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Drone Chat – Interview with Kenji Croman

kenji croman interview

Learn more about Kenji Croman

kenjiKenji Croman is a professional photographer, based out of Hawaii. He has developed his abilities in aerial, portrait and landscape photography, but he also takes a lot of water-related photos. I stumbled upon his Instagram profile and was immediately caught by the beauty of his shots – all of them are clear, bright and full of amazing colors.

He recently became an ambassador for DJI and their Inspire1 Pro drone and X5 camera. He has also partnered with FLIR and their thermal camera which can be attached to his drone – something which is extremely helpful for search and rescue attempts in Hawaii, which happen so frequently in the islands with missing hikers and swimmers.

Kenji has a huge love for photography and he’s extremely passionate about it. He loves teaching and sharing his knowledge for photogprahy, therefore I recently caught up with him to learn more about his drone journey, gear, favorite shooting locations and more. Have a look below:[/vc_column_text]

How and when did you start flying drones?

I started shooting when the first Phantom 1 came out back in 2013. I was (and still am) a surf photographer and I would go out in big heavy surf with my heavy waterhousing which had my Canon 5D M3, 70-200 F4 IS and a flash housing. It was very heavy, over 10lbs and I would go out in surf that was 25ft and sometimes bigger. One really big session I was shooting at Pipeline and it must have been 25ft and getting bigger, it was scary big and I remember paddling out with one hand because I’m holding the water housing in my other hand and a huge wave came by and hit me hard. It knocked both of my fins off. I can’t tell you how scary it is being out at Pipe when the waves are 25+ft and you are stuck in the rip current with a heavy camera and no fins. You feel helpless and a lot of bad things can happen.

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Luckily I managed to get washed up back at the beach and retrieved my fins where I immediately went back out to shoot. But while I was out there I saw a drone flying above me. I was wondering what it was because I saw one similar a few weeks before at another popular beach I shoot at. When I was walking back to my car I ran into the pilot. He briefly described what the drone was and how it worked, he was using a FPV headset and a gimbal, I thought it was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. I convinced my wife to get me one on my birthday and I was pretty much hooked after that.

Although I did not have the FPV setup, I did manage to install an after market gimbal to the drone. Battery life was very short but I still had a lot of fun with it.

What was your first aerial photography aircraft?

DJI Phantom 1

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What are the best 3 advices you can give to people who’re just getting into Drone photography and want to improve their aerial shots?

  • There are three important components for good aerial photography that I teach my students. The first is the basic understanding of photography and composition. You don’t have to know about all the settings of the camera to understand what a good photo entails. Strong composition is very important and appealing subjects. The second is a basic understanding of post-production. You can take a great shot but if it’s edited incorrectly it ruins the shot. Third and most importantly, good piloting skills. Safety is always number. Learn to fly before trying to capture great images.
  • Be creative and try different things. Find other photographers or artists who inspire you and use that as fuel to boost your own style of photography.
  • Practice, practice, practice. I fly and shoot almost daily. My rule is that if I get one good shot, I’m happy with that.

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Do you think photography experience is a must in drone photography?

No, photography experience is a plus but it’s not necessary for aerial/drone photography. I suggest people learn the basics of photography, composition, lighting, and angles. Once you are comfortable with that, then you can start learning the camera settings. However, I find that so many people get frustrated with photography because they don’t understand f-stop, exposure, shutter speed, ISO, etc… Yes that’s very important but even someone using their iphone can take great shots. Don’t let that discourage you from pursing photography. Those things will come, just start taking photos that inspire you first.

Related: Learn How to Take Stunning Images Using Drones

What’s your favorite shooting location?

I love shooting in Hawaii very much. So many beautiful places to shoot at and the landscape and ocean it’s hard not to be inspired by this place. However, I do love traveling with my drone. I was in Italy for a month shooting along the Amalfi Coast and that was spectacular. The West Coast in the US has some great spots too. I would love to go to some exotic place with my drone where not too many people have been and explore with the drone, that’s my dream. Maybe Iceland as a future destination?

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What gear do you use in the air?

I fly with a couple different cameras. I use the Inspire 1 with the X5 camera and I also use the X3 camera too. I feel the X5 is very good at shooting photography and the X3 gets the job done for the videos that I need, while giving me a longer battery life than the X5 can offer.

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What software do you use?

Adobe LightRoom and Photoshop CS6 for photo editing, Final Cut Pro 7 for video editing.

What’s your editing workflow?

I always, always, always shoot RAW. That’s one of the first things I tell my students, always shoot RAW! Once I get home after my shoot, I transfer my images to LightRoom and edit them after I rate the best out of the batch. Then I’ll export the top images as high res photos into a folder which I backup and keep on hand.

For video, I transfer the footage to my HD, then I use MPEG Streamclip (free software) to convert the footage into quicktime clips with a compression of Apple ProRes 422 while keeping the frame size un-scaled. I’ll then export those clilps into FCP 7 (I dislike Final Cut Pro 10) and I’ll edit my footage and add b-roll and purchase copyright music rights to add into the video.

 What inspires you?

Creative people, Other artists, Future shots that I want to take in different places in the world.

Share your best drone experience!

Ahh.. There are so many! Ok I remember one.. Back in 2014 I was flying my Phantom Vision 3+ in Italy. Back then there were not too many drones in Italy and most people never saw one. So when I started flying along the coastline next to my hotel, a VERY large crowd gathered around me to watch me. I started getting very nervous because I felt the people’s eyes on me and some started speaking Italian to me while I was trying to concentrate. I started sweating because I lost signal momentarily… No one knew it at the time though and I did my best to keep my cool and calmly flew it back and landed it perfectly on a small round table (about 1.5ft in diameter) on the beach. The crowd erupted in applause when I did this. “Bravo, Bravo!!” people were saying. It was quite funny. Later I found out that’s a thing European (or just Italians?) do when you land in a plane. It was a cool experience to say the least.

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Where can my readers find out more of your work?

I’m always updating my website: with my latest work. I also post on Instagram often too:

Give me a shout anytime and thanks for the interview, I’m honored.

I want to say huge thanks to Kenji for making this interview happen. Make sure you follow him on Instagram and Facebook and show him some love!



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Comments (1)

Awesome interview and tips Mihail. Thank you for sharing. Can you also do the interviews ( in the future ) in audio or video.. =) Looking forward for more interviews.

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