The Milky Season has begun for us living along the planet’s equator as well as for those in the upper hemisphere. Thanks to the amazing flexibility and versatility of smartphones today, we can do a lot more than just make and receive calls. A variety of high-quality apps is now available to plan that memorable shot you have in mind, with relative ease. Here are some great photography planning apps that I personally use or have had experience using in the past.
PhotoPills (iOS / Android) – $9.99
This is my favorite photography planning app since I first bought it. It’s probably the best designed (from a UI standpoint) app I have ever seen. With a wealth of amazing tools for planning outdoor photoshoots, this is indeed a Swiss Army knife for photographers. The price is pretty steep, $9.99 at the time of writing this article but it’s totally worth it because it could replace almost all other photography planning apps that you may be using now. Let me share with you one of my Milky Way shots from 2016 that were planned with the help of PhotoPills.
PhotoPills was first introduced for iOS but after a few years and with the constant demand for the app among Android users, the makers have finally released a working Beta on Google Play. So if you are an android user who felt left out, you have now a reason to celebrate. You can read the complete feature list of PhotoPills and download the respective versions of this app from the links below:
PlanIt! for Photographers (iOS / Android) – $5.99
This is another excellent app for photography planning. It offers a few more features than PhotoPills at a lower price but the lack of user-friendly interface design may disappoint many users. But if you can overlook the poor UI, the app is the most feature-rich planning app I have seen yet. But it also seems to have stability issues. On few occasions, the app crashed (iOS version) while I was using it and that experience could become frustrating over time. Ask around other photogs for their experience on using this app before making up your mind to buy it. The last thing you want is losing your plan because of a crashing app. For the complete list of features, check out the links below:
Sky Guide (iOS) – $2.99
Sky Guide is an astronomy app, more than a photography app. But its features including “Night-vision” mode and events notifications make it an ideal candidate for a passionate astrophotographer. Thanks to its gyroscope-enabled live view, you can locate any star, planet, satellite or deep space objects with relative ease. I have been using this app to stay informed about meteor showers and other significant occurrences like the super moon.
In addition, if you love astronomy in general and want to have access to a universe of knowledge about the known universe, this app is a powerful little encyclopedia which will keep you hooked to your device for hours. The iPad version is even more amazing to use because of the resolution and screen size. Here is a shot that had some help from Sky Guide.
Sky Guide is a wonderful app to identify objects in the night sky. It’s fluid operation, excellent UI design and usability make it a powerful app for astrophotography lovers.
Download Sky Guide: iOS
Sputnik (iOS) – Free
This free app lets you know about satellite passes from your location. Both ISS to Iridium flares passes for 24 hours and the next 7 days are shown with complete details such as direction, magnitude, elevation, time of rising and setting to give you a quick glance on the next interesting satellite pass happening in your area. The app doesn’t support augmented reality (gyroscope based live view) so you might have to rely on other apps as well like Sky Guide. Here is a shot of Doha that I planned with the help of Sputnik.
I have been using this app for almost two years and it still fulfills my requirements. The free version has ads but you can go ad-free for just $0.99, which is totally worth it.
Download Sputnik: iOS
ISS Finder (iOS) – Free
ISS Detector Satellite Tracker (Android) – Free
If Sputnik is too plain and dull for you, then check out the ISS Finder. It offers a more colorful UI and illustrative style of presenting information which may be much easier to understand. Another thing I have found about this app is the availability of accurate information all the time unlike Sputnik which sometimes struggles to download the latest information about the satellite passes before they happen.
For android users, an even better alternative, that is “ISS Detector Satellite Tracker” is available which not only displays everything that ISS Finder does, but also shows the radar view. Radar view is very important to see the path of the satellite pass for planning the shots. Check out the full list of features from the download links below.
Long Exposure Calculator (iOS) – Free
Exposure Calculator (Android) – Free
Sometimes, you may need a super simple app to help you calculate the shutter speed for your long exposure shots, quickly and effortlessly. This robust little app does just that. No clutter, no non-sense. Straight to the point and easy to use. Here is one of my long exposures that were calculated on the fly with LE calculator (iOS).
An even better alternative is available on Android which offers much more features while still keeping the UI simple and easy. Both of these apps feature the timer which will help you time your shutter duration when capturing long exposures.
SunCalc.net (iOS) – Free
Sun Position (Android) – Free
Sometimes the only help you need is to know the position of the Sun at a certain time. These two apps let you do just that and a bit more for those wonderful magic hour shots. Both of these apps are available for free at the time of writing this article so go ahead and grab them now. There are smart ways of making use of the information these apps offer. For instance, you want to plan a beautiful sunrise shot from a particular location on a certain date in the future. You can easily find accurate information about the time of sunrise, angle, start and end of magic hours and more for that particular date and location to plan the shot in advance. Check out this morning shot captured with a little assistance from SunCalc.net.
For a list of complete features, visit the links below.
That’s all for now. I hope this article will help you find the right photography planning app in no time. Feel free to post your questions in the comment section below. And if you’d like to receive my latest articles and tutorials, subscribe to my newsletter. Happy shooting!