March 6, 2019
Photography Apps you need
Eleven photography apps for your mobile device that will help you get better photos
With a mobile phone in your pocket, you have access to some great apps that can help you to take better pictures. There are hundreds of photography apps available. Which are the ones that you will want to put on your phone and more importantly use them?
We’ve selected three groups of photography apps. Some will help you to plan when and where to get great images. There are some that will help you whilst you are shooting. Finally, there are some that are invaluable for admin or editing on the go. One or two apps can do more than one of these roles.
Photography apps for planning
Before we had mobile devices, planning a photography location required local knowledge, the ability to read a map or luck. Now we can use mobile technology to tell us great locations, the best time to shoot, and the conditions we can expect when we get there. These six apps are going to get you in the right place at the right time.
I’ve mentioned Photopills in quite a few posts already. It’s one of the first apps I turn to. From a photography planning perspective, there are three great tools included in the app. The planner section of the app allows you to see on a map where the sun or moon is going to rise and set. You can also track their position throughout the day so you can make sure that you get the shot you want.
At the bottom of the planner screen are two handy little buttons. The AR button allows you to hold your phone up at a location and visually see where the sun will be at any time of the day. Night AR is even better – holding the camera up in this mode allows you to see where the moon and the milky way will be. Now you can plan your night photography shoot during the day.
(https://www.photopills.com/ – £9.99)
Before Photopills, the planning app everyone used was The Photographer’s Ephemeris. It’s still got a really nice interface which in many ways is simpler than Photopills. You can find the sun and moon position. There’s an augmented reality feature which is sadly lacking the milky way. One of the real benefits of TPE over Photopills though is that you can plan a shoot on your desktop computer and then sync it to your mobile device with a free account.
There are also two other apps that work side by side with TPE. TPE 3D will simulate what a shoot will look like at different times of the day. You can see what shadows will look like, the arch of the milky way and the position of the stars. The Photographer’s Transit allows you to see the view you will get from your camera with different focal lengths – this should mean that you can carry one or two fewer lenses to your location. One of the downsides is that you can’t buy these apps as a bundle, so you are looking at nearly £30 for the full set.
(https://www.photoephemeris.com/ – TPE – £9.99, TPE 3D – £11.99, TPT – £7.99)
One of my favourite locations on the Seascapes and Landscapes Workshop is the Bridge to Nowhere at Dunbar. At high tide, the walkway either side of the bridge is submerged and so it looks like the bridge is in the middle of the sea. Tides Planner is a great little app that does one job really well – telling you when high and low tide is. It’s great that it also works without any kind of connection to the internet so if you are particularly remote then you can still find the tide times.
The app is free to tell you what the tides will be at any location on the current day. You can also buy in-app extensions for 7 days ahead at £3.99 or £5.99 to check tide times on any day in the future.
(https://www.imray.com/tides-planner-app/ – Free with in-app purchases)
This is another simple app that does a simple job very well. There are certain times of the day that are great for shooting. The golden hour happens at the start and end of the day and if it is sunny, we get beautiful golden light. The blue hour happens just before sunrise and just after sunset. This is the best time for shooting light-trails in the city, as we do on the Night Photography workshop.
The apps simple interface means you can see the best times to shoot at any place in the world without any kind of data connection.
(http://app.golden-hour.com/ – £1.99 IOS only)
It’s great to know where to stand and what the shadows will look like at a particular time of the day. A great landscape photograph though is going to be dependent on the weather when you get there. Dark Sky is one of the most accurate short-term weather planners I have seen. It uses a variety of data sources and aggregates them together to get a very local weather forecast. You can set up notifications that rain is going to start or stop in the next few minutes, so you’ll know if it’s worth waiting for the rain to clear to get that moody sky shot. There’s also a great radar view showing you the weather conditions that are on the way.
(https://darksky.net/app – $3.99)
Glendale Skye Aurora
You’ll never forget the first time that you see the aurora. If the conditions are good, then you can see it as far down as East Anglia in the UK but how can you find out if it could be visible? This great free web app will give you notifications when the lights are visible. Unlike most photography apps, this isn’t downloaded from the app store. Instead, you go to the website aurora-alerts.uk on your mobile device and follow the instructions.
The app certainly isn’t the easiest to follow with quite a lot of technical information. However, there is a good FAQ that allows you to interpret what’s being shown. It’s definitely the best app available though, to tell you when you’ll get to see and photograph the northern lights.
(https://aurora-alerts.uk/ – Free)
Photography Apps for Shooting
Now we have used the apps for planning our perfect shoot. We are at the location and there are even more apps that can help get the perfect picture.
Yes, the planning app also has some really useful attributes to help you shoot. We’ve already covered the hyperfocal distance calculator in this blog. Using the lookup table you can ensure that your images are sharp from front to back by determining the optimal focal point depending on your focal length and aperture.
There are also tools so that you can determine the correct shutter speed to ensure that stars don’t create trails. Perfect for Milky Way shots. Sometimes, though you want to create a star trail image. If you want to ensure you’ll capture a complete circle of stars, then the Star Trails function will tell you how many exposures you’ll need to take.
(https://www.photopills.com/ – £9.99)
On the Seascape and Landscape workshop, we make extensive use of ND filters. It’s possible to make exposure times stretch out to several minutes. This is great for smoothing water to create an ethereal effect. You can also capture the wonderful effect of clouds rushing by.
This free app from filer manufacturer, Lee Filters, allows you to calculate the exposure time needed when you put different strengths of ND filters in front of your lens.
[http://www.leefilters.com/ links to the apps are at the bottom of the page – Free)
If you are photographing people (or in some circumstances certain buildings) then you may need a model release form to allow you to sell your images. This handy app allows you to create your own model release text so you can tailor the release to whatever shoot you are doing.
When the model signs the release, it captures all the vital information, including a photograph of the model. They then sign the release on the screen, and you can both have a copy sent by e-mail.
There is a cloud storage service so that you don’t need to worry about saving the releases anywhere on your hard drive. Overall this is a vital app if you shoot stock photography that includes people or protected properties.
(https://applicationgap.com/apps/easyrelease/ – $9.99 + in-app purchases)
Photography Apps for Admin
If you start to make money from photography, then you’ll soon start to enjoy the pleasures of admin (or maybe not). There are some photography apps that are going to help you get organised even when you are on the train, plane, or bus!
When you take out the Creative Cloud subscription did you also know that you get the Lightroom Mobile app too! You can take photographs inside the app and edit them as you would with any other camera app. The great thing is that you can sync your collections with Lightroom Mobile. Now you can edit the photographs stored on your computer on your mobile device. Any changes you make to the images are synced back to the computer.
This is a super tool if you are having a meeting with a client after a shoot. You can use a tablet to show them the images and agree on any changes in front of them. When you get home all those changes are already sat waiting on your home computer.
(https://www.adobe.com/uk/products/photoshop-lightroom.html – Free with CC subscription)
If you shoot landscapes for stock photography, then it will really help your sales if you have lots of relevant keywords. Peak Finder is a really cool way to find out the names of all the mountains in your landscape images.
Either at the location or when you are back home, you can get a visualisation of the shape of each of the hills and mountains. The app will then display the name of the mountain so you can add it as a keyword.
(https://www.peakfinder.org/mobile/ – $4.99)
This is an app you’ll hopefully never need! If you do though, you’ll be glad you have it. Every time you take a shot, your camera is recording metadata behind the scenes. This includes things like the shutter speed, aperture, ISO. It also includes information like your camera and lens serial numbers.
LensTag uses this metadata to try and recover your camera equipment that could have been lost or stolen. You open a free account with LensTag. You then record the serial numbers of all your photo gear by simply taking a photo of the serial number.
If you have had your gear stolen, head to the app and tell LensTag it’s missing. They will start searching the internet for new images being uploaded that contain your missing gears metadata. They’ve got quite a few success stories where gear has been returned.
(https://www.lenstag.com/ – Free)
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