PhotoPillsBanner

Editor’s Note: PhotoPills is 50% off today only — November 29, 2013

All I can say is that PhotoPills is the single most useful photography app on the planet, and I highly recommend it. Here’s a link to their website.

Want to hear more? Ok. I’ll start with the only two downsides, and they are minor. First, it’s only for iOS; they are making the Android version, but no release date, yet. Sorry, gang. Second, it’s designed by Europeans, so as an American using it I feel it’s not always as intuitive as it could be. Sometimes the names for things are different, but I had no problem navigating after just a few minutes, and their videos are really useful. That’s it, the only two things I think could be improved. Now let’s talk about a few of the features.

PhotoPills-001

Basically, this app answers most of the questions I have when I want to shoot landscapes, and many of my questions when I want to shoot portraits, as well. It’s intended for iPhone, but I enjoyed using it on my iPad; it requires a camera to work at it’s best. I said this app is the best in the world; I haven’t used all the apps out there, but this leaves me wanting nothing else. I’ll talk about three of the things it helps me to do: planning a shoot, maximizing my camera, and collaborating with friends and clients.

Planning

The most wonderful feature of this app is that you can stand in a place and ask it when the sun or moon or stars or Milky Way will be in a specific part of the sky and it will give you a time and date.

That means if you want the sun to be in that particular spot on Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park, you can use this app to know the day and time it will be there. Or when the sun will rise through a certain window in a building. Or, in the case of the following image, I used it to know exactly what day the sun would rise while the moon set behind the spot I photograph my client’s trucks; my client went nuts over it.

PhotoPills-001-4

Another time I used it to see exactly when and where the sun would be the day after the art director and I visited Dead Horse Point so that we could make pictures for her publication.

PhotoPills-002-2

And I can’t tell you how excited I am for the time next Spring when the moon will rise directly down the middle of this bridge in Portland, Oregon.

FB-PAC Header-001

My beef with this sort of app is that they typically don’t account for the elevation I’ll be standing at when the sun rises, nor do they account for the elevation of obstacles (like mountain ranges) between me and the sun. PhotoPills, however, does account for these, and that means it’ll tell me when the sun will rise locally, and not if I were at sea level. This is a huge bonus, and the designers should get the Nobel Prize for app design.

Not only does it tell you where the sun and moon will be, but it also has “Augmented Reality” to show where major stars and the Mily Way cloud will be in the sky. It uses the phone’s camera and overlays the track of celestial bodies on the picture so that you can see exactly where they will be and at what time on which date. I’m only a casual astro photogrpaher, but this app helps me look good. Other apps do this, too, but this one includes so many other features that I’ve removed the others from my phone. Why go to multiple apps when this one does them all so well. And did I mention that it only costs US$9.99? That’s kind of expensive for an app, but it’s still the cheapest tool in my bag, and I use it almost daily.

PhotoPills-001-3

Maximizing the Camera

The more I understand about photography, the more I realize how little I understand. But PhotoPills helps me fill in the gaps with useful calculations for things like Depth of Field and Hyperfocal Distances. These numbers give me settings I can use on the camera to help me understand how my final image will look, how much will be in focus, how to maximize the depth of field, etc.

PhotoPills-003

For instance, in the bridge image above I used it to know that setting the focus on the lens at a certain distance would allow everything in the frame to be in sharp focus, eventhough I only used f/11. When making panoramas like this, that kind of knowledge is essential to ensure the finished image looks good. Maybe we’ll tackle Hyperfocal in it’s own post sometime, but until then, know that these are cool tools. It even lets me program it for just about every camera and lens combination ever made.

PhotoPills-001-2

Collaborating 

You know that I love to collaborate, and that I think the best thing in the world is working on great pictures with other photographers. PhotoPills has a share button at the bottom of every screen to help facilitate sharing. I can share the map views, or the technical specs, or the sun position. It’s so great that the app gives several options handy all the time. I think they get big kudos for encouraging collaboration. These tools also help me to help my client understand what I’m talking about. It’s pretty clear that the orange line is the sun position, and that makes it easy to communicate clearly.

PhotoPills-002

Tips for Optimum Use

I’ve been using PhotoPills for a while, and I have some tips that will help you maximize your experience with it. Firstly, it’s a powerful tool, and you can expect it to perform exactly as well as any of your other powerful photography tools, like your camera or Photoshop. That is to say, if you don’t put in the effort to learn how to use it, don’t expect it to magically give you stunning pictures. Fortunately, it’s not that hard to learn to use and understand. The app doesn’t have a glossary built in, but a quick Google search will get you aquainted with any terms you don’t understand. I will say it’s much easier to master than either your camera or photoshop. Secondly, use PhotoPills.com to learn it. I’ve already mentioned the videos, but they are really a must see; you won’t get far without them. The Support page is also excellent. If you take a little time to get familiar with this app and it’s capabilities, I think you find, like I have that it’s a bit of kit you’ll use all the time.

______

This Post Sponsored by:

Adobe Photoshop CC and Lightroom for US$9.99/mo. This is a limited-time offer. Get it here. Be sure to also check out the Video for Photographers learning center.

The HDR Learning Center Check out new ways to use High Dynamic Range photography to make compelling images. Free tutorials and posts to get results. Produced in partnership with HDRsoft.

Mosaic A complete solution for photographers using Lightroom who want to manage and share their photos. You can easily view images with their iOS app or web service. Plus your photos are backed up to the cloud with several plans to match your needs.

lynda.com Learn photography anytime, anywhere, and at your own pace—from bite-sized tutorials to comprehensive courses. Try lynda.com free for 10 days by visiting lynda.com/ Photofocus.

500px Join the world’s premier photo community. 500px lets you discover, share, buy and sell inspiring photographs.

Drobo Not only is Drobo 5D fast, but it’s easy-to-use, expandable, flexible, and protected.

Join the conversation! 4 Comments

  1. Update: I used PhotoPills this morning to help me calculate frame rates and durations for a day-long time-lapse I’m making. It told me how long the time-lapse would run, and even how much memory it would use. I love this App!

    Reply
  2. For Android users I would recommend Sun Surveyor – it’s a fantastic app and also includes Augmented Reality which is pretty useful because the user can also see at which height the sun or moon will be at a specific time.
    http://www.sunsurveyor.com/

    Reply
  3. Hi everyone!

    I am Rafael (the Bard), one of the founders of PhotoPills. Levi, after reading your fantastic review, I couldn’t resist joining in to say thank you and share a few more tips.

    For those of you that have walked through a place and thought: “it’s too bad the moon/sun ins’t RIGHT there… would have made a great photo!”… I’d like to add that you can use the Find option of Planner to calculate all possible dates and times the moon/sun will be right where you desire. To master this option, have a look at our videos 8 to 11 for a detailed explanation: http://www.photopills.com/tutorials

    Anyone having trouble with this option or any other option can contact us at: support@photopills.com

    Finally, I’d like to advance (it’s a secret) that we are working on our new website. We’ll include a complete Glossary as Levi has suggested ;)

    Thanks!

    Reply
  4. […] the sky in the image above) then it’s dark enough to make some stunning images. I used the PhotoPills app to know when the moon would rise, and it even shows me where the Milky Way will be in the sky. I […]

    Reply

Let us know your thoughts...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

About Levi Sim

Photography is my life, and I'd like my photography to be part of your life, too. Whether I make pictures with you or help you learn to make your vision pop out of the camera, I'm happy to help.

Category

Landscape, Review, Reviews, Shooting, Software

Tags

, ,