How many ways can you photograph a _____ ?

It’s not unknown to you – unless this is the first time you’ve landed on my website, in which case you will either find out over the next few posts, OR do the wise thing for your general productivity and ALT + Tab + Vamoose your way back to your work window – that I love food. Yes, I know you know. And you know that I know you know.

Now here’s a dirty truth that may be unknown to most of you. Save the few who have had the misfortune of sitting across a dinner table with me. Or those few lucky perceptive and unproductive buggers who’ve guessed it because they’ve dilly dallied on my blogposts for far too long in the hopes that all other pending work will vanish. But yeah, if you didn’t know, then now you do. I’ve often been known to spend far more time photographing my food than actually eating it.

Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely do eat, and savour every bite. But my posts with their dim-lit strangely-angled (whoever eats on dramatically lopsided slanting tables?) fuzzy photos often belie the level of passion that goes into capturing a bun at the peak of its floofayness. My love for photographing before a meal, during a meal, and even the scant remains after a meal, is something that at its best can be described as excessive. And at its worst, as Goddamn Annoying, to the point where my lens may have, on occasion, narrowly escaped an angrily hurled tomato or ferocious fork stab. Some would go so far as to say that my fascination with food photography is a fetish of sorts. [I know I have yet to make a point, but humour me. Pretty pictures await those who are patient.]

This fetish was recently indulged at a photography workshop, something I pulled together after being inspired by a sports photographer who had composed photos that broke the clichéd frames of swimming photography. Those underwater works of art inspired me to start looking for food photographs that were truly different, photos that transcended the worlds of food porn or pretty plate-and-napkin-styled photographs.

Sometimes the best way to break your own boundaries is to pick something super dooper simple, totally mundane, and ask yourself, how wild can I go with this? Another way to break your own mental rules is to surround yourself with fellow photographers – especially those who shoot subjects not even remotely related to what you focus on, and can inspire you to try things you’d never have thought of before. And that’s precisely how the workshop was organized. We had a pack of 12 photo enthusiasts, food bloggers as well as non-food photographers, land up at Tea Junction with their cameras. A mystery food element was unveiled. And then each person had to photograph it to death. [Unfair, you say, I had time to plan my photographs because I knew what the mystery element was beforehand? Na-uh. I tricked myself by ditching my own plan for the mystery element apples mushrooms dates by running over to the grocery and picking something totally different at the last minute before the workshop.]

And the secret ingredient was…here it comes…hold your breath…


[why do I get the feeling that my intro photo up at the top sort of killed the suspense?]

You’d be surprised at how creative you can get with something as simple as plums – look beyond the simple sphere and you’ll see shapes, textures, colors and moods that totally escape you when those plums peek out of your grocery cart. I’ve been sly enough to con the workshop participants into letting me post up their copyrighted plum photos, so I’ll stop blabbing right about now and share what came out of our three hour plum glamour shoot.

The fabulously talented design girl, Nicky Sanotra, aka @kryptonitenicky. Hunt her down at Post Modern Obsessions. [Canon 500D]

The Brain behind Black and White Brilliance..who actually decided to go full color this time…Sheban Naim, aka @shebanx. Soak in more of his soulful photography at [Canon 500D]

Nicky and Sheban‘s joint product of Halloweenesque creativity.

Irini Savva, aka @IriniSavva, a recipe blogger at with a penchant for incorporating props into her food photography [Canon 7D]...

Saurabh Ail, aka @calvinslogic, a self-proclaimed ‘Glorified Ad Butler’ and ‘Sharp Lensman,’ with a snazzy 50mm f1.4 lens that did our mystery ingredient proud. [Canon 550D]

Saurabh and Irini‘s joint plum shoot-out…

Zahra Abdalla, aka @Cook_with_Zahra, whose laissez faire cooking style on Cooking with Zahra is mirrored by her fun, spontaneous, ‘in-the-moment’ approach to food photography. [Canon 550D]

Habib, aka al_debaran, a photo enthusiast who usually doesn’t aim his lens at food, but this rare attempt may be worth making it a regular habit. [Sony DSLR A-500]

Habib and Zahra‘s mutual mirror masterpiece.

Chirag Desai, aka @chiragnd and food blogger at Naihar, whose undying love for iced tea shone through in his photographs [Sony DSC H2]…and through the broken shards of glass left on the floor after he knocked over the glass a few minutes later. Woops.

Elena Jbara, the healthy and talented food blogger at Hayahelwa, whose plum-on-staircase photo makes me seriously consider why I’ve never thought of using vintage effects on my photographs before. Yep, even a plum can look profound in vintage. [Nikon D3000]

Chirag and Elena‘s co-composed and snapped photographs.

The charming husband and wife foodie team at Dining Dubai, Sarah and Ahmed, who sadly had to leave after an hour of plum play. But they still managed to snap up some good photos…and eat a couple plums while they were at it! (The first two are Sarah’s, the second set is Ahmed’s) [Canon Powershot SD 780 IS]

Chef Tomas Reger, the personal chef who made some of us food bloggers trip over with joy when he invited us  to help him shoot some of his chef-ly creations. He and I jointly composed this shot, though when it came to moving Tea Junction‘s carrom board around, it’s safe to say that Chef Tomas did the heavy lifting. [Canon 400D]

…and here’s my version of the whimsical Carrom board shot [Canon 50D].
Sorry mamma, won’t play with food again.

And my three solo plum shots. A touch of violence, a touch of seduction…always turning up the heat on life. That’s how us fryingpans roll.

Crazy what you can do with plums hm? We all walked away terribly impressed with what the group came up with, impressed and inspired. Each of us left with our hands full of some really creative shots that we were proud of, feedback from the group on what worked and what didn’t, insights and lessons learned from each other, and…yeah…with a bunch of sticky dripping half-nibbled plums.
Big shout-out to Tea Junction for letting us model, stack, stab and squish plums all around their perfectly lit and inspiring artsy cafe. And to every one of the talented photographers/bloggers who came out to shoot plums with us that day, you guys rock, I’d shoot plums, pears, peaches, pineapples…heck, I’d do an entire fruit salad with you guys anyday!

Author: InaFryingPan

With a family legacy of ingenious cooks, a nutritionist and chef-extraordinaire mother, and a father who introduced me to steak and caviar when I could barely reach the table, I had no choice but to acquire a keen awareness of food during my childhood years in Dubai. But it was only after I found myself on a college campus in Philadelphia – far away from home, too cheap as a student to spend on anything other than pizza, and with dorm rooms that had little rat-holes of kitchens if they even had them at all – when I developed a heightened appreciation of food. An appreciation of food that I once ate every night at the dinner table in Dubai, but that was now an entire ocean away. I lusted for the culinary treasures that lay outside the stale walls of my college dining hall, hijacked friends’ kitchens to try my hand at something, anything , remotely edible, and greedily raided different websites in search of highly-rated restaurants. With my move to New York to work for a consulting firm that secretly harbored self-professed foodies, my appreciation transformed into a passion, an addicition. I felt like everyone around me in New York was talking about food: where to get the best cupcakes, pizza slices, banh mi, kati rolls, pho, fried chicken, and every other food item out there that is just a plain old dish in some part of the world, but that’s become hyped to unforeseen proportions in New York. What fuelled my addiction over time was travel to different cities, both for work and play, which gave me unfettered access to the culinary havens of not only New York, but also of DC, Virginia, Chicago, Houston, Vegas, Austin, Seattle and even a little city called Bentonville (Arkansas!). After 9 years away from home, I’ve finally taken the leap to come back to Dubai – with not just an awareness, but genuine appreciation and passionate addiction for what I’d taken for granted as a child. Mom, I’m back to reclaim my seat at your dinner table, and to rediscover this city with its ever-expanding menu of international flavors.

15 thoughts on “How many ways can you photograph a _____ ?

  1. sarah-the hedonista says:

    nice! So sorry I missed it. My wide-angle lens is in the shop, and thought I couldn’t work without it. Turns out the 70-300mm works very well anyway, so should have come. Can we play another time soon?

  2. Sliceofmylyfe says:

    WOW. Must have been such a fab experience. I have only recently put a tiny foot into this incredible world of photography. But I am reading up and trying to understand how to make the best of what Ihave in terms of the light, the props and even the food. I really loved so many of the plum shots there. some of them were fabulously creative shots.

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      @sarah-the hedonista – aww…hope the lens is fixed! and yes, we will do this again soon, would love to have your talented eyes be part of the camera crew.

      @Sliceofmylyfe – I’m so glad you LIKE! I will send you a bunch of good photo resources that the local food blogger community has shared with us :D

      @gingerandscotch – it was mega fun! you have to be part of it next time, with wee-scotch as a baby model!

      @Lin – thankoooooooo.

  3. Sally says:

    Echoing Sarah here – can we play some other time? Really inspired (and you need a Nikon represented!) PS I was laughing at loud at the intro

  4. dxbcookie says:

    was fun day =) Have dreamt about plums that night :o)

  5. @calvinslogic says:

    What a great day of plum-shooting!!! …and what a creative aura we had around us! Thank you Arva for getting this together. We must do this again.

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      @Sally – hells yeah, you better be there next time!! So true though, we had only one Nikon on stage…

      @dxbcookie – haha…I hope they were happy juicy dreams ;)

      @accordingtodina – YES! stay tuned, coming to a studio near you :D

      @calvinslogic – Couldn’t have said it better, I was so pumped up and inspired by everyone…it’s the best way to re-infuse your photos with creativity. Thanks for coming & bringing your 50mm baby with ya!

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      @Saleem – Thanks dad!

      @Sliceofmylyfe – did I send these to you…hm…totally forgot, I’m so absent minded…I will send it across again anyway!

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