top of page

The Kandid Kush Perspective


Kandid Kush
Cherry Moon Cultivated by Moonmade Farms


Perspective is everything. The way we perceive our reality shapes our understanding of everything around us. That understanding is influenced by what we are taught and what we see in an increasingly digital world.

People trapped in their own perspective stay quick to judge and slow to change their minds—hardened in their opinions and the stigmas attached to their beliefs. For their perspective to shift there has to be a spark capable of challenging them to reevaluate what they thought they understood.

This is especially true for cannabis. Even as most of the country moves forward with legalization, the stigma attached to the plant from decades of prohibition and miseducation remains strong. Just look around as a cannabis consumer and you can be reminded that you’re not welcome. In places where the laws haven’t caught up, you could still end up in jail for using herb as medicine—but even in legal markets you can find the more subtle reminders of how far we have to go to normalize cannabis use in society.

While we may never be able to rid the world completely of the lazy stoner stereotype, what is the best way to challenge society’s perspective of cannabis? The easiest way might be to just hand somebody a joint, but for the uninitiated who are keeping the stigma alive maybe you can break down the barrier by showcasing cannabis through a different lens first.

Kandid Kush
Pineapple Wonder Cultivated by Moonmade Farms

That’s the goal of photographer Chris “Kandid Kush” Romaine—to help rid the stigma through the beauty of his photography. Changing the perception of cannabis by putting the beauty of the plant on display and representing the experience of herb across different cultures—from the farmer to the trichome head.

His work stays true to nature—capturing living plants in a moment that can never be shot again. Images that provide a new depth of understanding to farmers who have had their hands in the soil for decades by exposing the world to the wonder of the cannabis plant beyond what the naked eye can see.

Kandid Kush
Pollen Dust from a Male CBG Plant Captured at Emerald Spirit Botanicals

Chris has been developing his artistry for years and his journey towards photographing cannabis professionally was anything but straightforward. Before he was helping introduce the world to the cannabis micro-verse, he started by just carrying a camera. Back then it was a disposable point and shoot, taking pictures at punk rock shows and house parties in high school to capture moments in time.

The gear has changed a little bit since then, but that principle remains central to his work. The camera has never left his side, from first learning to shoot on film in high school, to his days shooting model photography after buying his first DSLR while he worked in nightclubs in Las Vegas, to street photography in the Bay Area, to a 20x stack of a trichome head taken with a microscopic objective lens. 

Kandid Kush
Moonmade Farms Flower

Chris’ story is of a life well-traveled, recognizing opportunity when it presents itself and being unafraid to step outside of his comfort zone to find a path worth exploring.

He always wanted that path to be centered around photography but struggled for years to find his niche. That discovery came when he left Las Vegas and moved to San Diego in 2015, where weed was medically legal under Prop 215. He got his medical card from HelloMD (in a full-circle moment, Chris would later go on to photograph HelloMD co-founder Pamela Hadfield in 2019 for his first magazine cover for Dope Magazine) and went on to Weedmaps to get some bud.

When he checked out the menu, he saw images closer to looking like bugs than high-grade medical cannabis, “I knew at that exact moment there was a huge opportunity waiting for me. I was a weed smoking photographer for nearly a decade prior to this moment. I’d been searching for my niche and there it was, right in front of me in the form of an awful Weedmaps menu.”

Dope Magazine Kandid Kush
Kandid Kush 2019 Dope Magazine Cover

His discovery of a niche also meant the discovery of a new subject. Cannabis had been a part of Chris’ life since his early 20’s and photography had been his passion for over a decade, but he never combined the two.

Since it was best to avoid incriminating yourself with photographic evidence in the legacy market, most people only had access to the view of the nugs they got in their hand. Once you put it under the lens of a camera, you can start to get a closer look, but the depth of field creates a challenge to get everything in focus.

That’s exactly what Chris saw his first time attempting to take weed pics, “I had this hundred millimeter lens that I used for portraiture, but it said macro on it, and I had Studio lighting and so I just put the nugs on a table and was trying to get pictures of it, but I couldn't quite get it all in focus and I didn't really understand what the issues were with the depth of field or have the technical knowledge of what focus stacking was.”

Used in astrophotography, insect photography, landscapes or any other scene that has limitations in depth of field, focus stacking is an essential tool to taking professional quality images of cannabis and fully capturing the essence of the plant. To put it simply, focus stacking is a technique where the photographer takes an individual frame at different focal lengths and then combines the frames together to create a single image in complete focus.

Chris described the technique as, “precisely capturing different focal points in a linear sense,” and while other photographers’ definition of the word precision may vary to his, so will their results.

Kandid Kush
Chasing Unicorns 20x Stack Cultivated by Green Life Productions

Chris takes the trichome stacks you see now on a mechanical rail that allows him to move the camera at one tenth of a micron to capture each frame—for reference, the average human hair is a hundred microns thick. Depending on the plant, the finished photographs can range anywhere from a stack of 200 individual frames to a stack of 1200 frames all captured at different focal points. 

Getting the technique of capturing the image down is just the start though. With the stacked compositions, hours of studio time create even longer hours in the editing room to get the right image. Nail both sides and the technical expertise and precision will leave the observer wondering what they are looking at and how the artist captured something so far beyond what we can see. Chris now has that process dialed in but all that did not happen overnight. 

Years before his photographs were featured on the cover of High Times, Chris had to dive into learning focus stacking and honing his craft with the goal of simply getting a nug in full focus—let alone trying to capture a trichome. When he started in San Diego, he took inspiration from photos taken by Erik “Nugshots” Christiansen in Green: A Field Guide to Marijuana (the two are now friends and it turns out they lived one mile away from each other in San Diego) and insect photography. Eight years on and some obstacles later his hustle and commitment hasn’t wavered, yielding the results you see now. 

Kandid Kush
Portrait of Sunrise Flower Cultivated by Fig Farms

A year into the journey, Chris was frustrated by only getting paid in free bud and constantly being told that the weed sells itself from prospective clients in San Diego when he had a profound experience that caused him to lean all the way into pursuing cannabis photography and take off for the Bay Area.

“I participated in a Ayahuasca ceremony in Peru and when I got back in a matter of five days, I was evicted, suspended from work, lost my health insurance, tested positive for Salmonella poisoning, and had my car totaled by an uninsured motorist. I had a mental breakdown like, ‘what am I going to do’? The next day I was walking barefoot to a secluded beach in the Sunset Cliffs area, and I was cursing aloud like, ‘what next?' and I kicked a rock and broke my toe. I was like okay, I guess I'm going to stop questioning things. I have a good feeling about the weed photography. I think it’s going to leave a large impact, and the Bay Area seemed to be the mecca of cannabis at the time, so I moved to Oakland on a whim a few weeks later.”

Kandid Kush
Peru captured in 2015
Kandid Kush
Rainbow Mountains Captured in Peru in 2015

In Oakland, Chris hit the grind. He had worked in food and beverage for over a decade, so he got a job at a nightclub and as a bartender at a brewery to help stay afloat financially in the bay before he eventually landed a part time menu photographer position at a dispensary called Garden of Eden.

“It took about three or four different interviews for the job, and then for the final test they tossed me a bunch of Sherbinskis weed. It was in the orange container with the writing and at that time I had never really even seen brands before, and they're like, ‘we want to see trichome pictures.’ And I was like, yeah, I could do that. But in reality, I had no idea how. I was pretty lost, but I ended up researching insect photography and renting a Canon 65 MPE [he uses the same kind of lens today] and using the manual focus stacking rail I had. I got it to look good enough for them and they were pumped, and I got hired.”

Kandid Kush

Chris went on to work at Garden of Eden for over three years while the California rec market was coming online. During his time there he rose from part-time menu photographer to the Director of Photography overlooking all of the brands, menu photography, corporate portraiture, and marketing campaigns for the vertically integrated operation. 

Through those years he hustled on the side, shooting part-time for Weedmaps and getting opportunities for freelance work with Dope Magazine after winning a photo contest. His photography continued to open doors and allow him to develop relationships with legacy California brands moving into the rec market like Fig Farms, Pistol Point, IC Collective, 710 Labs, Sherbinskis, and Gold Seal.

Kandid Kush
Green Source Gardens

On paper, this position looks like an artist’s dream. A six-figure salary, part of a creative team, and stability with consistent work as a full-time professional cannabis photographer but Chris said that after three years in the role, something was missing.

“It seemed like all I was doing was working and I was losing the passion for photography because of that, and I struggled with that feeling. This is the goal, right? This is what creatives or artists strive to be so what is this conflict within me? But ultimately it was that I wasn't creating for myself. I had trouble receiving criticism in certain ways, sitting at a board table with 12 other people and hearing that the work sucks without any reason. I wasn’t at the point in my creative journey where I could just hear that, I was too attached to the work, and being attached to the work you are creating for someone else is a slippery slope. So, I decided to spearhead Kandid Kush photography on my own.”

Kandid Kush
Garlic Cookies Hash by Papa's Select

So, in late 2018 he gave 30 days' notice and moved on to the next challenge—opening a photography studio in West Oakland with a fellow photographer. They worked together for roughly a year, getting retainer clients, and shot the 2019 harvest season in Mendocino and Humboldt. In late 2019, Chris got invited to do a photo exhibit in Barcelona and traveled Europe for a month. Shortly after he returned the two decided to part ways. Chris kept the studio going on his own from there before 2020 came and the pandemic hit.

Burdened by the cost of living in the Bay Area— “my breakeven point was $7,000 a month” —and feeling cooped up with no work during the lockdown, he pivoted again and took the studio remote. He’s been living a nomadic life in his decked-out Dodge ProMaster van since then, traveling the country and the world to shoot different cannabis farms and anything else that catches his eye.

Kandid Kush Remote Studio

He keeps the camera ready, documenting his travels and showcasing life from his own perspective, grounding the micro world back into our reality by juxtaposing studio macro and micro cannabis imagery with his film photography, street photography, or landscape photographs. All subjects seemingly mimicking one another. 

The result is an expression that highlights a shared connection with the plant, influenced by nature and the world as its captured through his lens, “My ability to share my photography with people is visually how I express myself and that's how I am able to communicate where maybe I can’t find the words to say certain things. But I know this picture can and maybe it's the macro photography, or maybe it was some of my film work or my street photography but building that collection of images together where I try to say something is my outlet and my expression.”

Kandid Kush
Ben From Esensia Gardens (Double Exposure Captured on Film)

As Chris’ artistry has evolved, so has the cannabis industry. He got his start shooting dried flower but has made the switch to almost exclusively capturing live plants at the farm.

Taking photographs at pheno-hunts deep in the hills of Humboldt or capturing images for a book in a remote jungle in Jamaica would have been difficult to imagine a decade ago. These locations present their own challenges from a logistical standpoint—imagine trudging through the jungle with all that photography equipment on your back—but as cannabis comes out of the shadows more farmers continue to emerge, ready to tell their story and let others get up close and personal with the plants they dedicate their lives to.

Chris documents farms with a mix of editorial style field photographs and the macro and micro studio work. The field work humanizes the cannabis farmer by showcasing the entire experience from seed to cultivation, before Chris selects the live plant that will get the studio treatment.


The first step in getting that stunning trichome image is picking the right subject. That takes an eye to pick the right plant out of the crowd, and once chosen, it gets packed up in the van and transported back to wherever Chris has set up his on-site studio at the farm for its close up.

Kandid Kush
Portrait of Mimosa Flower Cultivated by No Till Kings

“When you look at things up close or you get up close and personal with something, the fear can be taken away. So many people are afraid of weed for whatever propaganda they've been brainwashed with, and then you look at it up close and you realize that this is such an insanely beautiful thing.”

Kandid Kush
20x Composite of Mimosa Flower Cultivated by No Till Kings

Show the final image to anyone that has never seen a trichome up close and it will draw them in only to leave them guessing what exactly they are looking at—even if it feels familiar. Tell them it’s cannabis and you might see their perspective shift in real time, challenging something they thought they understood.

That moment is what drives Chris to show his work. He publishes images through his Instagram but has faced a never-ending struggle of getting lost in the algorithm, trying to display photographs on a platform that only wants to censor him. It’s been a frustrating saga that anyone in the cannabis industry can relate to. 

The future remains online, but to counter the censorship, Chris takes things outside of the digital realm to connect on a different level. He’s always loved displaying his work through print media and gallery exhibits. This includes limited-edition prints, magazine features, book projects in collaboration with PhD scientists, and a recently launched permanent exhibition inside The House of Cannabis (THC) in New York City titled The Microverse.

The exhibit stands as a testament to his work and years of devotion to capturing the plant. You can see the 12-foot-high wallpaper that adorns his photographs in the museum’s Mezzanine from the corner of Broadway in Soho, then get the chance to admire the complexity and raw beauty of Kandid Kush once you make your way through the museum and enter his exhibit. 

On the opening day of the museum, Chris snuck in fresh off a flight from working in Jamaica to experience it with the crowd. He went in without any expectations, just hoping to catch a glimpse of how people reacted when they saw the plant the way he sees it for the first time. 

Kandid Kush
Rose Petal Flower Cultivated by Esensia Gardens
“Everything in life is about perspective. Photography is about perspective, and I love challenging people's perspectives. You don't have to agree with me. You don't have to like it, and in reality, I'd rather have you be uncomfortable about it because when you're uncomfortable and your perspective is changing, you're going to have questions and conversations that wouldn't have been there otherwise, and that's how progress is made.”

Follow Chris' Journey and see his work @kandidkush on Instagram and purchase a limited-edition Kandid Kush print, printed by Chris himself here.


bottom of page