Milky Way in the desert
Education Guide

How to find the Milky Way with a Smartphone

April 18, 2017

Locating the Milky Way has never been easier. With the help of some smartphone apps, you can get all the information to find the Milky Way and shoot it. For this tutorial, I will use PhotoPills to show you everything you need for finding the Milky Way.

Milky Way App – PhotoPills (iOS | Android)

I have suggested PhotoPills numerous times to fellow photographers and my students in the past. And even though, this app is pretty advanced and feature-rich and come at a steep price of $9.99, it is THE ONE app you need on your smartphone. You will not regret buying it once you learn how to use it. I have included the links for iOS and Android versions in the title above.

Step 1: The Planner

Open the app and you should see the following home page. Tap on the “Planner” option.

PhotoPills home page

PhotoPills home page


Step 2: Galactic Center

Tap + Swipe left on the highlighted area (see below picture) till you see “Galactic Center” option. You will also notice a small image of the Milky Way inside a circle all the way to the left.

Photopills Planner

Photopills Planner

Once you are there tap on the little image of the Milky Way as shown below.

Tap on the little image of the Milky Way

Tap on the little image of the Milky Way

As soon as you tap the Milky Way image, the app will take you to the next best date for Milky Way. The visibility indicator graph next to the Milky Way image should show all bars in cyan. Make note of the date which is shown at the bottom right.

Check out the video below to see the whole process.

Notice the dots along a circle that appear when you tap + slide the timeline at the bottom? Those dots represent the farthest visible edges of the Milky Way. The slightly bigger dot, which is at the center indicates the galactic core. Now based on this visual information, you can easily locate the direction of the Milky Way from your geographic location. In addition, accurate times for the rising of the Milky Way, its elevation etc. are accessible from other tabs that are located at the top. Just swipe left or right to get to the desired information tab. 

PhotoPills Official User Guide

If you have downloaded PhotoPills already, I would strongly suggest that you spend some time going through its features. For a detailed guide on all its features, check out the link below.


Find Your Milky Way

The Milky Way is no doubt an intriguing subject. It has captured the imagination of many artists, scientists, and dreamers around the world. But unfortunately, it is fading away from our skies, thanks to the increasing light pollution in and around major cities. So get it while you still can even if you have to travel long distances away from your city. And enjoy the mesmerizing beauty that only a night sky can offer.

I hope this article will help you find Milky Way wherever you are on the planet. But if you have any doubts or questions, please post them in the comments section below. And if you’d like to receive photography tips and techniques every week, please Subscribe to my email list. Happy shooting!



Hi, I am Hammad Iqbal, a professional photographer based in Doha. Welcome to the "HI Blog" where I share tutorials, tips and techniques about shooting and post-processing images using Lightroom and Photoshop. Follow my updates by subscribing to my newsletter and discover with me the art of photography and post-processing!

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