“Of course it’s all luck.” Henri Cartier-Bresson
The food blogger has changed the face of restaurant reviews, for the good and for the bad. Restaurant reviews used to be the domain of newspapers and magazines and the reviewer was often a pompous ass on whose words restaurants lived or died. Now anyone can be a food critic and a pompous ass.
If you are just starting to blog about food it is a good idea to have a theme. You may have noticed that most of my pictures were of burgers. That’s because I write about burgers and other simple food, that’s my niche. I have a friend who blogs about sushi, another who specializes in pizza, and another who loves fast food.
Restaurants often take the blogger more seriously than they do the newspaper because the blogger is often more honest. For the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune that’s not the case. However in the case of the local paper or magazine they will very rarely pan the restaurant as the restaurant advertises there, or they want them to advertise there. The food blogger isn’t biased. I often post a picture I’ve taken to the restaurants Facebook page if I really liked the food and I’ve made some friends this way. Of course I never let them know who I am the first time I go there.
For the blogger, food photography is a bit different from that of the chef or home cook. Pictures have to be done quickly and usually discreetly. That means using available light if possible and no reflectors and posing. I took most of the photos in this series of articles in restaurants while doing a review.
This is where that little point and shoot is a blessing. First, you can carry it anywhere; a camera is no good sitting at home when you’re out. Second it’s fast, which means you can be discreet. Last, it can do a very good job if used properly.
But you can use a DSLR just as well. I have carried the Nikon into many a restaurant and taken pictures of the food without anyone commenting. In a city you’ll look like a tourist. I have taken pictures in hundreds of restaurants and only once did a waiter ask me why I was doing so. I simply told him the truth.
Here’s a trick, especially if you are with another person or a group. Play with the camera while you’re waiting for the food to come. Look at the images you have and pass the camera to your companion to show them. Take a picture of the person with you. This works best if you have children with you.
While you’re waiting for the food look at the lighting and decide on what mode to shoot with, you can even get an idea of the exposure too. Pre-plan your shot. Take a picture of the sugar bowl or the water glass to get an idea of the lighting.
When you are being seated ask for a window seat so you can use available light. If the available light is poor you will have to use the flash, but do so discreetly so you don’t draw attention, or bother the other diners. A neat trick is to use your cell phone or iPod as a mini flashlight. Find an ap that has a white screen and it gives of quite a bit of light. I also have a small flashlight on my keychain that does a good job.
Pass the plates and get some picture of your companion’s plates as well.