Creative Contributor: Kimberly Murray

Photographer Kimberly Murray

In this blog series, we highlight the creative minds and collaborators behind each Bravery issue. This week we are featuring Kimberly Murray, our go-to for flat lay photography including our recipes, inside covers and photos of the magazine itself. You can check out her site here.

A little about Kimberly:

Kimberly Murray is a commercial photographer, educator, and mom of two.  Known for her clean and modern aesthetic, she is drawn to creating bright images that bring out the textures and colors that make food and products stand out.  Kimberly is working to bring her minimalist style of photography to her everyday life.  When she isn’t working, she loves to revel in the simple pleasures of life (e.g., a plate of fries, a walk in the park) with her husband and two toddlers.  

What got you interested in photography? How did you get started?

I became seriously interested in photography when searching for a wedding photographer over a decade ago, although I always loved looking through my parents’ old photo albums growing up.  I was drawn to the connection between the couples that I saw on various blogs and the photographers’ ability to tell a complete story through a collection of images.  My husband bought my first DSLR camera as a wedding gift.  I started out photographing children and families for a few years, with my nephew being my first model, and then transitioned to still life photography. 

What is your favorite thing to shoot?

I go through waves and alternate between food, products, and interiors.  Lately, my heart is with food.  When someone says that I’ve made them hungry or are inspired to make the dish, I know I’ve done my job.

What is one of your favorite projects that you've done?

My favorite project to date would have to be a course that I recently designed to teach other content creators and photographers how to style and photograph flat lay images.  It combines two of my loves: styling and teaching.  I named it Flat Lay Play because I want to help others free up the mental space to have fun while creating, which I believe is possible once you know key styling principles and how to apply them with the proper tools and resources.  From there, you can switch things up and experiment to your heart’s content! (Check out her course here.)

Photographer Kimberly Murray

What do you love most about what you do?

I most love the complete creative freedom to conceptualize an image in my mind and bring it to life in a way that not only resonates with me, but with my viewers.  With flat lay photography, there are endless possibilities to photograph a variety of subjects (e.g., food, fashion, lifestyle, products) from above.  The ability to tell a story and evoke a particular mood through my choice of styling, colors, and lighting never gets old.

What's something hard about what you do?

While having creative freedom is a joy, it can also feel like pressure.  It is hard, at times, to find new ways to photograph the same subject so that it stands out and doesn’t look like another client shoot I’ve done. It seems like everything has been done before; my job is to put my own spin on it. It is a fun challenge.

What is your dream project or collaboration?

Working with Bravery has been a dream.  I always thought shooting for a magazine would be cool, but I never imagined how rewarding it could be.  The mission behind the magazine and the women who are featured align so well with my values.  It has been such a treat to work on several issues.  

Being a regular contributor for Bravery has helped me to believe that my dream of shooting for food and lifestyle magazines, such as Real Simple, can come true.  Magazines that have accessible recipes, practical and inspirational articles, and bright and minimalist imagery are right up my alley!  Oh, and I can’t forget my bucket list item of shooting a cookbook some day.   

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was little, I wanted to be a doctor so that I could help people. However, once I got a whiff of formaldehyde while dissecting animals in my 6th grade science class, my mind started to change. I did later earn a Ph.D. in psychology, so I guess that childhood desire manifested itself after all.

Kimberly Murray's flat lay of Frida Kahlo

Talk us through your process for creating the flat lay recipe shots that you shoot for Bravery.

When I get the specs from Bravery for the upcoming issue, I always read them with anticipation.  I know that it is going to be a fun project that sparks my imagination.  The first thing that I do is check out the color palette to get a sense of which color(s) will work best with the foods that will be featured in the recipe.  At times, the brief will have direction as to the background color to be used.  However, most often, I have creative license to choose the one I think will work best.  I rely on color theory to help guide my decision, mostly sticking with complementary colors that will help to make the food pop.  I think through the color palette early in the process so that I can order the background(s) if I don’t already have the color(s) in my collection.  Around this time, I also start brainstorming potential compositions for the image that will fit the layout for the page.  Throughout this pre-production process, I either jot down ideas in my notes or sketch them out.  

On shoot day, I make sure that I have enough ingredients on hand so that I can make multiple versions of the recipe.  This is essential so that I can (1) choose the one that looks best on camera or (2) can swap it out if it starts to get too hot under the lights.  With some foods (e.g., chocolate), I know that I need to work fast because it will melt.  Because I know that different foods behave differently the longer they sit, I lay out the surrounding props ahead of time before bringing in the food.  The food gets the star treatment.  After all, it is the hero of the shot!

Once everything is in place, I try at least two to three versions in terms of the composition.  Also, when possible, I like to test the recipe on two different background colors from the issue palette.  Afterwards, I cull and edit the images (e.g., color correct, clean up any unintentional crumbs or blemishes in the food, add my signature touch) to send my selects to the magazine.  It is always a surprise to see which ones Bravery chooses for final delivery.  Finally, I stalk my mailbox for the printed issue to see how everything came together!