Hawaii Food Photographer David Murphey

Photograph of chef Nico Chaize, photographed for Modern Luxury Hawaii
Part of being a professional food photographer is capturing compelling portraits of chefs. French-born chef Nico Chaize, photographed for Modern Luxury Hawaii.

As a Hawaii food photographer with over 20 years of experience, I’ve found food photography to be a gateway to celebrating and exploring Hawaiian culture, history, and our local community.

Food and culinary experiences are ways that we connect with family and friends. Because dining experiences are such an integral part of our lives, having exceptional food photography is essential if you’re a restaurant or food manufacturer trying to stand out to reach today’s busy consumer. Using exceptional photography as part of your adverting – print, online and social media is required to reach today’s media savvy customers.

Chocolate pour with mw doughnuts
Simplicity rules when it comes to food photography for today’s fast paced consumers. MW Restaurant’s doughnuts with Wailua chocolate fondue.

Our philosophy is simple when photographing food. First, we analyze your brand statement and market placement to determine the primary demographics we’re communicating to. Do you have a high-end, sophisticated clientele? Or, are we selling to the masses? We use your brand statement and style guide to help us in creating a successful photo shoot.

Second, we photograph your food, restaurant or products in the simplest way that communicates your brand identity and gets your customers to interact with you in a positive way. Positive interactions would include visiting your restaurant, purchasing your products, or following you in social media.

rokkaku hamakatsu at ala moana center
Food photography is also about creating architectural photographs of restaurants to showcase their inviting dining spaces. Rokkaku Hamakatsu at Ala Moana Center.

I believe that compelling food photography is created by these three steps.

  • A Clear Vision
  • Thoughtful Styling
  • Great Lighting and Proper Equipment
A Clear Vision

Let’s start by sitting down and talking about your brand. Who are your customers? When we create these photos, what action do you want your customers to take? How will the photos be used? Print advertising? Digital menu boards? Social media? For different media uses, we’ll photograph differently to create the best output for your final media. It’s important to decide on the final use of your food photography before the project starts.

Photograph of Chef Marvo for Modern Luxury Hawaii
Hawaiian-French fusion chef Mavro, busy at work in the kitchen. Photographed for Modern Luxury Hawaii.
Thoughtful Styling

In todays competitive market, having gorgeous food photography is essential to reach your customers. We work with Hawaii’s top food stylists who are experts in culinary presentation and food preparation. They know all the tricks and techniques to make food look great! We always recommend working with a professional food stylist.

However, we often have assignments with smaller clients (or smaller budgets). For these projects, I’m more than capable doing both the food styling and photography. It’s like having a food photographer and food stylist in one!

Tools used for food and product photography.
Recently I took stock of the equipment we bring on food photography assignments. Our toolbox is filled with gear to strategically place sesame seeds, add shine to veggies and to melt chocolate!
Great Lighting and Proper Equipment

Of course, even with the best direction and styling, it comes down to photography techniques that makes a good photograph ‘great’. When on location, we bring our studio to you! We setup our lighting systems to match the soft daylight from your windows, or to compliment the warm tungsten lighting in your retail space. Lighting is the key to exceptional photography. We bring the ideal light shaping tools (reflectors, scrims, flags, soft boxes) to light and visually sculpt your product or food beautifully. We can bring tables, wood countertops, linens and dinnerware to your location and build inviting dining room sets to photograph in.

I use a 50 megapixel camera system to capture images with amazing detail and clarity. And, we photograph tethered to a 15” Mac Book Pro, so you can preview and approve images as we shoot.

fatboys
Even ‘fast food’ deserves to look good! Local style, Fatboy’s famous Garlic Chicken.

Favorite Food Photography Projects

We service a wide range of clients from food manufacturers (like Honolulu Cookie Company) to restaurants (McDonalds, Alan Wong’s and everyone else in between). Here’s a few of my favorite projects.

Starwood Resorts. We worked with Starwood Resorts Hawaii to create compelling food photography for all their restaurants including the Beachhouse, Pikake Terrace, Beach Bar, Mai Tai Bar and Azure.

Crispy Whole Fish at Azure
Crispy Whole Fish for Azure, at the Royal Hawaiian in Waikiki. Client: Starwood Resorts Hawaii.
azure ocean risotto
Depending on your audience and final media usage, complex lighting and intricate food styling may be needed. This photograph was used for large sized backlit posters and magazine ads. Azure Ocean Risotto. Food styling by Chef Jon Matsubara.

Alan Wong’s. One of my favorite projects was photographing Alan Wong’s cookbook, The Blue Tomato.  We spent many afternoons working at Alan’s King Street restaurant, shooting plates and presentations until the visual story for the book was ‘just right’. After being published, the book went on to receive the prestigious International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) Cookbook Award.

The IACP Cookbook Awards are among the most prestigious in the industry. Past honorees include Rick Bayless, Dorie Greenspan, Thomas Keller, Mark Bittman and Julia Child.

Chef Alan Wong
Chef Alan Wong at his King Street restaurant.
The Blue Tomato cookbook
Mochi-Crusted Opakapaka with Wasabi Kabayaki, photographed for the Blue Tomato cookbook.
Alan Wong's Opakapaka with Dried Scallop Risotto Chawan Mushi
Alan Wong’s Opakapaka with Dried Scallop Risotto Chawan Mushi, The Blue Tomato Cookbook.

Honolulu Cookie Company. The neat thing about working with a client like Honolulu Cookie Company is being able to photograph seasonal materials and packaging. Aside from HCC’s shortbread cookies being absolutely delicious (my favorite being the macadamia nut) they’re known for their extraordinary, beautiful packaging.  The holidays is when their designs shine brightest!

Photograph of Honolulu Cookie Luxury Executive Gift Box
Honolulu Cookie Company Luxury Executive Gift Box.
Photograph of Mele Round Holiday Collection
Honolulu Cookie Company Mele Round Holiday Collection.
Honolulu Cookie Company gift box
These photos were used in Honolulu Cookie Company’s holiday adverting campaign, both in print and social media.

Hawaiian Host. In addition to photographing food and products, we also create imagery to be used for product packaging itself. We photographed Hawaiian Host-ess and professional hula dancer Nicole Kawehi Navarro for the packaging of Hawaiian Host’s Aloha Macs product line.

Nicole Kawehi Navarro photographed at sunset for Hawaiian Host
Hawaiian Host-ess Nicole Kawehi Navarro. This sunset photo was shot for the cover for Hawaiian Host’s dark chocolate Aloha Macs packaging.
Hula dancer and Hawaiian Host "host-ess" Nicole Navarro
Portrait of hula dancer Nicole Kawehi Navarro being used as a branding image for Hawaiian Host.
Hawaiian Host Aloha Macs
Hawaiian Host branding images used on Aloha Macs retail packaging.

If you made it this far, thanks for sticking with us on this longish page about our services. Today’s consumers are media savvy and have so many choices when it comes to dining experiences. I wanted to take the time and share with you what I feel makes our services different and an ideal choice as a food photographer for your next project. Please contact us.  I’d be happy to talk to you more about reaching your customers with food photography. Aloha!

Mom and daughter cooking in the kitchen.
Sometimes food photography is more about the process of cooking and the dining experience, rather than a finished dish or perfect plate.

New food photography project:  Grilled Akule Nam Pla and Peppercorn Ribeye Steak for KTA Super Stores.

David Murphey is a Honolulu based freelance commercial and editorial photographer. David’s work has been seen in media, magazines and newspapers worldwide including The Food Network, Travel Channel, USA Today, Travel + Leisure, Tommy Bahamas and Wine Spectator. He’s also a member of the Hawaii Food Manufacturers Association…  Full Bio