Food Photography,  Food Photography Tips

Is it Bad Etiquette to Take Photos in a Restaurant?

Is it Rude to Take Pictures of Your Food Inside a Restaurant?Is it Rude to Take Pictures of Your Food Inside a Restaurant?

It’s the digital age and social media runs ours lives. As if that isn’t bad enough, we have to deal with influencers in the wild taking selfies and doing obscure things that are often of questionable legality. Possibly worst of all of these things is the annoyance of trying to enjoy a meal out. Everyone has probably experienced getting completely distracted by a table of social media addicts who have to show everyone they know what they’re eating, right now, at this very moment. As if anyone cares.

If you’re really unlucky it’ll be a table of girls all standing on chairs with their phones in the air above their food snapping away like monkeys. This has likely happened to you at some point. Did you also wonder if aliens are preforming some kind of strange experiment on the human race with social media? Just me? Ok cool.

So is it bad to take pictures in a restaurant? Do you have to get permission to post them online from the chef if his food is in them? Is it even legal to take photos in a restaurant? What if there are people in the background? So many questions to answer.

I have worked in many restaurants, taken photos for restaurants, and yes, been “that person” taking the photos of my plate more than once. Because of that I have some thoughts on the topic.

No, it’s not necessarily bad etiquette to take photos of your food in a restaurant. People are accustomed to seeing the phones come out at every event, the least offensive of which is probably the restaurant. Try to be discreet about it and not make a scene. Don’t rearrange the tables, or ask the staff for anything, or for the love of God use an obnoxious flash. That one is for your sake more than the public. Your photos will look like plastic prop food. Just don’t do it.

Taking photos in restaurants is not rude if done with a bit of discretion and permission. Here are some things to keep in mind.

  1. Ask a waiter or manager if you’re worried about it. You don’t have to do this. However, if you aren’t sure if it’s appropriate at a particular venue, ask the staff. They will probably tell you that it’s fine and people do it all the time.
  2. If someone asks you to stop, don’t be a jerk, stop. Get your picture and get back to enjoying your meal. There is no need to get confrontational. This also applies if a customer or staff member wants to know if you got them in the picture and asks you to delete it. In most jurisdictions they have no right to demand you do anything as you own the photo. On the other hand, ask yourself if it’s really worth starting a fight with a stranger.
  3. Flash is a no go. As mentioned above, flash is not only rude, it will most likely ruin your photos if you are not a professional photographer.
  4. Don’t take forever getting your photos. If you are going to take pictures of your meal try to do it as quickly as you reasonably can. Don’t linger or take a million shots.
  5. Don’t stand on ANYTHING that isn’t made for your feet to be on. This should go without saying but don’t stand on the tables or chairs for the gram. If you are a photographer getting photos for some other purpose this may be different. Not gonna lie, in a pinch I have stood on chairs for commercial restaurant shoots in the past. The difference being I was asked by the restaurant to be there taking photos.

Is it bad manners to take pictures of your food in a restaurant?

What about some other scenarios where you may be taking photos in a restaurant?

Is it Illegal to take photos of your food in a restaurant if people are in the background?

No, it’s not illegal to take photos of people in a restaurant. A restaurant is a public place and people do not have the right to privacy in domains of the public. At least not where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy (think bathrooms and dressing rooms as the exception). However, if you take photos of someone in a restaurant and use it for commercial purposes without any kind of model release then you may run into some problems. Make sure to check with a lawyer or read up on copyright laws for photography. If you do not have any intentions of selling the photos for commercial use or using them to advertise something of your own then you’re probably fine.

Who owns the rights to photos you take in a restaurant?

Photography copyright law is pretty clear on this. The photographer owns the rights to the photos in almost every case and especially if there is no contract involved. The ins and outs of copyright laws around taking photos for a restaurant is a topic for an entirely separate article. For the simple occasion of you just taking pictures on your phone of a meal you enjoyed, there is nothing to worry about.

In the unlikely case that you run into any trouble with the restaurant staff or the chef on the issue of copyright make sure you know your rights. This will allow you to politely discuss and resolve the issue and let them know you have every right to take photos of the food. This event is very unlikely but it doesn’t hurt to be aware of what you’re legally allowed to do with your camera (or phone camera). Most chefs will be more than happy that you are taking photos of their work. That said, there is always the off chance that the chef is uninformed about copyright laws and thinks you are infringing on their rights.

Is it bad etiquette to stage a commercial photoshoot in a busy restaurant?

No, not if you have been asked to do so by the restaurant staff or management. It’s certainly not ideal. If you are a commercial food photographer you will likely run into a situation like this. It would be nice to always have quiet and uninterrupted photoshoots. Unfortunately, there are times when you have to work in a crowded, hectic environment. This has happened to me many times and I always just try to stage my photoshoot as far out of the way as I can.

Is it Rude to Take Pictures of Your Food Inside a Restaurant


Taking photos of your food is not rude unless you conduct yourself badly. Whether you are just an average person, an influencer of some kind, or a professional photographer, just be thoughtful. Be kind and considerate of other restaurant guests and the restaurant staff. Ask for permission if you are uncomfortable using any of the photos you have taken. Lastly, there is an exception to every rule. If you are a pro photographer that may be you, but otherwise, don’t use flash on food.