Skip to main content

Beginner Drone Photography

Lesson 10 of 26

How to Fly Overview: Take off, Hover & Land


Beginner Drone Photography

Lesson 10 of 26

How to Fly Overview: Take off, Hover & Land


Lesson Info

How to Fly Overview: Take off, Hover & Land

We went out and we filmed out, probably about 45 minutes away, in a beautiful spot, took the drone up, did some flying exercises. We even have a drone angle to show you so pretty excited to show you some of this footage. The main take-away here is to get comfortable with flying, and if you guys understand how the sticks work, and you feel good with how the pressure is when you go forward on the right stick and you watch the drone move forward and that feels comfortable to you, then you should eventually be able to eventually face the other way and do it, and it all starts to become second nature, and that's really the goal. So you have to practice, you have to put in the work, but I'm giving you guys some goals to aim for, that's really my mission today. So how to fly. Really, just real quick, I wanna talk about a couple drone terms that you might hear me reference. But these really come back from the fixed aircraft days where they had some terms to denote certain movements of the airc...

raft, and they have been brought over into the drone world, so they still apply. So I've created this little graphic for you and it basically is to break down what the left stick means and what the right stick means. And in the videos I will refer to the left stick and the right stick, just to make it simple, but let's start with the throttle. The throttle on the left stick, when you go forward, with that, that's actually causing the drone to rise up, to ascend, and when you go down with it, the drone descends. And that's gonna feel really comfortable because you're gonna be like up is up, down is down. That's pretty straightforward. On that same stick though, the left and right is gonna be our yaw, so that's the fancy word that you need to learn today is yaw. And what that does is that rotates the drone around either clockwise or counter clockwise. So your drone can actually twist around, twist around, and yaw controls that, you're doing that with the left stick. On the right stick, we have pitch, and that controls the drone moving forward, which that'll feel really natural. It's forward, up, up forward, that's gonna feel really easy. Back, down. Down's gonna go back, so that should be fairly comfortable. Roll though, this is different than yaw, so if yaw twists the drone around, the roll will actually make the drone go to the side. So you can go left and right to the side. So once you start to understand those movements and you get comfortable with it, you're not gonna be like all right, right stick, left stick. You're not gonna be doing that. You're just gonna be like, you're just gonna be doing this and it's gonna feel really easy. Now the trick is I encourage you guys to always look forward, meaning that if the drone's facing this way, you're looking this way. So that your left is the drone's left and your right is the drone's right, then it's much easier. But if you think some of these exercises are easy, maybe you've done some flying a little bit, you're a little comfortable with it, I then either encourage you to try it like, turn to the side, try a different angle, and now go forward, turn, all those things. Sometimes I'm flying and my drone's just way behind me, but I'm still going like this, and probably looking at my screen, right? But the point is, is you want flying to be second nature. You want to be comfortable with it and for those of you that are afraid, you're like, oh I don't wanna crash, I don't want my drone to hit a tree. All those fears, it's because you need to get comfortable with flying, so you have to practice, right. So the first thing that I'm gonna show you is how to take off, how to hover, and how to land, and I will let you know that if you have a DJI drone, there are built in features where you can just hit a button and be like, take off, and that's pretty cool. And you can be like, land, and it just lands, and that's awesome, didn't have that in 2014. That did not exist, so it's really cool. But it's still very important that you learn how to do this manually so I'm gonna show you how to do it manually, okay. So there's the automatic way and there's the manual way, and we'll just play the first video. It looks like I put this screen up too, because I'm also gonna show you guys how to calibrate your compass. I'm gonna show you how to turn on your drone and how to turn on your remote controller and just so you guys know, I do have a special hookup here coming out of the HDMI port and this is just recording my screen so that you guys can see exactly what I'm seeing here on my screen. So I'm gonna come down to the drone and right here where this battery is, there's this button, I'm gonna push this once, and then push it again and hold. Wait 'til it boots up, and then I'm gonna step away. And I'm gonna let this boot up right now, it's gonna probably take 30 seconds to 60 seconds or so. And while it's doing that I'm gonna also turn on my remote controller, and I'm gonna do the same thing, I'm gonna push it once and then hold, and it boots up. The screen's gonna take a minute to come online. And sometimes you might get a popup letting you know, hey there's some new software to download. You can go ahead and do that once you have a wifi connection, so obviously I'm out here in Washington in the middle of nowhere not close to any signal. So I'm just gonna hit wait to download and I'll do that when I get back home. I'm now going to enter into the DJI Go app. So this is the home screen for my particular set up, if you have your own smartphone, an Android, an iPhone, a tablet, it'll look slightly different but it's gonna have this same button that says Go Fly and that's entering inside the DJI Go app you're now gonna then see what the camera sees. Every now and then I do get a popup with this menu setting. I'm gonna actually exit out of it first and then now I'm seeing what the camera is seeing. So if you wait about 60 seconds or so you will then be giving the drone time to acquire signal from all the GPS satellites in space. And that's important because your drone will hover in place if it's connected to a GPS signal. So the more satellites your drone's connected to, the stronger the signal is. So I can find that right up here in the top portion of my screen, right next to the satellites, it's gonna have a bar readout and obviously the more bars the more GPS satellites I'm connected to. So what I'm gonna do before I even start to fly is I'm gonna calibrate the compass, and this is important because your drone's compass determines which way is North, which way is South, which way is West, which way is East. Once it knows those things, it can then determine how to keep the drone in place because it's using GPS coordinates. So we wanna make sure those are dialed in. So some people do this when they fly every single time, I personally do it when I'm flying at a new location. So I've come from Southern California all the way up here to Washington, so I'm absolutely going to calibrate my compass and make sure everything's right. So what I'm gonna do to get to the compass calibration settings, is I'm gonna come over here to the top right hand side of my screen where the three dots are, and then gonna go to the aircraft tab. I'm gonna scroll all the way down 'til I get to advanced settings. I'll click that and then I'm gonna go right here to Sensors State. And then right in here you're gonna see a tab for IMU and then for compass. So here is my compass setting and I have green lines, so looks like it's happy, but I'm gonna come right here to the calibrate compass. It now gives me a popup showing me exactly what I need to do so I'm gonna show you how to do that. I'm gonna follow instructions, it says rotate your aircraft 360 degrees horizontally. Pick up the drone, rotate it. Wait for the screen to change and then I'll set it down. And now it's asking me to turn the drone on its side, and then to rotate it. So now that we've calibrated the compass we can now start up our drone. The first thing I just wanna make sure you guys are aware of is you always wanna make sure you're clear of any obstacles, that could be a little kid playing off to the side, that could be a dog that might try to run through the scene. That could be something overhead, like wires or a lamppost, something like that. So my area is very clear so I feel comfortable with now taking off. The way that I'm gonna do that is, I'm going to bring the two sticks, the right stick and the left stick down into the center and once I do that the propellers will start up and then it'll wait for my next input. Once I'm ready I will then give it some throttle with the left stick and as I move up on the left stick the drone will go up in the air, it'll start to ascend. So I'm gonna do that now, I'm gonna bring the two sticks down into the center. Let go. And now it's waiting for my next input. So with the left stick I'm gonna take the throttle up. (drone whirring) So I'm gonna raise the drone up maybe about 10 feet and that's just to make sure that if someone were to walk through it obviously wouldn't hit them. Now the drone's in the air and you might think, oh to get the drone to turn off, you're gonna do the same thing, bring it down into the center. But no that's actually not right, we actually wanna lower the drone. So to go up in the air, we push this left stick up. What I'm gonna do is push the left stick down, and it's just smooth, just a little bit of movement on that and I'm just lowering it and I'll let go for this moment just so you can see I'm pretty close to the ground and then I'm just gonna guide it down with the left stick, a little bit more, and then once I hit my landing pad I'll go all the way down with the left stick. So I didn't touch this right stick at all. You may think it's like, oh just do it backwards, the way you turn it on, that's not right, that's actually how I did my first crash, so don't do what I did. To bring it lower all you need to do is focus on this left stick right here. So I just showed you how to take off and how to land manually, and I think it's really important that you practice that, you wanna be comfortable with that. But DJI does have some smart features built in and I can auto take-off and I can auto-land which is pretty cool. But again I think you should learn how to do it yourself first. So to do the auto feature I'm gonna take off by clicking this left button right here with the up arrow, and before it takes off it just asks me, are you sure that it's safe to take off. And I'm gonna look around, I'm gonna confirm yes it's safe to take off. And then I will then slide that slider all the way to the right. And it's gonna take off, it's maybe about four feet up in the air. Again I wanna be a little higher, just in case something were to run into the scene they're not gonna get hit. And the reason why I let it hover, again, just for a few moments is just to make sure that it's not squirmy, there's not some interference that it's just gonna fly off and hit something. I'm making sure that the drone is stable, and once it's stable, I know oh I can go fly, I could take off, I could go really high in the air or something like that. So now let's just bring it down automatically with the auto mode. So right where that auto take off button is, now there's a down arrow and that means auto land, so I'm gonna push that and it's gonna ask me, are you sure you wanna land the aircraft. I'll do one last check, there's no dogs, there's no kids, it's safe, I will then hit okay. The drone's starting to land on its own. And I didn't touch any sticks, you guys just saw me touch a button, so this is pretty impressive. So again that's a feature for you guys if you wanna do the auto mode for taking off and for landing. Awesome, so hopefully that makes a little more sense with that whole compass calibration thing. Some people do that every time they fly, I personally don't do that. I just do it when I change locations. But we call that the calibration dance and you look like a nerd doing it. But it's really important right, you like to use those GPS features like having the drone hover, having it know where home is. You gotta calibrate that compass, right? So another feature that I wanna point out to you is the return to home, RTH. On the Mavic, the Mavics, the return to home is on the opposite side of the power button, it's right here. You can push this, and the drone will automatically come back to where it took off. So it records where it took off. It's the home point. On the Phantom Inspire, the button's right here. And just so you know there is the difference between auto land and return to home. The auto land is, it's gonna land wherever you push that. Important to know that, right? Return to home means, wherever it is, it's gonna come all the way back to where it's at. Now an important setting in the return to home feature is to make sure that you're aware of how tall are the obstacles near you. So you can, if you're gonna utilize that feature, before you take off, be like, all right these trees are about 40 feet. Set in your return to home feature something greater than 40 feet because what the drone does is it shoots up in the air really high and then it follows a path and then it comes right over the home point and it lands. So you just wanna make sure that in that setting you adjust it accordingly. Another feature that's handy though, is if you do have obstacle avoidance on, it'll sense those obstacles, right, but I personally, I don't rely on obstacle avoidance anymore. I've had too many issues, right? That drone, the Mavic hitting the wall. The Mavic falls and the gimbal's broken. It's like I need to be aware first and obstacle avoidance is always like a second backup. That's how I treat that feature.

Class Description


  • Confidently fly a drone
  • Understand basic legal requirements
  • Execute simple to intermediate drone maneuvers
  • Adjust settings for aerial photography
  • Simultaneously adjust the drone and the camera
  • Use drones to capture a variety of still and video perspectives
  • Edit aerial photography and aerial videography


Sure, drone photography looks just like playing a video game, but controlling an unmanned aerial vehicle while simultaneously working a camera takes essential know-how and practiced skills. Take off with confidence and capture aerial photography and videography at angles you never thought possible. In this beginner's class, learn essentials like safe drone flight, essential photography settings, and basic post-processing.

Work with award-winning aerial photographer Dirk Dallas as you learn to control your drone. Whether your drone is collecting dust or you've just opened the box, this class provides the essentials to fall in love with drone photography and videography. From legal restrictions to selecting and operating a drone and accessories, this class covers all the basics of aerial photography with a drone.

Explore a drone's controls, then learn exercises to help hone your flight skills. Flag potential legal restrictions in the United States. Learn settings and tips for capturing great aerial photography, then incorporate motion with video. Finally, work in image processing and video editing to fine-tune your captures. Whether you want to capture aerial images for real estate, environmental studies, commercial advertising, independent movie production, land-use planning or simply creative photography, start flying with confidence.


  • Any user new to drone flight
  • Photographers looking to expand to aerial photography
  • Videographers eager to add a new angle with drones
  • Drone newbies that want to learn new moves and tricks


FAA licensed drone pilot Dirk Dallas uses drones to capture new angles in his commercial photography and filmmaking. Also a speaker and professor, Dirk is the founder of and the host of the AdoramaTV series From Where I Drone With Dirk Dallas. Along with his creative work, he enjoys teaching and inspiring new drone pilots.


  1. Class Introduction

    Meet your instructor and find inspiration from amazing sample aerial imagery with an eagle's eye view.

  2. How Dirk Got Started With Drones

    Learn how a hobby flying RC helicopters and a newfound passion for photographer merged into a love for drone photography. Dig into the brief history of aerial photography with drone technology and see how UAVs have changed from simple tools to essentials for aerial photographers.

  3. What is a Drone?

    Before diving into aerial photography with a drone, what exactly is a drone? Learn drone basics, as well as other terms frequently used for drones like UAS, UAV, and quadcopters. Explore the different types of camera drones available, many with the best camera built right in. Walk through the different drone options from the biggest drone manufacturer, DJI.

  4. Registering Your Drone

    Aerial photography with a drone has several legal restrictions. The first step is making sure to register your drone with the FAA. Walk through the simple, inexpensive act of registering and learn to avoid scams. This lesson covers registry in the United States.

  5. Drone Terminology

    Like learning photography, aerial drone photography comes with a long list of new terminology. Dig into aerial photography jargon and learn the tools of the trade. Pick up terms like gimbal, GPS and propellers.

  6. DJI Go App

    Controlling your drone starts with an app, a controller, or both. Learn the basics of DJI's Go App and decipher what all those symbols on the screen mean. Navigate the app and get started controlling a DJI drone using the DJI Go App.

  7. FAA Drone Rules

    Aerial photography requires responsible flying. In this lesson, learn the essential FAA rules to understand before you fly. Determine No Fly Zones and avoid collisions with other drones with air traffic rules.

  8. Apps for Flying Drones

    Find all the data you need to fly a drone daunting? Apps can help simplify drone flight. Learn about apps that tell you where you can fly, the flying weather predictions, visibility conditions, drone news, and more.

  9. Pre-flight: Drone Flight Checklist

    Prep for the flight to ensure a safe, successful aerial photography shoot. Go through a checklist to make sure the area is safe and your drone is ready to fly. Make a plan for the flight -- and a backup plan.

  10. How to Fly Overview: Take off, Hover & Land

    Begin learning to fly with this overview. Cover the different drone controller controls. Practice with exercises designed to help you make drone flight feel like second nature. Learn automatic and manual methods for taking off and landing with in-field demonstrations.

  11. Straight Line & The Simple Box

    Continue honing your flight skills with exercises and skills for flight paths. Learn how to fly straight and how to fly in a simple box shape using just one stick on the controller.

  12. The 180 & The Box With Yaw

    Add in the second control stick and learn how to turn your drone around completely, called "yawing." Then, fly in a box shape with a yaw turn. Learn tricks to working with the controls like flipping the controls when the drone flips.

  13. Drawing Shapes

    Expand your drone flight exercises with additional advanced tasks to further build your flight skills. Fly in diagonals, then use both controls simultaneously to fly in a perfect circle. When you've mastered those shapes, try the figure eight exercise and orbiting.

  14. Q&A

    Find answers to the most frequently asked questions on drone flight. Students like you pose questions during the live class, while Dirk digs in and explains.

  15. DJI Intelligent Flight Modes

    DJI builds several different intelligent flight modes into their drones that allow for different flying techniques using remote sensing systems. Learn the different main flight mode options, what route they fly, and how to use the different available options. Master tricks like controlling the drone with gestures, "follow me" mode, and preset flight paths.

  16. DJI Go App: Photo Settings

    Now that you're comfortable using a controller and app to fly, what about that aerial camera? Get started on capturing digital imagery with your drone by learning the different settings. Learn how to turn the camera off auto, as well as how to manually adjust aperture, shutter speed, and aperture. Adjust settings like burst mode, bracketing, white balance, and RAW shooting. Master focus options to get a sharp, high-quality image.

  17. Tips for Capturing Drone Photos

    The perspective of aerial photography is unique -- but impressive aerial imagery is about more than just perspective. In this lesson, gain some essential aerial photography tips, like why you may want to use a low altitude instead of a high one. Learn to work with instead of against the sunshine. Consider composition and height and other aspects for the best drone photography.

  18. Creating Panoramas

    Aerial photography isn't limited to a standard aspect ratio. In this lesson, learn how to import images into Lightroom. Then, build a panorama from several overlapping aerial photos using the same software.

  19. Post Processing for Drone Photography

    Like shooting with two feet on the ground, aerial photography can often be improved with a bit of editing. Walk through the process of adjusting images inside Lightroom. Work with exposure, adding style, and color correction.

  20. DJI Go App: Video Settings

    Step from aerial photography into aerial video. Get started with drone video with the DJI Go app settings for video in a live demonstration. Learn essentials like resolution, frame rate, and shutter speed.

  21. Accessories

    Drone accessories can make flights easier and improve the quality of photos and video. Learn the ins and outs of different drone photography accessories, including landing pads, batteries, hoods, and ND filters. Explore what each one does, which ones are essential, and what's just optional.

  22. Tips for Capturing Drone Video

    Build on your aerial video capabilities with video tips for drones. With the added dimension of time, add in effects like fly over moves. Learn ways to create more dynamic video from a drone in this lesson, as well as tips to expand simply by doing more exploring.

  23. Camera Moves

    Add drama to aerial video by recording while doing cool drone moves. Learn the camera movement that's possible with aerial video using a UAV. Integrate tricks like slowly revealing the subject, using a top-down bird's-eye-view, playing with altitude, circling a subject and more to create a more dynamic video.

  24. Post Processing For Videography

    Video editing is quite different from editing still photos. Work With Adobe Premiere Pro for a few basic video edits, including importing video, then working with cropping and motion effects.

  25. Simple Color Correction For Footage

    Like with still photos, drone videos can benefit from color adjustments. Learn how to use the Lumetri Color tools inside Premiere Pro to correct colors or add style or drama through color correction.

  26. Adding Music & SFX

    Finish the class by learning to add music and sound effects to aerial footage -- since the sound of a buzzing drone isn't exactly pleasant to listen to, if your drone records audio at all. Work with basic audio in Adobe Premiere Pro. Learn how to add and adjust audio. Then, gain some final input on drone photography and videography with a brief Q&A.



Dirk really did a nice job taking new students thru exercises to gain confidence. The work in Lightroom and Photoshop was helpful, but I wish more time could have been focused on flying or tips. Dirk has presets that he offers. It would have been helpful to see the results using those presets. Looking forward to the free which Drone to buy class and the advanced class


I definitely recommend this course if you are thinking about getting into drone photography looking for the fundamentals. I now feel pretty confident I can get started and that my learning curve will be greatly shortened thanks to the technology available today and a great roadmap of getting started. If you are already started... follow up with his advanced topics... I know I will.


Super class. As a beginner I had little idea what to expect and never got started because of all the talk of people crashing drones right and left and losing a fortune. Dallas made it seem simple. So I bought a Tello beginners drone (great starter by the way), got hooked and am now flying a DJI Mavic Pro 2 and studying for a commercial license. Not sure, this is a great class to start with.