Food photography and styling at the Miele Gallery
The gleam on the glaze of a sugar-coated doughnut, a sheen of moisture on a freshly-washed aubergine, the soft glow from the skin of a just picked raspberry, glistening gravy in a rich casserole, the matt oval of a fresh whole egg and a broken one singing its yellow brightness. Have I made you hungry? I hope so. And really that’s the point of food photography. The image should make you want to sink your teeth into that doughnut, dip bread into the casserole or whip up an omelette from the eggs. The critical ingredient, that takes takes a plain old meal to a must-have mouthful, is light.
In the Emirates we have a lot of it. The skies remain cloudless for most of the year and buildings are designed to temper the sun’s intensity. Windows may be large but they are tinted, with overhangs and terraces. Beating sunshine is harsh and strong and changes very quickly throughout the day. For a food photographer shooting in natural light it offers a few challenges.
As soon as I walked up the stairs, past the retro ads and appliances, into the Miele kitchen I was smitten and knew from the bank of windows flooding the whole area with daylight, it would be the perfect location for a food photography and styling workshop. The little enclosed terrace meant that opening the doors to let in unfiltered light would be possible while the state of the art Miele kitchen offered everything that food lovers could possibly want for preparation, cooking and styling.
But a workshop doesn’t depend on light alone. Here the Miele Gallery space really comes into its own with a small conference area at one end with funky red chairs that look like they’ve escaped from a sports car, built in projector screen, white board, lots of powerpoints, all of which can be screened off for privacy or opened up. A team of staff make sure the experience (from tea and coffee, to washing up, to IT) is seamless. Have I tempted you? Miele hire out the space for private functions and run regular cooking classes.
Meeta, food photographer and stylist, author of What’s For Lunch Honey?, flew in from Germany once again to conduct the workshop in . Theory, working demonstrations and practical assignments got a our small group of delightful delegates considering a range of factors which affect food photography and styling including how to work with the available light (which led to the picture above). The real advantage of a workshop (rather than a static classroom style course) is that you really get to know everyone in the group and everyone shares information and perspectives.
I suppose you could hold a workshop about food photography and styling without much emphasis on the food you were actually eating, but this is an anathema to both Meeta and I …and our wonderful partners who conjured up a series of feasts to inspire and sustain.
It was Meeta’s idea to reflect the diverse culinary choices available in Dubai. We travelled from Northern Europe to Italy, the Far East, Morocco and Spain through delectable dishes. Our favourite fine food emporium Lafayette Gourmet provided all the ingredients for the two days, from deep orange pumpkins to spices, and provided a copious Scandinavian-style brunch; from platters adorned with edible flowers to a huge pot of cheesy potato gratin. The team of chefs from Tapeo, a Spanish restaurant within Lafayette Gourmet, returned with an array of tempting tapas and deeply satisfying and authentic paella. Chef Russell Impiazzi made sure everything was top-notch and brought his usual brand of attention to detail, passion for food and energy to the table.
Just saying that Dima Sharif cooked our lunch totally underplays the fantastic contribution she made to the workshop. She sprinkled her culinary expertise and joi de vivre over everything like fairy dust, as well as getting everyone to help make a Moroccan menu including pumpkin soup, marinated aubergine, almond couscous, and a lamb and aubergine recipe made in a magnificent Emile Henry aubergine-hued tagine from Tavola who provided many lovely props for the photography sessions. An enormous pink goodie bag including a special spice blend and olive oil from Dima’s family olive groves was ours to take home too.
We left the calm, clean lines of the Miele Gallery for the riot of colour, bustle, grandeur and scale that is Atlantis the Palm where we went on a whirlwind and gargantuan tour of several cuisines. We spent an hour on the terrace of Ronda Locatelli with the man himself, sampling the new season’s white truffle menu. Apart from the knife and fork action, you could have heard a pin drop as Giorgio kept everyone at the table enthralled (more here).
Dish after dish emerged from the open kitchens of Asia Republic; even after the truffle menu, no-one could resist dipping their chopsticks into enticing bowls of Vietnamese spiced beef noodle soup or elegant plates of Cantonese roast fragrant duck or Pad thai. Nobu’s garden provided a brief digestive interlude. The vegetable beds have been newly planted at the beginning of the season. It’s a tranquil place and the setting for a new event Sunset Saturdays. Elegant and restrained like Nobu himself (who I met earlier this year).
Saffron, an Aladdin’s cave of cuisines, was our final dining location; twenty live cooking stations mean you might eat a full English roast dinner, Chinese dim sum, choose from an amazing array of fish and shellfish at the raw bar (read more about the crab here), select sushi, salad or a steamboat. The chocolate fountain is Atlantis-scale along with a kaleidoscopic dessert section.
Our delegates had come from Dubai, Bahrain and Qatar to focus on food photography and styling and it was a real pleasure to meet everyone in the group. We started as strangers but were united at the end of the two days by Meeta’s ebulience, Dima’s warmth, the fantastic setting of the Miele Gallery facilitated by Cynthia, our visit to Atlantis especially Giorgio’s candid discourse , Chef Russell’s enthusiasm and the fantastic food shared around a common table. At the end of the second day, we sat on tall stools or simply leant against the long refectory-like bar dipping into steaming pans of paella, the atmosphere lively with animated conversation, cameras finally exchanged for spoons. It was dark outside but light-hearted within.
Read more from Meeta and our talented delegates:
What’s For Lunch Honey? – Dubai: A State of the Art Food Photography and Styling Workshop at Miele - masses of gorgeous pics
The Naked Plate – Food Photography and Styling workshop Dubai – includes a brilliant video of our Spanish Fiesta feast
Sandcat – Dubai food styling workshop – another unique perspective and great pics
Atone’s beautiful pics on Flickr – masses of food pics
A special thanks to everyone who made this possible.
- Our special venue hosts the Miele Gallery – with extra special thanks to Cynthia
- Field trip hosts extraordinaire Atlantis, The Palm
- For ingredients, produce (including organic fruit and veg from Unifrutti) and incredible feasts, Lafayette Gourmet especially Chef Russell and the Tapeo chefs
- Beautiful prop sponsors Tavola
- The amazing Dima Sharif
- S Pellegrino and Acqua Panna for fine water
As well as Dima’s gifts everyone went home with wonderful goodie bags. Thanks to
- Toffee Princess for once again supplying us with incredibly moreish Scottish tablet in fantastic flavours.
- Aqua Panna and San Pellegrino
- Lindt for spoiling us with fine Carre chocolates and luxurious Perles.
- Lime and Tonic Dubai for a fantastic voucher for a unique experience
And to all of the delegates who attended the workshop:
Massive thanks to Meeta once again who imbues everything with her turbo-charged energy, unlimited enthusiasm and incredible warmth and generosity.
So what makes a food photo irresistible for you? If you photograph food, what are your challenges with light? And what’s your favourite meal to share with a group of friends around a great big table?