Based in Southern California, Emily is an award-winning photographer and videographer who specializes in landscape, aerial, and portrait work for her clients. Early in her career, she focused primarily on portraiture and wedding photography, but it was through her commercial real estate clientele that she fell in love with flying drones. Now she lives for the thrill of capturing images that would otherwise be missed by the human eye, and the countless hours of concentration involved to edit them to perfection. From a bird’s eye view, Emily believes anything is possible. With a focus on composition, colors, and contrast, Emily’s unique aerial videos and stills have caught the attention of industry influencers.
With a BFA in Portraiture from the Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, Emily relies on her classic training and technical education as a foundation to capture images that are not only visually stunning, but also emotionally captivating. By balancing her formal education with an authentic passion for storytelling, Emily’s work has been regarded for its dynamic range, unusual use of color, and sharp clarity. Currently residing in Newport Beach, CA, Emily loves the outdoors and embraces opportunities for travel and adventure with her Phantom 4 Pro, but will always remain especially grateful to call Southern California home. You can find more of her work at her website.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into drones.
I’m Emily Kaszton, a certified drone nerd and content driven creative. I grew up in the heart of Orange County, about 20 minutes inland from the beach. I grew up around cameras, so that part was easy. When I was a kid, my dad always had a camera or video camera attached to his hand; so naturally, I started using them. I was always making videos and taking photos for fun. I was obsessed with the visual storytelling, but I had to try a few different things before the right passion stuck.
My brother-in-law works in commercial real estate, so he suggested I purchase a drone because he had seen a lot of photographers using them in his line of work. So I bought my first drone; and the minute that it lifted off, I knew that I had found something special. Getting good at it took a lot of practice. But I loved it, so it never felt like work.
What’s your day to day like? How do you generate new ideas or plan out your next shoot?
Each day is never the same. I am typically up and out the door by 6:30am, either shooting content for myself or flying for a client. I like to plan out my shots in advance, so I’ll location scout spots to see what time of day is best to fly. I have to pay attention to not only weather reports, but also surf reports if I’m flying over surfers. As for generating new ideas, I tend to have my best ideas in the shower, or when I’m out on a hike in nature. It forces me to disconnect and visualize something entirely new to develop my style. I feel very connected to nature, so I find that it inspires some of my best work.
What’s it like working with drones? Have any stories you tell folks about wild and wacky thing that happened while trying to capture aerial images?
It’s exhilarating and I love every single second of my little dude being up in the air. It’s not a wacky and wild story, but I did dive in the ocean for my drone with my clothes on. I was flying over a bride a groom in St. John, a few days prior to their wedding. As they splashed in the water, I did a slow pan back to reveal the location, but my drone decided to take a swim instead. I jumped in after it, clothes and all. Thankfully the groom found it. That’s the day I realized how important it is to always have a backup drone.
Who are some of you favorite creators these days?
I’m a huge fan of Jay Daley, Peter McKinnon and Chris Burkard. There’s something about their work that pulls me in and inspires me to better my craft. Jay has unique aerial shots that are executed with intention, and his colors are mesmerizing.
I’d also like to one day have a YouTube channel like Peter’s. His work is great and he has inspired me to go the educational route to help other creatives better their own craft based on my workflow. I’ve just started my own YouTube channel, but I know that I still have a lot to learn in that realm. I also just dig his weirdness.
I’ve always been a huge fan of Chris Burkard and his work. He’s authentic and I admire his willingness to give back to others. I had the opportunity to meet him at one of his shows last weekend, and it was a mind blowing experience because he recognized my work. It’s such a shock when someone you admire is aware of your work, because you almost forget that your work is out there for everyone to see. Instagram is a great outlet for making these type of connections. Humans are drawn to visuals and prefer to interpret information through sight. Having an online presence is a necessity for successful businesses, and Instagram allows business owners to share who they are.
Where do you see platforms like Instagram heading in the future? What role will drones, stablizers, or other technology play?
Drone technology has advanced tremendously in a short period of time and I believe that it will be instrumental in all fields of work. I can’t pretend that I’m an old timer with a decade of experience flying drones, but it’s obvious that drones are on the brink of everything and I look forward to getting my hands on the newest tools out there. I’m excited to see what these new underwater drones discover, for example. The possibilities are endless.
Kaszton will be speaking at Photocon in June, 2018. You can find more information and sign up for the event here.