Drones: Learn Aerial Photography and Videography Basics

Learn how to safely setup and fly a DJI Phantom and configure it for FPV. Learn how to process aerial photos and video.
3.9 (109 ratings)
Instead of using a simple lifetime average, Udemy calculates a
course's star rating by considering a number of different factors
such as the number of ratings, the age of ratings, and the
likelihood of fraudulent ratings.
1,962 students enrolled
Instructed by Mark Richardson Photography / Other
92% off
Take This Course
  • Lectures 54
  • Length 2 hours
  • Skill Level All Levels
  • Languages English
  • Includes Lifetime access
    30 day money back guarantee!
    Available on iOS and Android
    Certificate of Completion
Wishlisted Wishlist

How taking a course works


Find online courses made by experts from around the world.


Take your courses with you and learn anywhere, anytime.


Learn and practice real-world skills and achieve your goals.

About This Course

Published 11/2014 English

Course Description

“Mark covers all the aerial photography topics in this course. Very interesting course over all, and great production quality. If you’ve ever wanted to get a quadcopter and use it to take cool videos and photos, you must take this course.” Scott Duffy

“This is a fantastic course, Mark has really gone over the top to put this together! Get this course Before you get a drone it will be your best investment! Thanks Mark! This Course will make a Great Gift!” MC Mason

Unquestionably, we are in the pioneering stages of a brand new "drone" revolution. Do a google search for this article from CNN Money: Drone Pilot Wanted: $100,000 Starting Salary.

Drones of all shapes and sizes are here to stay. Those people that know how to fly are about to have a whole new world of opportunities open up to them. The photography and videography trades alone have already and will continue to see major transformations as multirotors are used as flying cameras. Business is becoming aware of these options and paying attention to the additional dimension drone work can offer.

It's an exciting time to be a part of this new "drone" economy. Get up to speed and add the valuable and rewarding skill of drone-based aerial imaging to your skill-set.

Photographers and videographers! Do you want to take your images to the next level... literally? This video course is all about helping you to get started taking awesome aerial photos and videos with the use of multirotors (drones) as quickly as possible. At the same time, I’ll teach you to avoid the many pitfalls or problems you may face when learning to fly, choosing an aerial platform, and flying safely. This course contains concise video lessons, PDF guides and helpful links to help you get up to speed and up in the air.

What do you get?

Camera drones are incredibly fun to fly and will add a whole new dimension to your work. If you are a videographer, this course will help videographers and photographers gain the skills and knowledge you'll need to confidently add epic aerial shots to your video projects. Learn the best GoPro settings and post processing techniques to achieve the best video quality.

Still photographers can have just as much fun taking still photos from a multirotor drone. We'll cover taking and processing still photos with a GoPro, as well as stitching aerial panoramas into breathtaking masterpieces.

Real estate agents, farmers, miners, law enforcement officers, sheer hobbyists... the possible uses for aerial imaging are many. Cutting edge technology is making aerial photography and videography more accessible than ever. At the same time it's important to know the laws, rules, and best practices to ensure your success.

Easy Self-Paced Learning

Take this course at your own pace, come back and re-watch sections if you like, or watch the entire course in one go.

Who is the instructor?

Mark Richardson is a full time photographer and videographer who has built custom multirotors and has been capturing aerial imagery for over two years. He's traveled world wide with his current quadcopter, (a Phantom 2) and has mastered the techniques for getting stunning aerial shots while maintaining safety. Mark has hundreds of hours of multirotor flight time under his belt, with a zero crash record on the Phantom 2.

What are the requirements?

  • A computer will be needed to update and calibrate the drone that I recommend.
  • You may need basic tools (soldering iron, wire cutters, screwdrivers) especially when making customizations to your aerial platform.
  • This course is comprehensive - it will offer useful information to those who already have a multirotor as well as those looking to buy.

What am I going to get from this course?

  • Choose the right multirotor, drone, or aerial platform
  • Fly confidently and safely while obeying the laws
  • Add a video downlink system to your drone
  • Capture aerial shots that tell a story

Who is the target audience?

  • This course is for photographers or videographers looking to get into the world of aerial imaging.
  • This course will lay out the various options and give experienced driven recommendations to allow you to start flying drones quickly and inexpensively.

What you get with this course?

Not for you? No problem.
30 day money back guarantee.

Forever yours.
Lifetime access.

Learn on the go.
Desktop, iOS and Android.

Get rewarded.
Certificate of completion.


Section 1: Safety and Common Sense

This video course is all about helping you to get started taking awesome aerial photos and videos with the use of multirotors, (drones) as quickly as possible, while avoiding the many pitfalls or problems you may face when learning to fly, choosing an aerial platform, and flying safely.


If you live in the United States, The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has rules and regulations in place that govern how you can use model aircraft and unmanned aerial systems (UAS). This lecture goes over these rules. If you live in a country other than the United States, you will need to find out what the laws are for flying model aircraft where you live.

UPDATE - Updated Info

Effective December 21, 2015, anyone who owns a small unmanned aircraft of a certain weight must register with the Federal Aviation Administration's Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) registry before they fly outdoors. People who previously operated their UAS must register by February 19, 2016. People who do not register could face civil and criminal penalties.

Register at: https://www.faa.gov/uas/registration/


There are three main rules I live by when flying my quadcopter.

  • Don't be obnoxious.
  • Safety.
  • Respect Privacy.

This video explains these three rules of flying multirotors.


Keeping a log of your flights is important and may be required for commercial use. Here is an example one you can use. Also, if you are using a newer DJI drone like a Phantom or Inspire 1, the DJI GO app automatically records a flight log for you. It's awesome!

Section 2: Flight Training

I give my recommendations for what makes a good inexpensive quadcopter for learning how to fly. Note: Some quadcopter transmitters come in two different versions, Mode 1 and Mode 2. Mode 1 has the throttle and yaw controls on the right while Mode 2 has the throttle and yaw on the left. If you don't know which you prefer, get Mode 2.


A quick overview of the basic controls of a multirotor. Multirotor throttle, yaw, pitch, and roll controls explained.


One of the hardest things about flying multirotors is maintaining your orientation. Here are some tips for how to overcome this difficulty.


Here's a list of maneuvers to practice and master on your practice quadcopter before attempting to fly something larger and more expensive.

Section 3: Choosing an Aerial Platform
DJI Mavic Pro Review

In this lecture I discuss the pros and cons of building a multirotor versus buying one that is ready to fly.


In this lesson we will go over the various motor, boom, and orientation configurations that are possible and the adnvantages/disadvantages of each.


A quick overview of the top ready-to-fly multirotors on the market.

An overview of the various quadcopter options available from DJI.

A quick look at the Phantom 3 Professional.

Sorry about the audio - apparently there is some interference from the WIFI siginal from the Phantom 3.

Section 4: First Person View (FPV)
Quick demonstration of the Fat Shark Video Downlink system.

Longer range FPV systems are available. A couple of choices are listed in this lesson.

Section 5: Phantom Firmware and Settings
While this section demonstrates firmware updates with the DJI Phantom, almost any quadcopter will use a control board that may require firmware updates or setting adjustments from time to time.

Learn how to set the parameters for the Zenmuse gimbal using the DJI Phantom Assistant Software.


An explanation of IMU and how to calibrate it.


Return to home and battery fail-safe settings explained.


NASA-M and IOC Modes Explained.

Section 6: Recommended GoPro Settings

These are the settings I use for recording video.


These are the photo settings I use with GoPro.

Section 7: Preflight Checklist, Takeoff and Landing
1 page

A Pre-flight and Post-flight checklist to help remind you of all the little details to stay safe and have fun when flying your multirotor.


This lecture goes over the equipment check and packing the quadcopter for travel to the field.

A demonstration of calibrating the compass sensor on the Phantom 2.
It's a good idea to do a low altitude hover check to make sure everything is working correctly before taking your multirotor higher.

This video demonstrates two handy landing techniques.


An example video of when Return-to-Home Fail-safe saved the day for a couple of my quadcopter pilot colleagues that were capturing aerial video in South Korea.


Fail-safes are great but there are certain situations they won't help you at all.

Section 8: Aerial Video & Photo Processing and Editing

This is the workflow I use when post processing still images from the GoPro camera in Adobe Lightroom.


This is the workflow I use when post processing still images from the GoPro camera in Adobe Photoshop.


This is the workflow I use to import and edit 2.7k video from the GoPro camera.

Section 9: Using Aerial Imaging to Tell a Story
When going into a production, it is a great idea to create a shot list and include the aerial shots you hope to get.

For best results, follow all of the other rules of photography. Vary the altitude. Think about composition.


Example from a Road Rally. Aerials gave good establishing shots in each city as well as showed the long lines of cars on the freeway. Watch the full example video here: https://vimeo.com/105600724

Section 10: Traveling with your Quadcopter

My recommended hard case supplier for traveling with your multirotor.


A few tips for traveling on the airlines with a multirotor.


I've only ever had an issue with customs officers once when traveling with a multirotor. That was in Dubai. This is that story.

Section 11: Final Thoughts, Resources and Inspiration

Balancing Props and avoiding Prop Shadow.


If you purchase a Phantom 2 with zenmuse gimbal and find that the tilt lever won't work, this video shows one possible fix.


Filmmakers are creating amazing images with multirotor systems. Here are 10 films to get you inspired!


It can be hard to know what to buy and where to buy it. Here's the links to my current setup.


Learn about the DJI Ground Station.


Went up to one of my favorite spots to fly this evening. Ririe Reservoir was frozen over but only about two inches thick. There was a few times the ice shifted or cracked and generated a massive echo throughout the reservoir.

Flying the DJI Phantom 2 with Zenmuse h3-3d gimbal and GoPro hero black edition 3+

5 questions

A short quiz to reinforce points of safety when working on and operating multirotors.

DJI Inspire 1 Review + Download 4k Sample Footage and RAW DNG Stills

Don't have the second remote for the Inspire 1? Let a buddy control the camera and gimbal by dragging on the screen while you focus on piloting the aircraft. Not as cool as a second controller but a heck of a lot cheaper and works pretty well.

Section 12: Updates

I had a power failure during flight with my inspire 1. In this update I tell you about the incident and repair process. More information on the FAA drone registry: http://www.camerastupid.com/faa-says-drone-owners-must-register-by-february-19-2016/


Drones have become a big part of my process for video production, although as you'll see in this example, the aerial footage is very limited. Not every shot needs to be a drone shot, especially when a different shot is more appropriate for the story you are telling. Aerial shots start at around the 4:50 mark.


Here's another example of a highlight video I shot where I included aerial footage at key moments to help tell the story.


Here's a 2015 compilation from some of the shoots I've been involved with in the recent past. See more at: http://www.gravity.pictures

Section 13: Bonus Lecture
New Free Course with Updated Information

Students Who Viewed This Course Also Viewed

  • Loading
  • Loading
  • Loading

Instructor Biography

Mark Richardson, Photographer and Videographer

Mark Richardson is a full-time professional photographer, videographer, and author of the Camera Stupid website. His job has taken him to almost 20 different countries where he has used DSLR's and drones to capture stunning imagery and aerial video for use in corporate and commercial productions. Mark has scratch built several quadcopters and hexacopters but now prefers the DJI Inspire platform for its ease of use and compact size for travel.

Mark's first love will always be great landscape photography but he is interested many different styles and subjects including architecture, food, portraiture, product, and of course aerial photography.

Mark studied photography, videography, and graphic design at BYU-Idaho where he received a Bachelors of Science. Since graduating in 2009, Mark has worked in the industry using photography and videography to tell brand stories.

Always quick to pick up new techniques and learn new technology, Mark has jumped into aerial photography and videography with both feet and has many hours of flight time under his belt.

Mark has another passion: Helping others find success and happiness in learning. Mark loves to teach people of any age and enjoys learning from students as well. Mark is good at explaining difficult or complicated concepts in a way that anyone can understand.

Ready to start learning?
Take This Course

Before There Was Drone Photography,
There Was Pigeon Photography

Pigeons with cameras (Wikipedia)

James Bond is in Turkey, in hot pursuit of a villain. When a car chase dead-ends with a crash in a crowded bazaar, the bad guy commissions a stranger's motorcycle, so Bond does too. His passage blocked by a truck, the bad guy rides his bike up a dark stone staircase and then off a balcony. Bond follows and they're suddenly both careening on motorcycles over and across the narrow walkways of uneven adobe rooftops.

The perspective switches between close shots of Bond and the bad guy, 'ground' shots from rooftop-level, some of them apace with the cyclists, and sweeping aerial panoramas of Istanbul and the drama playing out below.

Part of the opening sequence to Skyfall, 2012

Imagine you're a filmmaker. How on earth do you get these shots?

Do you run through the parts of the sequence a different billion times, shooting from several different rigs, including several on tripods of different heights to catch the different stunts, one on a motorcycle closely tailing the actors, and one on a helicopter above the action -- far enough away to be safe and to avoid making the scene look like a helicopter is about to land on top of them with wind and shadow?

If this was 2002, you might do all that. But nowadays, you're going to have an easier shoot, get better footage, and save more money by sticking your camera on helidrone.

Aerial photography is a hybrid of three major technologies that debuted in the 19th century: aviation, remote control vehicles, and photography. Over the last 150 years each of these technologies have improved by leaps and bounds to make the genre of aerial photography better, more accessible, and more popular than ever before. But it's been a long road to affordable aerial cinema, with a lot of detours.

Kites & Pigeons

Early aerial photograph of San Francisco after the Great Earthquake of 1906, taken from a kite

The earliest surviving photograph was taken in 1827. By the 1850s, the state-of-the-art in photography was the wet plate process, which involved developing photographs within 15 minutes of taking them.

The first aerial photograph was taken in 1858 by the French photographer, Nadar, who hauled all the equipment for a portable dark room up into a hot air balloon to capture a bird's eye view of Paris. Unfortunately, no copies of Nadar's photo survive. The earliest existing aerial photograph is of Boston.

"Boston, as the Eagle and Wild Goose See It," 18100

In the 1880s the dry plate process was developed, and people could take photos without having to develop them on-the-spot. From that point on, aerial photography became considerably easier.

The first kite photos were taken in the late 1880s. A small explosive charge was detonated to release the shutter. In 1906, right after San Francisco's Great Earthquake and subsequent fire, George R. Lawrence sent a curved, large-format camera up 1,000 feet over the San Francisco Bay at the tail of 17 kites. The images are still some of the largest aerial exposures ever taken.

At around the same time, pigeon photography came into existence. Julius Neubronner, a pigeon fancier and apothecary, received one of his prescription-carrying pigeons four weeks late, but well-fed. This gave him the idea to mount little automatic cameras to the pigeons to trace their paths. He patented his method in 1907. Pigeon photography was soon adopted (as happened with many aerial photography technology) for military applications.

Photos taken from pigeons (Wikipedia)

Bring in the Drones

Later, aerial photography became mostly a job for manned aircraft and satellites. But there are certain things that a helicopter or a satellite just can't do. Though primitive, pigeons and kites were unmanned, capable of close, low flight, while maintaining subtlety. And, compared to a manned aircraft, these methods were relatively inexpensive.

Drone-enabled shot from OK Go's one-take music video to "I Won't Let You Down

The first remote-controlled boat was patented by Nikola Tesla in 1898. In 1917, the first remote-controlled aircraft was invented. But the first widely-produced unmanned aircraft weren't developed until the 1930s. World War I veteran and Hollywood actor, Reginald Denny, started the Radioplane Company to manufacture targets for anti-aircraft gunnery training. The preceding practice of hauling simpler targets out with a plane was both expensive and poorly simulated battle conditions, so Denny's drones became very popular.

Norma Jean Dougherty, soon to become known as Marilyn Monroe, working at the Radioplane factory where she was 'discovered' by Hollywood, 1945

It took a while to start using these new targets for reconnaissance missions, but once begun, drones became indispensable to national defense. Much of the Cold War was played out by reconnaissance drones gathering intelligence on the other side.

Military applications continued to drive the development of drone technology well into the 21st Century. Over the past hundred or so years, aerial photography and cinematography has gotten much easier, much better, and much cheaper.

The current era, of civilian drone cinematography, is relatively new. Camera-carrying drones are used to achieve artistic shots that would otherwise be impossible. Helicopters are great but they're also loud, windy, and expensive. Drones are tiny, subtle, and relatively cheap. As drone technology becomes less and less expensive, aerial filmography is becoming the kind of thing an indie filmmaker can include on a project, or that a small advertising firm can write into an ad. In fact, there are enough projects like this that there are now film festivals exclusively for drone-captured movies.

The Modern Drone Photographer

Udemy courses on drone photography and filmography point out that it takes a lot to make a good drone film. According to Drones: The Aerial Cinematography Flight School, a good drone operator needs: "the ability to compose aerial video and the ability to execute aerial video as a skilled pilot." They need a technical grasp of their equipment but also an eye for what makes a good shot, when to hold on a subject, how fast the camera should move.

If you look at the educational backgrounds of Udemy students taking drone photography courses, people who studied or are studying film are 3.6 times more likely to be found in a drone photography course than in Udemy's 10 most popular courses.

Relative probability of a student having studied film, for drone photography courses versus Udemy's 10 most popular courses

This makes sense because much of coursework is geared towards producing beautiful video, from a drone-mounted camera. The courses also seem to appeal to people who studied computer science, who are generally well-represented in the Udemy student-body. Nonetheless it is significant that they top the list of drone photography students, as well.

The most common degrees among users taking drone-photography courses on Udemy

This also makes sense because of the technical challenges that come up in drone photography. Like many hybrid technologies, it has many, breakable, optimizable components. When Neubronner invented pigeon photography, he merged two of his hobbies -- pigeon fancy and amateur photography -- into a "double sport." The same could be said of drone photography, it lets people who love gadgets and love to shoot video combine their interests to make some unique and sometimes breathtaking film.