Pre-visualizing your photographs is the single most important means of progressing your work from "good" to "great" by stepping up to the next level of creative expression.
Before the advent of smart phones and planning apps, photographers either had to refer to tables published by the US military to calculate the location and position in the sky of celestial bodies such as the sun and moon, or they had to figure things out the old fashioned way - by going to a location many times through the year and paying attention to the sky.
It's never been easier to utilize the power of smart phones + apps to create plans for your photographic imaginations. Want to shoot the full moon setting between the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge? Easy! How about the Milky Way arched in the sky over Delicate Arch in Arches National Park? No problem! Look no further than to either of my two favorite photography planning apps - Photo Pills and the Photographer's Ephemeris.
Below, I will go through both of them and discuss why they are fantastic tools for planning your photographs.
This app is great for planning out just about any photograph you can possibly think of. For my photography, I mostly make use of the sunrise/sunset time planing features, the moon position and rise/set features, and the excellent Milky Way planner and Night Augmented Reality feature. Those are just the "tip of the iceberg" though in terms of what this app can do. It also includes all sorts of amazing other things such as a depth of field calculator, exposure tables, and even hyperfocal calculation functionality.
TPE was the first planning app I purchased and learned, so it's till my go to when I need to plan for the basics of sunrise/sunset and twilight time determinations. Also, it's still free as a desktop / web application - only the phone versions are $.
In the most recent releases, the programmers have added many of the same functionalities (e.g. night mode) that heretofore were only available through more advanced apps (such as Photo Pills). TPE still lacks the Augmented Reality mode that PP offers, which is a major drawback.
Things to Beware Of: Not All Apps are Created Equal (on Android versus on iOS)
I recently taught a workshop where some of my students discovered that the Android version of TPE is lacking many of the same features as the iOS version. So beware and fully check the feature lists before you commit and buy.
Which One Should I Buy?
Although similar, they both offer different functionality. Overall Photo Pills offers more features, but is more expensive. TPE is slightly easier to learn how to use, and you have the advantage of starting off with the free version on your personal computer.
Download / Purchase Links: