Imagine rising up over the trees and looking down at a beautiful spring garden. A few clicks later, and you have an amazing aerial photo of your own backyard. Of course, this is possible only if you own a drone. Drone photography has become a popular hobby and with good reason—drones offer amateur photographers a fascinating perspective. Combined with their maneuverability and hovering capacity, drones provide tons of creative potential and striking pictures. 

Many people are drawn to the idea but afraid of the technology. The good news is that flying a drone is not that complicated. Most drone controllers have just two sticks that control all flight. The assorted tools built into the ­software—including flight controls such as roll, tilt, throttle and pitch—let you fly and position your drone for the best views. Before you take your first flight, here are some mistakes to avoid when buying and flying your drone…

Mistake: Buying an expensive drone when you have no ­prior experience. Some drones have very sophisticated navigation and flight controls, as well as built-in cameras capable of capturing high-quality still and video images. Beginners do not need every available feature.

Better: Start out with a “toy” drone that costs less than $100, such as the Snaptain S5C Drone for $74.99. That way, if you don’t like it (or if you crash it), you aren’t out a lot of money. 

Mistake: Thinking you can learn ­everything in an afternoon. You can learn to fly a drone in just minutes—but it takes far longer to become a master drone pilot. 

Better: Devote an hour a day to practice (a nice after-work break), and you will develop great skills in less than a month. Test your flying skills by setting up games that challenge your abilities. Try to fly a perfect square, for example, or stop precisely at a set distance. See if you can master a consistent speed or if you can fly a perfect reverse figure eight. Good, free site for instruction: TheDroneTrainer.com

Mistake: Flying your drone too far. Depending on the model, drones have ranges between 100 feet and five miles or more, but FAA rules dictate that you fly only with a clear line of sight and at a height of less than 400 feet. 

Better: Never fly at night or in high winds—there is a high risk of crashing. Remember this rule: “Only fly in clear blue sky.” If your drone is behind another object such as a tree and you cannot see it, you are much more likely to crash. There are many restrictions on where drones can be flown, especially in public places and when other people are around. Know where it’s safe and legal to fly locally—contact your local parks department about local flight regulations. 

Mistake: Not registering your drone. All drones must be registered.

Better: Register right away. The process takes minutes, costs $5 and is valid for three years (www.FAA.gov). Failure to register could result in fines or even criminal penalties. If you’re flying as a hobbyist, you don’t need an additional license.