Food selfie etiquette

by Madeleine Brown

I have and will never take a selfie. Never ever.

But, it’s true I have and will definitely continue to take the odd food selfie. That said I have mixed feelings about the act. I haven’t worked long enough yet in hospitality to downright despise it, but on the other hand I firmly believe that there’s a way to go about doing it. So until society deems it utterly socially inappropriate or restaurants confiscate the cameras and cellphones of guests who attempt it, go ahead document your breakfasts, lunches and dinners, but keep in mind the following advice.   

Remember you’re shooting food—not the next cover of Vogue—so, no, don’t pull out your fancy schmancy Nixon, lenses and tripod at the dinner table. You’re just begging for the entire restaurant to watch you and without a doubt scoff at your intensity. If you knew anything about photography you wouldn’t be using that kind of equipment in that kind of situation. Put it this way: ask yourself, “Did I come to this restaurant to a) eat a meal or b) photograph their food for print or online publication?” If you selected a) then leave the equipment at home, all you need is a cellphone. If you selected b) then go ahead do what you have to do.

Consider your timing. Let your waiter drop the plate, offer you fresh pepper and all that jazz, walk away and then go for your camera or cellphone. They have a job to do—ultimately to make your experience as enjoyable as possible—so don’t clutter it up with your desire to take a food selfie. If there’s anyone in your life you don’t want to upset, it’s your waiter. Yeah, sure, the customer is always right, but the waiter is always in control. Furthermore, take your photo and proceed to eat your food. The whole procedure should take 10 seconds, not 10 minutes. As mom always said, “Don’t let your food get cold.”

Know why you’re indulging in a food selfie. I think it’s completely reasonable to document a meal that is outrageously beautiful or enjoyed on a trip or special occasion. And, I’d maybe also allow it as a way to guilt your so-called best friend for turning down your dinner invitation for the fifth time or show your parents what a real plate of food looks like. Pay back aside, there’s a time and a place for food selfies and that’s not every time. Consider too, will you ever actually look at this photo again? Remember the days when film and disposable cameras only allowed you to take a set number of photographs? Apply that kind of restraint to this situation. Similarly, where are you going to post it? Be considerate of the dining establishment and only post it on their Yelp or Urbanspoon page if there’s some real quality to it. Meanwhile be considerate of your friends or followers and don’t litter your Facebook newsfeed or Twitter with endless plates of food.

As much as I may try to deny it, I am a bit of a food snob, but I always remember that at the end of the day food is food. That kind of humility is required when taking a food selfie; that plate of food is not an elite supermodel or a rare species of flower that blooms only once every 300 years. If you must photograph it, do your business and then please just eat.

Food selfie etiquette
It’s just food, alright?