Apps to Help Plan Your Photo Shoots

Today’s photographers have access to an incredible amount of information making it easier to be in the right place at the right time to capture the best light.

Apps on our mobile devices can give us the desired info no matter where we are as long as we have a signal. Landscape, wildlife and natural light photographers can make use of this most effectively.

Whether traveling or close to home, when we want to plan the best time of day to photograph, all we need to do is pull out our smart phones, launch an app and voila! At our fingertips we can find the landmark orientation, sunrise times, the angle of the light, civil twilight start and end times, moonrise dates, times and angles, high and low tides, and so much more.

For example, if I’m a tourist in DC, I’ll want to know the orientation of the Capitol so I’ll know what time of day to photograph it. With the help of an App I learn that the front of the Capitol faces west so I’d plan my time there in the late afternoon to capture it bathed in the beautiful golden tones that we find before sunset.  Discovering that the back side faces east, I’d plan to be there in the early morning so I can photograph it in the warm morning glow.

The next thing I’d want to know is WHEN to photograph, what time the sun rises and sets and how long civil twilight lasts so I can make sure I’m where I want to be to capture this.

With the help of an app I can plan where I should be to frame a moon shot against a city or seascape. I’ll want to know the days of the moon phases, the time of moonrise and set, which way is east and west so I have the best opportunities to make a compelling image.

There’s a world of apps out there but here are some of our favorites that help us plan. Give them a look and see which work for what and how you like to shoot.

Photographer’s Ephemeris - This is probably the most popular App to help you plan outdoor photography in natural light, especially landscape and urban scenes. It is a map-centric sun and moon calculator so you can see how the light will fall on the land, day or night, for any location on earth.
Available for iPhone, Andriod and even desktop. Crookneck Consulting LLC.

SunSeeker - Provides a flat view compass and an augmented reality camera 3-d view showing the solar path, its hour intervals, its winter and summer solstice paths, rise and set times and a map view showing solar direction for each daylight hour.

MoonSeeker - Provides a list of lunar phases, a calendar view, a flat view compass and an augmented reality camera 3-d view showing the lunar path and its hour intervals.
SunSeeker and MoonSeeker are available for iPhone and iPad only. By Ozpda.

Tides - builds Satellite Map based live tide tables from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Tide info for the entire US Coastline is offered, simply download the App for the region you want.
For Android and iPhone mobile devices.  By NesTides.

TideTrac - Provides info on tides, moon and sun. What’s nice about this app is that it downloads your tide data and stores it locally for later offline use.
Available for iPhone/iPad only. By Rivolu Pte.

Google - Although Google is not an App, we have to mention the power of a Google search where it all might start. For example, if you type in “photos London” you’ll see what others have captured there and can use that to decide how you might (or might not) want to capture it or if it’s even a location you want to photograph at all…

We’re fortunate to have the use of apps at our fingertips. In days past, we would look up this information on our computers and make notes to plan by. Before computers, photographers had to use math formulas to calculate this information… imagine that and be thankful for how easy Apps make our lives, especially when planning our photo shoots.

Note: Before downloading an app, check that it’s compatible with your device. This information and more will be listed in the Details of each App.


  1. Dave Brown says:

    I love TPE, and it’s sort of sister app, Photo Transit.  They both work together, providing you with the ability to detail every shot with precision, before you’ve left the house. No only if the weather would cooperate.  Another of my favorite apps, is Photo Buddy.

  2. Marie Joabar says:

    Photo Transit is awesome, and like you say, it works great with The Photographer’s Ephemeris.  We’ll give Photo Buddy a look, thanks for that tip.

  3. Frank Gallagher says:

    Another app to consider is PhotoPills, which contains an amazing array of features from depth of field calculator to star tracking.  I first ran across it with people who shoot night photography—star trails and Milky Way shots.  It’s great for planning that and has an “augmented reality” function to let you visualize where stars will be and when the stars will appear.

  4. Ken Robb says:

    You forgot Photo Pills! Probably the best iphone photography app there is,

  5. Marie Joabar says:

    Frank, thanks for the tip about PhotoPills, definitely looks like an App worth checking out - thanks so much for sharing that!

  6. Marie Joabar says:

    Ken, thanks for sharing the info on PhotoPills. Obviously, it’s popular and we’re going to give it a shot.

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