from FOODPampering (That's me in the colouful stuff with a camera for a face)

I certainly don't call myself an expert in photography but I like to think I've got a couple of tips on how to be a polite camera-happy person at the table!

So in this first post of (hopefully) a series of photography posts, these are my tips on how to simply and politely take pictures while your'e out in a restaurant. Whilst most of my points are for DSLR's, as that is what I use, you can certainly adjust as nessecary for a point and shoot.

My tips will mainly cover two things, how to not be a pain to the restaurant, and how to make the experience more tolerable for your dining companions.

And I'll just throw in some old random pictures for general prettiness. Here we go!

- First and most obvious one, just to get it out of the way: No Flash!

C'mon, you don't want to really disturb the other diners in the restaurant, especially if it's a kinda dark place and you don't want to blind your friend/date/partner by continuously having an excessively bright light go off in their direction right?

To remedy not having a flash, bump up the ISO. Who's really going to care? A lot of my posts on this blog have shots with ISO 2500+ and because they generally are pretty small, it's hardly noticeable most of the time. Lightroom does a pretty darn good job with noise reduction too!

If you're on a DSLR, why not experiment with your shutter speed and apertures too? Bigger aperture, means it lets in more light, so your shutter speed may not have to be so low.

Or just hope you've got a really steady hand.

- Try to keep your camera fairly close to you

I find the less you have to keep reaching down for your camera, or scuffling through your bag, the less it interrupts the 'flow' of the evening. If your camera is in your lap, or on the table, it's a much smaller and easier movement to get to your camera and start shooting. You don't get pre-occupied with looking for your camera, so you can keep up whatever conversation you're having.

And on the note of talking…

- Keep talking to your dining companions, while taking photos!

I brought up with Brad the other night that I always find it funny that people have a tendency to stop talking once a camera comes out and someone is taking pictures of all the food. Brad's retort? "It's a well known fact that sound affects the quality of the pictures! After all, if too many air particles are vibrating it distorts the visual field". Look Ma! Science!

Yeah, I know. Almost convincing. This is what you get for dating someone smarter than you. Although I'm cuter.

But coming back to the point, I do tend to notice people stop chit chatting a bit, once the camera comes out. Because, y'know, clicking a button takes so much effort and focus, can't have anything else going on! To remedy this, the second I bust out my camera, I continue to carry on the conversation we were just having, as if there's nothing there. I think I've caught some people off guard doing this, but it always pleases me when they pick up the cue and just carry on talking. You've at least let them know you're not ignoring them (unless this is your intention) and keeps the conversation 'flow' going nicely. Sometimes the easiest thing to do is to just ask a question, so that your friend can do the talking, and all you have to do is listen, if multi-tasking is a bit too much for you!

- Turn off your auto-focus light

On DSLR's there are two ways to do this. Just turn it off, or learn to focus manually. Similar to the flash thing, those lights can be pretty bright and if you're somewhere dark, it's a bit distracting. On point-and-shoot's, I usually find the auto focus light isn't as distracting, although you'll just have to check your manual if there's a way to turn it off!

- Minimal Movement

Try not to move yourself, or the plates/cutlery around too much! I personally almost never move from my chair when I'm shooting, the most I usually do is lift myself up a bit, almost to a stand, but my feet don't shuffle! I understand we have to move glasses and stuff that might be in the way, or a bit distracting in the background, but ideally, limit yourself to how many things you move. It'll make you quicker.

- Be quick! (And learn to shoot manually!)

Taken from the last point. The faster you can get at taking pictures, the hotter everybody gets to have their food. This is just practice really. I've personally found that using manual focus and manual settings on my DSLR makes it much faster for the pictures to happen. The camera doesn't need to spend time thinking about how bright or dark it is and where the focal point is before taking the picture. Every click of my shutter release means I get a picture, literally, straight away, not two seconds later. If you shoot manually more frequently, you will start to learn how to figure out what settings you need faster, or have a base point to start from that you can adjust from pretty quickly. I usually have my camera set to 60 fps and f 3.2 and fluctuate the ISO depending on how dark it is, review my picture and adjust the iso and maybe aperture as needed.

I think I'm decently well known for being a pretty snappy snapper amongst the food bloggers, so I like to think that my methods have some logic behind them!

- Know your rule of thirds (or have a general idea about composition)

Know them by heart, so that you do them instinctively. At least then even your quickly taken photos will have pleasing composition, even if it is a little simple.

- Travel light

This is more directed to the DSLR owners. Whilst I know camera enthusiasts love their glass and that we all have our preferences, I personally think it's less intrusive if you've got a small prime lens, as opposed to a big fat zoom lens which takes up quite a lot of space! I personally usually go around with a 50mm and a 24mm, both of which are fairly compact looking lenses.

Although having said that, I know that some bloggers have bigger lens which produce ah-mazing results and I can see why they would want to have it out with them!

And there you have it!

I really do get a bit carried away with advice when asked for it...but I do hope my tips help you guys out, or at least get you thinking on how else you can include your dinner guests in your photography endeavours! I hope you guys enjoyed a little break from just talking about food (but really, who needs a break anyway?)!

Do you guys have any other tips on how to be a polite food-photographer while out? And no, not bringing a camera is not an option here!!