Has Food Instagramming Officially Gone Too Far?

Photo: Courtesy Bechance.net.
A restaurant in Tel Aviv is making waves with what could be a new trend in dining: plates designed especially for foodie photographers. The stoneware, which features a stand for your iPhone and lazy Susan-style spinning capabilities for capturing the perfect shot, are currently limited to $155-a-plate Foodography dining events at Tel Aviv's Catit restaurant. And sure, the photos they create look stunning, but we chatted with some food photography experts to see if these plates are worth the hype, or are likely to catch on at all. Blake Smith, a creative director with the app Chefs Feed, thinks these so-called Instagrammable plates are "a tad gimmicky." Chefs Feed is similar to Yelp, but includes restaurant picks, reviews, and photography exclusively from actual chefs and their staff. Smith doesn't think the fancy dinnerware will catch on past special food-photography-focused events, unless there's a major shift in restaurants "to sacrifice taste and quality in lieu of pure visual aesthetic."  "Even with the help of a plate designed to hold your smartphone, it still takes time to set up and capture the 'right' shot," Smith says. "By then, the dish can become cold or congealed or otherwise in a state far from what the chef intended you to experience."
Catit, the restaurant that developed the plates and hosts these food photography nights, uses ingredients like flowers, crème, dust, and drizzled sauces to counteract those issues (and maximize each plate's instagrammability).  Aubrie Pick, a popular Bay Area photographer (and frequent food shooter on Instagram) loves how the social network has encouraged people to engage with their food, but isn't so keen on plates like these, which can actually separate us from the real, in-person dining experience. "The idea of eating at a restaurant with a bunch of people looking at their food through the screen on their iPhone kind of irks me," Pick says. "It takes something communal and personal and makes it isolating and, at the same time, all too public." Still, food photography is a popular subsection of mobile photography: Over 17 million Instagrams include the hashtag #foodie, while close to 54 million Instagrams use the hashtag #foodporn. If you like to snap your scrumptious meals even occasionally, Smith and Pick have some advice. For the best food snaps, both recommend sitting near a window or door when there's some natural light filtering in. However, food shot in direct sunlight often comes out too contrasty. Smith says this can be solved by diffusing the light through a napkin — but this might annoy the staff and your fellow patrons, so be considerate of your surroundings. And, if you're really struggling to get the right shot, Pick suggests giving it a rest. "It rarely works out, but usually succeeds in frustrating someone else who is dining," she says. "If it's just not working out after a minute of trying, just put down the phone and dig in." Amen, sister. 

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