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Illustrator Carolyn Vibbert shows her styles

An idyllic scene in scratchboard style by illustrator Carolyn Vibbert

It’s difficult to describe Illustrator Carolyn Vibbert’s style, largely because she’s mastered so many techniques and approaches. Her deep portfolio of work includes whimsical maps, clean-lined logos, charming landscapes and myriad illustrations in styles reminiscent of cut paper, acrylic painting, woodcuts and watercolors.

An illustrated green landscape by illustrator Carolyn Vibbert

“Often it’s a job that pushes me into new territory,” explains Carolyn. “A client might like my style but want something a little bolder or more energetic or with humor. That makes the job even more exciting.”

A black and sepia Day of the Dead sketch by illustrator Carolyn Vibbert

Technology also helps Carolyn explore and evolve. “Back in the day,” she says, “all my work had to be done on peel-able illustration board that could be wrapped around a scanning drum. Every change had to be done by hand. Now I can just delete and try again.”

[one_half]A fanciful illustration of a hot air balloon by illustrator Carolyn Vibbert[/one_half][one_half_last]A drawing of a royal Corgi by illustrator Carolyn Vibbert[/one_half_last]

But no matter the style, her process begins the same way for every job. “I pull lots of reference material, then develop a thumbnail that captures the energy or shape of the piece. I keep it loose and refine as I go along – I still use a lot of tracing paper for revisions!” she explains.

A charming illustrated map of Natucket by illustrator Carolyn Vibbert

“But in everything I do, I always start with a naturally drawn line,” says Carolyn. And ultimately, that foundation of human warmth is the strong through line in this highly accomplished commercial artist’s body of work. You can see more of Carolyn’s illustrations and designs here.

[one_half]A whimsical, colorful illustration of a girl and ice cream by illustrator Carolyn Vibbert[/one_half][one_half_last]A house and the word ART in cut paper style by illustrator Carolyn Vibbert[/one_half_last]  

 

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Call it Directing, Call it Visual Engineering, Call Will Strawser to get it done

When Photographer and Director Will Strawser begins a new project, he isn’t just visualizing the end result, but the entire process to achieve it. “To me, directing isn’t just devising cool new ways of showcasing products or people, but – more importantly – engineering a system to bring the visual to life,” he explains. “The total process is what I think of as Visual Engineering.”

[one_third]3 screenshots of zucchini for a Wegman’s video from Director & Visual Engineer Will Strawser[/one_third][one_third]3 screenshots of zucchini for a Wegman’s video from Director & Visual Engineer Will Strawser[/one_third][one_third_last]3 screenshots of zucchini for a Wegman’s video from Director & Visual Engineer Will Strawser[/one_third_last]

To that end, Will does a hefty amount of research and prep on the front end of any shoot. “Ideally, by the time we’re on set we have a nailed down game plan to perfectly execute the planned vision, AND also some time allotted for experimentation and discovery,” he says. “Some of the best shots we’ve ever accomplished were from going “off the boards.”

[one_third]3 screenshots from a video for Taste Tea from Director & Visual Engineer Will Strawser[/one_third][one_third]3 screenshots from a video for Taste Tea from Director & Visual Engineer Will Strawser[/one_third][one_third_last]3 screenshots from a video for Taste Tea from Director & Visual Engineer Will Strawser[/one_third_last]

And to make sure his vision is fully realized, Will begins post-production before the shoot, not after. “Post is very important to the way I like to create,” he says. “To make sure we’re all on the same page, the post team is involved heavily in pre-production. A large part of the creative process happens in the edit, so I like to be hands on with the edit, color, CG and sound effects.”

[one_third]3 Screenshots from the video ‘The Perfect Burger’ from Director & Visual Engineer Will Strawser[/one_third][one_third]3 Screenshots from the video ‘The Perfect Burger’ from Director & Visual Engineer Will Strawser[/one_third][one_third_last]3 Screenshots from the video ‘The Perfect Burger’ from Director & Visual Engineer Will Strawser[/one_third_last]

He also carefully curates a team that’s a match for the project, brand and vision he wants to achieve. A smaller project might call for just 3 or 4 people, while a more elaborate broadcast TV shoot could require a crew of up to 10. “When I’m bringing in a larger team, I’m really looking for a group that works seamlessly and efficiently together to keep us moving forward,” Will says.

[one_third]3 screenshots from the a video for Stella Artois Cidre from Director & Visual Engineer Will Strawser[/one_third][one_third]3 screenshots from the a video for Stella Artois Cidre from Director & Visual Engineer Will Strawser[/one_third][one_third_last]3 screenshots from the a video for Stella Artois Cidre from Director & Visual Engineer Will Strawser[/one_third_last]

Will has brought his fresh, modern aesthetic and energetic shooting style to clients ranging from Wegman’s to Memo Jewelry to Taste Tea Naturals, creating web content, brand videos, narrative pieces and broadcast TV spots. You can see more of his arresting still and motion work here.

[one_third]A selection of screenshots from the film portfolio of Director & Visual Engineer Will Strawser[/one_third][one_third]A selection of screenshots from the film portfolio of Director & Visual Engineer Will Strawser[/one_third][one_third_last]A selection of screenshots from the film portfolio of Director & Visual Engineer Will Strawser[/one_third_last] [one_third]A selection of screenshots from the film portfolio of Director & Visual Engineer Will Strawser[/one_third][one_third]A selection of screenshots from the film portfolio of Director & Visual Engineer Will Strawser[/one_third][one_third_last]A selection of screenshots from the film portfolio of Director & Visual Engineer Will Strawser[/one_third_last] [one_third]A selection of screenshots from the film portfolio of Director & Visual Engineer Will Strawser[/one_third][one_third]A selection of screenshots from the film portfolio of Director & Visual Engineer Will Strawser[/one_third][one_third_last]A selection of screenshots from the film portfolio of Director & Visual Engineer Will Strawser[/one_third_last]

 

 

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People photographer Steve Belkowitz goes bananas for Del Monte

A man takes a selfie of himself and a pineapple, both wearing sunglasses; by people photographer Steve Belkowitz

Steve Belkowitz has photographed top models and pro athletes, but he’s not afraid to keep it real when it comes to talent. “The client was nervous about using real employees for the Del Monte shoot – it can be uncomfortable for folks who aren’t used to the camera,” says the accomplished people photographer. “But I knew with a safe, relaxed environment they’d do great.”

A man wearing sunglasses and holding lots of bananas stands heroically; by people photographer Steve Belkowitz

Shooting for just two days with employees of the company’s fruit processing plant in Dallas, Steve needed to get the group in the groove quickly. “We wanted them to do funny things, so we played good music and kept things really light on set,” he explains.

A man proudly holds a fruit sculpture that looks like a swan; by people photographer Steve Belkowitz

Once the shots were solid, Steve relied on skilled retouching to tweak the look just enough to make the employees look heroic, but not perfect or unnatural. In a few cases they also dropped in props that were shot separately. “We probably did about 5 rounds of revisions for each image,” he says.

A man peers over pineapple slices he’s holding, fanned out like a deck of cards; by people photographer Steve Belkowitz

The shots are being used for branding materials for Del Monte’s fresh fruit division, including print ads, social media and collateral. “It’s also the company’s 125th anniversary, and they want to authentically connect with their consumers,” Steve explains.

A woman holds up a sculpture of the number “125” made from cut fruit; by people photographer Steve Belkowitz

That’s a perfect match with Steve, whose photos often leave the viewer with a smile. You can see more of his lifestyle and people photography here.

A woman juggles melons, a banana, pineapple and a chef’s knife; by people photographer Steve Belkowitz
 

 

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Five days in the jungle – Adventure photography from Andrew Maguire

Two runners approach on a beach trail under lush palm trees; adventure photography from Andrew Maguire

Andrew Maguire has scaled epic cliffs and skied snowy ravines to get the perfect shot, and now he’s conquering the jungle to bring home adventure photography for outdoor brand Merrell.

Two trail runners make their way down a root-tangled jungle path; adventure photography from Andrew Maguire

Andrew and a small crew recently spent five days traversing the rainforests and beaches of Puerto Rico, covering active lifestyle and sports shots for Merrell’s website and social media campaigns. Andrew directed the motion shoot for the effort as well.

Two people ride beach cruisers past the open doorway of a quaint shop; adventure photography from Andrew Maguire

With Andrew’s deep portfolio of outdoor and active living shots, he’s perfectly suited for a brand whose mantra is “Find Adventure Anywhere You Go.” In fact, Andrew and Merrell have embarked on many projects together, including a just-wrapped shoot in Southern California.

A couple enjoys a bonfire on the beach; adventure photography from Andrew Maguire

With other recent shoots in Iceland and on Mt. Whitney behind him, Andrew is gearing up for his next adventure. You can see more of his sport and active lifestyle photography here.

A couple hikes through a lush green jungle; adventure photography from Andrew Maguire
Three friends lounge in a doorway of a quaint town center; adventure photography from Andrew Maguire

 

 

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Fueled by Girl Power: Brian Smale’s latest people photography

[one_third]Three portraits in black and white of teenage girls having fun; people photography by Brian Smale[/one_third][one_third]Three portraits in black and white of teenage girls having fun; people photography by Brian Smale[/one_third][one_third_last]Three portraits in black and white of teenage girls having fun; people photography by Brian Smale[/one_third_last]

Photographer Brian Smale has roamed the planet capturing people photography for clients as diverse as Panasonic, USAA and Microsoft. But his latest project kept him right in his own community.

Two black and white portraits of girl and teacher being silly with science equipment; people photography by Brian Smale
Two black and white portraits of girl and teacher being silly with science equipment; people photography by Brian Smale

“My daughter’s school is hosting their annual fundraiser and asked if I’d do some portraits of some of the girls and teachers for the event,” explains Brian. “I get creative freedom, they get free,” he laughs. What started out as a small portrait project grew under Brian’s direction to 12 foot high posters of the girls doing what they do best – being themselves.

Two black and white portraits of teenage girls looking happy and confident; people photography by Brian Smale
Two black and white portraits of teenage girls looking happy and confident; people photography by Brian Smale

Brian added the photoshop ‘cutout’ filter to make the portraits more representational of the student body as a whole. “Plus,” he adds, “at 12 feet high with zero budget, going to simplified images with just 3 or 4 tones was a no-brainer.”

Three black and white portraits of girls and a teacher having fun with pencils, leaves and hula hoops; people photography by Brian Smale
3Three black and white portraits of girls and a teacher having fun with pencils, leaves and hula hoops; people photography by Brian Smale
Three black and white portraits of girls and a teacher having fun with pencils, leaves and hula hoops; people photography by Brian Smale

Having spent a career shooting portraits of luminaries, gangsters, Nazis and politicians, Brian isn’t phased by much. Still, facing off with a gaggle of teen age girls, “I was terrified, of course!,” he says. “But they were such a nice bunch.”

Two black and white portraits of teenage girls looking capable and confident; people photography by Brian Smale
Two black and white portraits of teenage girls looking capable and confident; people photography by Brian Smale

The focus of the all-girls school is building leadership, independence and confidence, so Brian wanted to make sure those values were reflected in the photos. “And,” he adds, “I wanted the girls to have fun.” Check and check. You can see more of Brian’s wide range of commercial people and places photography here.

 

 

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Graphic Designer Filip Yip
revs brand engines.

Dynamic illustration of a red white and blue racecar for Kingsford by graphic designer Filip Yip

Americans love our cars, and brands know it. Graphic designer and illustrator Filip Yip helps those brands connect with their audience, creating car graphics that speak to people’s lifestyles and loyalties. “I do love cars, but not in that car-guy kind of way,” says Filip. “To me, cars represent where you are in life, what your needs and dreams are at that moment.”

Charming illustration of two animals driving down a Sierra County foothills road by graphic designer Filip Yip
Energetic graphic depiction of the black Havoline racecar by graphic designer Filip Yip
 

Filip has conjured powerful racecars for companies like Kingsford and Havoline and cars with throwback charm for Eddie’s Premium Salsa and Sierra County Chamber of Commerce, along with many more. “With cars, and really all brand design, you’re trying to create a shared experience between the brand and the viewer. That’s where my process starts,” Filip says.

An old-timey blue delivery van by graphic designer Filip Yip

The relationship between company and consumer is one Filip takes very seriously. A decade into his successful design career, he took it upon himself to earn his MBA so he could fully partner with his clients on their strategic communications efforts.

Illustration of a farm truck for a salsa packaging client by graphic designer Filip Yip

Some may not immediately see the connection between Filip’s hard driving business instincts and his inspirational idols Van Gogh, Matisse and Gauguin, but for Filip, that’s the power of design and visual communication. “I try to create something authentic and emotional every time because those are the building blocks of strong branding,” he says.

Iconic illustration of one of London’s double decker buses by graphic designer Filip Yip

With clients from Anheuser Busch to FedEx to EBay to Clif Bar, Filip’s vast portfolio reaches far beyond driving machines. Check out his cowboys, monkeys, schooners, skyscrapers and much more here.

Logo of an Airstream trailer for Austin Food Trailer Week by graphic designer Filip Yip

 

 

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Shane Johnson’s Superpower
is Character Design

A black and white illustration of a superhero flying toward the viewer, fist raised; character design by Shane Johnson

If you grew up on comic books like Illustrator Shane Johnson did, you won’t be surprised by his approach to character design. “Superheroes are so compelling because they reflect our own hopes and flaws, on a magnified scale.”

Illustrated black and white portrait of a superhero in mask and cape; character design by Shane Johnson

Shane has lent his comic style to commercial and editorial illustrations for clients from Nickelodeon to Dreamworks, Smithsonian Magazine to the Wall Street Journal. And while he may not always draw literal superheroes, that classic raw energy and the dynamic struggle between good and evil is frequently the subtext of his work.

Comic-style black and white illustration of a fist punching through a wall; character design by Shane Johnson

His latest series, created in black and white with a strong noir feel, was inspired by 1930s comics. “I’m a big fan of older films and radio shows and the original Bob Kane Batman,” says Shane. “I’ve always wanted to create something that harkens back to that, but I needed it to be in my own style.”

“Superheroes reflect our own hopes and flaws…
on a magnified scale”

Per his usual process, he began with rough thumbnails, gathering reference materials once he decided on the layout. “I sometimes even shoot photos of myself for the character poses,” Shane explains. “Or, for more extreme poses, I create models on the computer using Poser Pro.” Shane’s next step is pencils, which are scanned and then inked and shaded in Manga Studio.

Black and white illustration of a superhero facing off against a villain with a gun; character design by Shane Johnson

Shane continuously revises each of his illustrations over several days, always finding “just one more detail” he wants to perfect. It’s the kind of self-improvement his own favorite comic hero, Spider Man, would applaud. Come check out more of Shane’s character design and heroic artwork here.

 

 

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Nader Khouri turns up the heat on food photography

The Hestan Cue Smart Cooking System in action, food photography by Nader Khouri
The Hestan Cue Smart Cooking System in action

Nader Khouri is well known for his dynamic food photography – and now he’s making pots and pans look fabulous, too. Hestan, a high quality cookware company, contacted Nader last year and they’ve been making beautiful photos together ever since.

The Hestan Cue Pan and app side by side, with scallops sautéing; food photography by Nader Khouri
Nader shoots the Hestan pans and app in use as well as ingredients and final dishes.

The company was prepping to launch their new Hestan Cue Smart Cooking System – a sensor enabled induction burner and sauté pan that connect to your smart device via Bluetooth. “It was a tall order,” says Nader. “They needed 200 recipes photographed for the app, plus ingredient shots – it meant shooting on a weekly basis.”

A hand spritzes lime over shrimp tacos; food photography by Nader Khouri
One of Nader’s 200+ recipe shots for the Hestan Cue App

Nader jumped at the chance to partner with Chef Phil Tessier – former Executive Sous Chef at The French Laundry – and his talented team, shooting amazing recipes in a Napa barn every week. “We make each other look good,” says Nader. “When you know how to use light, you make a chef look good. When you plate food well, the photographer looks good.”

A Nanobond pan on a marble counter surrounded by ingredients including eggs and figs; food photography by Nader Khouri
Nader gets just the right angle to minimize reflection off the pans.

Shooting the pans, however, is a whole different challenge. “They’re so reflective of light,” Nader explains. “I have to be really conscientious or the whole thing turns to a bright, messy reflection. Usually I light for the food and focus on positioning the light. Everything depends on the angle I shoot.”

A hand holds a Nanobond pot, pouring pea soup into a ceramic bowl; food photography by Nader Khouri
Nader has added sister-brand, NanoBond, to his client roster as well.

He must be doing something right. Shortly into his project with Hestan Cue, they introduced him to sister cookware line NanoBond and he’s since done two shoots for them as well. “The second shoot was super exciting because we showcased the kitchen of Chef Corey Lee at his three Michelin-starred restaurant Benu, stocked with NanoBond. Obviously, Chef Corey does his own food styling,” laughs Nader.

Dumplings in a Nanobond pan, surrounded by ingredients on a dark counter; food photography by Nader Khouri
The NanoBond looks even better with Chef Corey Lee’s food in it.

Outside of Hestan, Nader continues to shoot food photography and lifestyle projects, always inspired by his personal mission to promote eating and living well. You can see more of his cravings-worthy work here.

White fish fillet in a white dish, with sauce being poured over it from a small white pitcher; food photography by Nader Khouri
Nader’s inspiration is sharing his passion for eating and living well.

 

 

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For Filip Yip, character design is kid games.

An illustrated boy holds a chocolate drink, smiling; character design by Filip Yip

Over his long, varied career, Filip Yip has truly mastered character design, creating hundreds, even thousands of iconic people, animals and magical creatures for all types of brands. But for all his experience, what gave him the biggest boost of design confidence was becoming a father. “For children’s characters, now at least I know what my kids like. I have a starting point,” he laughs.

A sweet graphic of a tooth fairy for Aquafresh; character design by Filip Yip

A fairy that teaches good dental hygiene to kids, for Aquafresh

Filip has designed characters for all genres and target audiences, but reaching young audiences – and the parents who buy them stuff – has become both a specialty and a special delight for him. “We start by really imagining who this kid is, how old, what she likes to play, does she have siblings, what’s her culture. Sometimes I use a loose line and imperfect proportions to denote childlike behavior. Other times it’s clean lines but vibrant colors,” he says.

A character design series of kids in Halloween costumes for Clif Kids, by Filip Yip
A character design series of kids in Halloween costumes for Clif Kids, by Filip Yip
A character design series of kids in Halloween costumes for Clif Kids, by Filip Yip

A Halloween promotion for Clif Kids called for costumed characters

A recent project for Clif Kids required Filip to interpret limited edition Halloween flavors through the costumes and attitudes of the characters. “We’ve evolved their character design over time,” says Filip. “It’s less polished – more free spirited now.” But a similar assignment for Juicy Juice took the opposite approach with clean lines and bubbly characters and elements, in line with their design strategy and architecture.

Character and package design for a Halloween limited edition package for Juicy Juice, by Filip Yip

Juicy Juice stays true to their bright colors and bubbly shapes.

Sometimes, a character takes on a life of its own. Filip’s character for Frigo cheese provided the basis for the logo and then evolved into an active, fun-loving Cheesehead who’s been spotted playing sports, going to school, and even decorating a Christmas tree.

The Frigo Cheese logo, including the Frigo Cheesehead; character design by Filip Yip

The logo evolved into a character of much greater dimension.

“We developed his whole universe – anatomy, his super powers, his circle of friends – and we express them in different channels. So the more products consumers purchase, the more they learn about him,” says Filip. The launch of the campaign has seen sales track higher, and one of the packaging systems won a national design award.

The Frigo Cheesehead at a school desk, throwing a baseball, dressed as a pirate and waving the American flag; character design by Filip Yip
The Frigo Cheesehead at a school desk, throwing a baseball, dressed as a pirate and waving the American flag; character design by Filip Yip
The Frigo Cheesehead at a school desk, throwing a baseball, dressed as a pirate and waving the American flag; character design by Filip Yip
The Frigo Cheesehead at a school desk, throwing a baseball, dressed as a pirate and waving the American flag; character design by Filip Yip

Filip’s Frigo Cheesehead in action

Filip is trained in both design and advertising, so he can see the big picture goals while executing in detail. For some clients he offers strategic guidance through the creative process, while other clients come in with a strong vision that Filip expertly executes. But his proudest achievement in character design is a young sailor who’s older than Filip himself.

An update of the classic Cracker Jack sailor boy; character design by Filip Yip

An icon since 1896, Filip gave Cracker Jack an update

“Cracker Jack is a beloved mascot – it’s a centuries old icon – and it had only been updated three times before my version. After many explorations and focus groups, the result is the sweet Jack the team and I had in our minds the whole time. I’m quite attached to him. And I secretly gave Bingo, his dog, the essence of two beloved dogs of mine, which makes it all the better,” says Filip.

An illustrated Frankenstein for a Halloween limited edition package for Juicy Juice, by Filip Yip

A very friendly Frankenstein for Juicy Juice

Next up for Filip is a much more grown up venture – assets for a very edgy brand to be released this month. “It’s irreverent, risky, risqué and a lot of fun,” he says. “You’ve got to change things up to stay creative.” Check out more of Filip’s impressive and diverse portfolio here.

 

 

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Food Photographer Viktor Budnik and Retoucher Rachel Kissel go Hawaiian

Three BBQ Brisket Sliders on King’s Hawaiian Rolls, by food photographer Viktor Budnik and Retoucher Rachel Kissel
Brisket sliders for King’s Hawaiian by food photographer Viktor Budik and retoucher Rachel Kissel

When food photographer Viktor Budnik and retoucher Rachel Kissel make a sandwich, their goal is to make you hungry. And that’s a job they don’t take lightly. “For each King’s Hawaiian shoot we have 11 people on set,” Viktor says, “including my producer, my full table top team and food stylist.” Clearly, this isn’t just your average sandwich.

A fried chicken sandwich on a King’s Hawaiian roll, topped with coleslaw, by food photographer Viktor Budnik and Retoucher Rachel Kissel

Fried chicken topped with coleslaw for a King’s Hawaiian summer foods promotion

Each shoot is typically three days and includes shots for print, web, tv tags and motion. But it didn’t start out this way. Viktor’s first assignment for King’s Hawaiian was a one-shot spec shoot suggested by his pal Steve Levit, Creative Director on the account.

A pile of King’s Hawaiian rolls in a rustic wooden bowl, by food photographer Viktor Budnik

The shot that started it all: King’s Hawaiian rolls in a bowl

Viktor’s take on a simple pile of rolls in a wooden bowl he’d found in a Burbank junk store impressed the client so much that two months later Viktor found himself with a 360º assignment – and the need for a talented retoucher.

A BBQ chicken sandwich with pineapple on a King’s Hawaiian bun, by food photographer Viktor Budnik and Retoucher Rachel Kissel

Pineapple, courtesy of Rachel.

“Rachel is amazing,” says Viktor of his retouching partner. “She brings an entirely new element to the assignment.” That’s helpful when, say, you shot the sandwich on a slider roll but now the client wants a sesame bun. Or when you are making sandwiches that need a little extra nudge to look like actual witches…or werewolves.

A pulled pork sandwich on a King’s Hawaiian roll, made to look like a werewolf with cheese fangs and olive eyes, by food photographer Viktor Budnik and Retoucher Rachel Kissel

Werewolves and monsters for a Halloween effort

“I partner with Viktor and the King’s Hawaiian team from start to finish,” says Rachel, who advises which problems are best solved in camera versus in post production. Her toughest challenge yet? “Adding pineapple to a sandwich that wasn’t shot with pineapple– that translucent quality is so tricky to get just right.”

Viktor and Rachel work in both print and video for King’s Hawaiian.

Well, together they must be doing something – or lots of things – right. Viktor and Rachel’s partnership with King’s Hawaiian is three years deep and shows no signs of slowing. “It is such a pleasure to work with them,” says Viktor. “We have a great, amazing team and, come on, those sweet rolls are like crack. You just want to eat the whole pack.”

Burger sliders with BBQ sauce on King’s Hawaiian buns, by food photographer Viktor Budnik and Retoucher Rachel Kissel

Sliders with just the right amount of BBQ sauce