Back in the day when food websites and blogs were popping up and people began posting photos of their food, art directors everywhere were saying, “Nooooooo” in loud laments. After all, they had built whole careers on the quality of photos.

Personal cameras and social sharing changed all that, as even the Martha Stewarts of the world (yes, including the actual Martha) began putting unedited photos of their food and food experiences online. We got used to muddy images, weird angles, overhead shots, and poorly lit photos. Food aside, we got used to selfies with our arms in the way, ubiquitous nostril shots, and photos taken using a mirror (often without a check of the background that was also picked up).

We accepted it because it was instant, shareable, and real, with an emphasis on the “real.” This is how it really looks, we said. This is how I really look, and how I see life. Isn’t it beautiful?

We said at the time that there would be a return to balance, and that on-the-fly photos would find their place on personal spaces, while the difference in quality and professional shots would become more in demand. That is the case, but even the pro sites are OK with using a phone photo once in awhile. Even more interestingly, those off-the-cuff camera shots are a big part of brand promotions these days. Case in point:

Alamo Drafthouse announced that it will be using iPhones for some of its future photoshoots for new menu items and themed menus. The idea is to make the images more realistic and show what the customer will actually receive. Hmmm. . .does that mean they are lowering or raising expectations?

On the other hand, people are more and more concerned about how we view life through a lens, rather than enjoying it. Some brands are retaliating, like singer Jack White who is reportedly mandating that, while he’s touring, all concert-goers must keep their phones in Yondr-branded pouches that can only be unlocked in certain areas of each venue. In this case, the idea is to preserve the integrity of the experience, rather than spend all your time recording it.

So, we are still seeking balance—particularly as we all look at the size of our photo files and wonder if we really need to keep them all. We’ve created something of a monster, and then taken repeated pictures of it.

Arm out, camera on. Smile!

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