tip /tip/, n.

Before 2017, my Instagram was essentially a food-stagram in all but name. The handle was still recognizably mine, without any reference to food or eating. But the photos were all. Of. Food.

When I was a student, I was able to pull this off because I had a built-in excuse: I wrote for and eventually led for a year, an online food publication called Spoon University at Berkeley. Every single time I whipped out my iPhone, and later my camera, the excuse was ready at the tip of my tongue.

“I need to take a photo of this for my article later.” “I work for a food publication, this is basically my job.”

It also helped that my dining companions were often also part of the same group, so there was power in numbers. You definitely felt less like every bad stereotype of a millennial when anywhere from one to twenty other people were doing the same thing — standing up, kneeling on chairs, backing several feet away from the table to find a better angle — as you.

But after I left Spoon and Berkeley, the excuses were harder to find.

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Pork Bun from Ippudo | Photo by Courtney Cheng

I have enough tact to know when I shouldn’t take a photo of my food, but in the other restaurants that are still casual enough to warrant this behavior, the excuses come out with far more defense now.

“I at least do it with a real camera.” “I don’t even post all these photos all the time, it’s not that bad.”

It’s true that none of my friends actually express genuine, disparaging distaste toward my behavior. They still do, however, vocalize their opinions with at least a hint of sarcasm — “Wow, millennial right here.” “Oh my gosh, are you actually?” — which makes it incredibly difficult to deduce if they’re genuinely judging me.

By then, I’m not particularly in the mood to ask for clarification. I’ve already gotten the impression that my friend(s) disapprove in one form or another. It’s more than likely that the strangers dining near us and the restaurant wait staff are judging me harder than my friend is.

I’m not fearless nor foolish enough to continue doing something that will draw negative attention to myself.

But at what point does food photography stop being an art and simply become #basic?

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The FACTORY Pancake: Marscapone flour pancake with vanilla curd, banana, and sliced walnuts at Raw Sugar Factory | Photo by Courtney Cheng

When food bloggers, chefs, and publications post photos of their creations online, it’s widely re-shared among friends and often captioned with something related to #foodporn. The work of these individuals and publications is, by and large, several degrees better than the amateur iPhone 7 Portrait Mode shot you’ll find on some stranger’s Instagram.

But all those professionals had to start somewhere as well.

And some of them are still working with the same tools as the rest of us lay people (our phones), so they recognize the importance of knowing how to take good photos of food on our phones and even go as far as offering classes on how to master this skill.

Why is it that when an amateur photographer might be trying to genuinely practice taking photos of food, they’re often judged and mocked (be it a light, loving jibe or an actual jeer)?

There are negative stereotypes of millennials and Generation Z kids latching onto weird, expensive trends that won’t likely last for another 365 days. It’s unfair though, to sideline the hobbies, side hustles, or jobs of people who take photos of food simply because they love food and hope to share that passion with others.

Let us take our food photos in peace, and just enjoy the food porn.

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