Stop turning eating time into life-or-death food photoshoots

Like your mom would tell you when you were a kid: "Stop playing around and eat your damn food before it gets cold."

I'm aware this isn't a new peeve (people have been bitching about this for years), but I almost busted a vein the other day when I had to wait until after my friends were done and satisfied with snapping pics of their ice cream, then mine, then a group shot, before I could even take a bite. 

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By the time the ice cream photoshoot was over, my appetite was gone and my dessert a melted mess. What a waste of $7.

I'm not going to lie, I've been guilty of taking photos of my food, but I've stopped in recent years and here's why you should too.

Why people do it

People have been taking food photography (foodtography?) since cameras were invented. These days, kids like to call it #foodporn (there seems to be a porn for everything non porn-related for some reason, but that's for another rant), but it's the same thing.

The Japanese, who were the first real consumers to get cellphones with built-in cameras, have been taking and sharing food pics for eons.

Foodtography has become really popular on a global scale in the last few years because of three things: smartphones with crisp screens and good cameras, social media and fast Internet for sharing.

Image: steven Lim

New technology is great in that it democratizes advanced technical processes. What once required a PhD to figure out is but a few taps on a slab of glass that fits in your pocket. 

To share photos of your food 10 years ago would have been an annoying chore. You'd have to take the photo with a digital camera, download it to your computer and then find somewhere to upload it. Then, after all that, pray someone might see it and give a crap.

Now, it's all one process. Open Instagram, Twitter or Facebook — take photo, upload and get eyeballs — and in a few taps the entire world has seen your pic, liked it, hated it and moved on.

Your food isn't a model

It's time to stop. Really. Your food is made for eating not for photographing. 

You're not suddenly the Annie Leibovitz of foodtography because you spent 10 minutes "thoughtfully" finding the right angle and composition for your salad at Olive Garden or capturing that generic leaf in your latte that you bought from some obscure hipster coffee shop.

And you're definitely not #chasinglight when you obnoxiously move your food over to a window to get some natural lighting onto it and end up applying a faded filter effect from Vsco and boosting the contrast before hitting the post button. For the love of real photography, you're not chasing light for your gourmet donut. Stop acting so pretentious!

About 50% of the food photos I see on Instagram are mediocre — just a mess of brown, brown and brown. What's that? Oh, it's just a brown burger in a brown bun with browned onions sitting next to a brown glass of cola in a poorly-lit brown burger joint.

This hilarious — and obviously exaggerated — sketch by AwesomenessTV nails how ridiculous "foodtographers" have become these days. It's so sad because it's so damn true.

Nobody really cares 

Ask yourself how many times you've actually looked back at your food photos. Nobody looks at their food photos. They're not the least bit memorable. Who cares what you ate for lunch 10 months ago? Nobody, that's who.

If you do actually look at your food photos, ask yourself this question: Would you even be able to recall where a random picture of a cheeseburger or steak was ordered if it didn't have a caption or geotag next to it? Doubtful. (I can't tell you at all where any of those food pics from the top composite are from, and I took and posted them!)

Next, ask yourself if you can even recall how the food tasted — not how filling it was, but how it actually tasted. How did the bun taste? Crispy or soft? What about the beef — was it juicy and tender? Was the steak a little too red or too well done? How were the fries that came with your steak? Greasy?

If you're anything like me and not a professional food critic who is supposed to remember how food tastes, your response is probably like this:

Not only does nobody give two hoots about your banal food pics, the very act of taking pictures of your food at a restaurant is obnoxious. Restaurants are places for dining. If they were places for food photoshoots they'd be called studios. You wouldn't go to a photographer's studio to pig out.

The food photo trend has made snapping shots of your meal an obligatory task, not one anyone really wants to do. Even my grandma has taken to photographing her food and she's 88. When I asked her why she did it, she just shrugged and laughed and said: "Because everyone else does it."

I'm not saying you shouldn't ever take photos of your food. Who am I kidding? I am. Fine, I'd give you an excuse pass if the food really was special-looking — like your wedding cake. But even then, why not go make the photo more memorable and put yourself — but don't make it a selfie — in it? 

The next time you look at the picture, you'll see your beautiful self in front of your stacked tower of cream and icing and remember that special life moment that you were a part of instead of just some object.


Stop doing this every time you're about to eat:

Image: jeremy keith/flickr

And focus on doing this more:

So that you can be more this:

You'll thank me later when you're having a quarter-life crisis and not sitting at home depressed over the fact you spent all your "fun" years snapping pics of your stupid Chipotle bowl.

Leave the food photography to the professionals (they're called food stylists) who make a living using all kinds of gross tricks to make sure the pics on the menu look nothing like what you get from the kitchen. I guarantee you'll be happier, your food will taste better when it's not cold, and you won't have tons and tons of food pics you'll never look at.