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Beginner Drone Photography

Lesson 9 of 26

Pre-flight: Drone Flight Checklist


Beginner Drone Photography

Lesson 9 of 26

Pre-flight: Drone Flight Checklist


Lesson Info

Pre-flight: Drone Flight Checklist

Before you fly - we're starting to wind down here, just a couple more slides. I created this drone flight checklist for you guys, for the community, really, and if you wanna check it out, just go to this URL: and I give you a PDF of this, in color and black and white, and I give you my free presets, if you wanna edit your photos in Lightroom, so those are free if you guys wanna click over there. But you definitely wanna run through some type of checklist. And the big takeaway for you is first, you guys need to think safety first. You need to be aware of the surroundings. I always walk the area, like okay there's a pole here, alright, there's a tree there, okay there's this, and I walk the area - I wanna get comfortable with it, I wanna be familiar with it. And then I always wanna know, where's a good takeoff spot. I'll pick my spot, free of people, making sure it's not in a pathway, and then I always find another spot where I could land, just in case I ca...

n't get to this one, my battery's going way lower than I thought, I have a backup plan, or for whatever reason, there's dogs hanging around where I'm landing, I'm like okay, I have a Plan B. So I'm just being prepared. And then I like to also measure the height of obstacles. So if there's a tree and I'm like that's an obstacle, I take my drone up, and I figure out okay, how tall is that tree, okay it's about 30 feet, I'm gonna stay clear of that area, and I might do 40, right, and now I mentally have a number that I can work with, right So I'm always trying to be aware of my scene. So here's my drone checklist, before you fly. Make sure you're not in a No Fly Zone, check the weather, check your props, look for cracks, make sure your props are on tight. When I'm saying props, I'm referring to propellers. Make sure that your tablet, your screen, is fully charged. Set your brightness all the way up. You can turn off your wifi and your bluetooth, unless you have one of the smaller drones that require that. Make sure you remove your gimbal lock, the thing that keeps the drone nice and stable when you're traveling, take that off. Clean your camera lens, make sure your battery's fully charged and secure, reformat your card, verify your photo and video settings. I say that because I've taken my drone up and I was in JPEG mode, I'm like ugh, come on, right. Check your values - make sure you're set to 400 feet. Calibrate the compass - sorry that got cut off a little bit. Make sure that your drone is connected to GPS before you go off and fly. You'll know because it'll be green, it'll say ready to fly. Confirm your home point, which you'll see that in a video. And then when you take off, always, before you take off, make sure this area is cleared, there's not a little kid that is gonna run in, a dog that's gonna run in, like I always do a full 360 check and then I take off. Be aware, be safe. Hit the record button, so then you don't have to think about it - I've literally filmed stuff, thinking I was recording, and I wasn't, right. And then hover at 10 feet for 20 seconds. So I'll take the drone up, and I'll just kinda hit it left, hit it right, forward, just do a quick thing, make sure everything's working, and then I'll go fly off. Alright, we made it, wow. The first one, that was a lot. Pass over to you, Kenna? Yeah, alright, great, well let's start with our studio audience, if you still had that question. Grab the mic, please. Yeah my question is about the DJI app, and the air map. Does the DJI app stop you at the 400 feet, but does it stop you for other no fly zones or other restrictions? Yeah, yeah great question, for that peace of mind. So let's say my Mavic Air, let's say I opened it, I got it like eight months ago, and I haven't updated it since, it's only gonna have the information from eight months ago, so it's not gonna be up to date if I didn't update anything. So if you're always on the updates, there's a chance, but the reason why I love to recommend the apps is 'cause it's up to date immediately. So if right now, for whatever reason, President had to fly into Seattle, right. The FAA is gonna let everybody know about the air space around Seattle being locked down, and we can open the app and be like oh, I'm not gonna be able to fly here, right. But if you didn't do any updates to your drone, it's not gonna know that - it's too recent, right. So for obvious things, you're not gonna be able to fly at Disneyland, it already knows that. You're not gonna be able to fly around Disneyland. It's not gonna let you take off, right. But for those things that pop up, you need to do your own due diligence. So I'm always, I'm relying on my apps, or the website, yeah. Great question. Rose? Okay. Part of doing due diligence, have you found that any areas or any places are starting to have permits for special drone photography, to allow it? It's a good question. My experience, I haven't really come across that yet, no. I do wonder if there's gonna be more of that, like maybe it's just a dream, but I wonder if the National Parks may one day be like hey, one day a month, we'll let people apply and five people can apply. I have no idea, but that would be really cool, right. But maybe there might be more stuff like that. Like I imagine that, you know, things get locked down, and we're like alright, and then hopefully they'll start to be like okay, let's figure this out with people that are responsible, you know, have a little give, have a little take, that's at least my hope, opposed to just like, we're not gonna be able to fly anywhere, right, so I can't really speak to that yet, but I could see that being a thing in the future, yeah. Alright, and last question, great, thanks. If you're doing commercial work, and you're working with a team, does everyone in the team need to have a license, or is it just, can it be with a company, or is it just with the pilot? Yeah so, the person, if you're touching those sticks, and you're flying the drone, you need to be licensed, yes. If, for instance, I have an assistant, I have a spotter, and he's just helping me out, looking to make sure that I'm not hitting obstacles, keeping me mindful of my battery flight, and all that, nah, he doesn't need to be worried about it. But as soon as he, I hand him the controller, he better be licensed, yeah. So soon as he starts controlling that drone, yeah.

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.