My 8 Favorite IOS Apps For Photography

In Features by Stanley Harper8 Comments

In this day and age, with the proliferation of smart phones, the term “there's an app” for that is pretty apropos. From apps that allow the user to have some manual control over the camera to apps that help you find The Milky Way, there is a plethora of smart phone apps that will help you get the shot.

Since I am an Iphone user, all of the apps that I mention are IOS. Some of the apps are available on Android also, but some are not, so please keep that in mind.

PHOTOGRAPHY SPECIFIC APPS

CAMERA

I doubt very few of us use the camera to snap wall hanging shots, but the camera does have a couple very good uses.

The first one is the take a snapshot of a location. Sometimes, when I am out shooting, I will take a quick shot for social media reasons, and other times I will take a shot so I know what I am looking for when I return at a later date.

I am a big fan of the time lapse feature. I have more than a passing interest in the art of time lapse, but at this point, I have no problem using my phone to do a quick time lapse while I am out shooting. It is not the best thing as at times the video will have some flicker to it, but for the most part I am happy with what I capture.  

PHOTOPILLS 

The one app that I do have that is designed for photographers is Photopills. Kevin Jordan did an excellent write up about the app in this recent article for Improve Photography. The planner portion of the app is gold itself and is probably worth the $9.99 alone. All of the other features that is packed with this app definitely makes this app a worthy investment for just about anyone who heads outside to shoot.

Although there is no Android option for Photopills, Keven mentioned Plant It! for Photographers.  A good alternative to Photopills is The Photographer's Ephemeris.  It is available for IOS, Android and Desktop. Although I have only used the desktop version, the app mirrors the planning area of Photopills and I use it on occasion when I am researching a location.
***UPDATE*** Photopills has a release date of March 2017 for Android users.

And with that, I am finished with the photography specific apps. Now it is time to dive off into some of the other apps that I use that are meant for a wider audience, but are very useful tools for photographers.

Screenshot of Photopills Planner

Screenshot of Photopills Planner

APPS NOT SPECIFIC TO PHOTOGRAPHY

MOTIONX GPS

When I first drafted this piece, I had no plans of mentioning this app, but a recent question that popped up in the Improve Photography Podcast Listeners group of Facebook changed my mind.

There are a number of navigation apps available for smart phones that can do a lot of different things for you but before I continue, be prepared before you venture out into the backcountry.

Even though I have seen improvements in phones over the years, I would not trust a navigation app 100%.  Have some basic knowledge of land navigation and get a compass and paper maps as a bare minimum backup.  I have always been impressed with GPS units that use satellite signals, but again, they use batteries.  Be prepared and have a back up!

MotionX GPS is a solid GPS app that will allow you to navigate around. It accesses several different map systems to include satellite, road, terrain, hybrid and marine maps from MotionX, Bing, Apple, NOAA and Google.

Some of the things that you can do with MotionX GPS is record tracks which is good if you need to backtrack.  Mark waypoints if you find a spot which you want to shoot and in conjunction with the camera, you can take a snapshot of the location you have marked.  You can also upload and download .gpx files.  A .gpx file is an XML schema designed as a common GPS data format for software applications. It can be used to describe waypoints, tracks, and routes.  You can also upload these files to GoogleEarth.  If you are like me and use GoogleEarth as a tool to scout possible photography locations, then this might be a very useful ability.

Since my Garmin GPS failed awhile back, I have used MotionX several times. Although I am still leery about using it all the time depending on my provider's coverage, the app is very solid.

MotionX GPS can be purchased at the AppStore for $1.99.

Screenshot of MotionX GPS

Screenshot of MotionX GPS

 

Screenshot of MotionX GPS

Screenshot of MotionX GPS

STARWALK II

Starwalk II and it's predecessor Starwalk are astromony apps, but are very useful for photographers.

Starwalk is a guide to the night sky.  It covers just about anything interstellar a photographer would want to know from meteor showers, planets in alignment to what time and where The Milky Way will rise.  One of the app's features is the calendar.  The calendar has a listing of events, such as meteor showers listed throughout the year.  Some of these listings will also have descriptions of the event and in the case of meteor showers, sometimes the average rate one can see “falling stars.”

Another real helpful feature Starwalk has is the ability for the user to lock the guide.  Basically what this does is allow the user to point the device into the sky and the guide will display on screen what the user is looking at.

While the app is not targeted towards photographers, it has been recommended in photography communities across The Internet and well, if you want to get out and explore the night sky with your camera, this app should be on your “must have app” list.  The app is available for both IOS and Android for $2.99.

Screenshot of Starwalk II display

Screenshot of Starwalk II display

MYCSC

MyCSC, or My Clear Sky Chart app for IOS is a great little app for only $1.99. It does not matter what you shoot, if you shoot outside, you might want to take a look at this nifty little app.

The app is based on the website Clear Sky Chart. The website brings together numerous sites from throughout North America that forecasts how clear the sky is going to be at that site for approximately the next day. The information is broken down into transparency, seeing, darkness, wind, humidity and temperature, all ingredients for seeing the night sky.  Although I have numerous weather apps, this little app will give me a good idea of what I will be looking at sky wise for sunsets, sunrises and Milky Way shots.

Screenshot of MyCSC

Screenshot of MyCSC

 

Although I was greeted by some muddled skies, using MyCSC can allow you to

Although I was greeted by some muddled skies, using MyCSC can allow you to know when the skies are clear for night photography.

WEATHER APPS

You really do not have to be a photographer to have a weather app or ten on your phone. I personally have 12………………….

Yes, you read that right, I have 12 weather related apps on my IPhone, but I do not use them all.  There are several that I love and use them all the time.  Those are the apps that I will be covering here.

STORM

I have heard Jim Harmer mention this one on the podcast.  In my opinion, this is the best all around weather app hands down.

The app is by Weather Underground and I have seen this app improve drastically over the last few years.  It was pretty solid when it first came out, but it has been improved to what it is today.  I do pay for the subscription because I like to get all the information I can about the weather. I live in Oklahoma and even before the publication of this article, spring weather has been weird and wacky.  One of the little gems of this app does is show the storm tracks on radar.  They are color coded relative to the storm's strength and tapping on the track icon will pop up some information about the storm, which can be useful.

On top of that, the app gives hourly forecast information along with a long range forecast and a whole host of weather related information. If you have an Ipad, the Ipad version also provides an overlay showing the Convective Outlook. I will not go into what this is, but for us here in Tornado Alley, we tend to pay attention to this little piece of information during this time of year.

I highly, highly recommend this app. The app is free and the ads free unlock is $1.99. It is also available for Android.

Screenshot of Storm

Screenshot of Storm

Stormscape that I captured using the Storm App in 2015.

Stormscape that I captured using the Storm App in 2015.

RADARSCOPE

Radarscope is a more intensive radar app that is focused more on the radar images itself than presenting a well rounded fountain of weather information.  This app is geared more towards to storm chasers, amateur meteorologists and I have been seeing snapshots here and there of TV weather folks using the app to show the viewers what is going on.  That might not sound like a big  deal considering some of the other apps out there, but the difference is that Radarscope users can use the tools that come with the app to look deeper into a storm.  For example, with Storm, the radar will show me a tornadic signature icon on a storm.  With Radarscope, I can dissect the radar image and can actually see the tornadic signature on radar which cannot be done with Storm or some of the others.  I can see wind speeds in specific parts of the storm which cannot be done.

Another facet of Radarscope is that it is tied into Spotter Network.  I will not go into what Spotter Network is, but if you have an account, you can log in via RadarScope and have your location broadcasted over the app, and see who all else is out chasing the storms.

Screenshot of Radarscope

Screenshot of Radarscope during a recent tornado outbreak in Oklahoma.

My first storm image of 2016. I used Radarscope to get on this storm.

My first storm image of 2016. I used Radarscope to get on this storm.

 

MYRADAR

Since I heard Nick Page mention this app, I figured I would give it a test run to see what it would do and so far I like it.  I still need to look at it more, but I think it would be a worthy substitute for Storm.  I have not been able to give this app a full workout, but I like what I see so far.  With the different layers that show cloud cover, warnings and watches and other weather related weather information.  Just recently, the Severe Studios teamed up with the app so now users can follow their team of storm chasers and their live feeds during storm season.

Screenshot of MyRadar

Screenshot of MyRadar

EPILOGUE

While there are many more apps out there that are strictly photography based, and apps that can benefit a photographer, this is my “Top Apps”  that I use to make shooting decisions. From scouting a location to timing a Milky Way shoot to avoiding severe weather or photographing same; these apps have proven themselves to me to be the best apps for me. I would love to see what you the readers have for recommendations. Feel free to leave them in the comments section below. Thank you.


About the Author

Stanley Harper

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Stanley Harper is a photographer based in the Oklahoma Panhandle town of Hooker where the task of finding an outstanding and photogenic landscape is almost impossible. Besides long walks on the beach, Stanley's photographic endeavors include seniors, families, the night sky, sports, weddings and the occasional thunderstorm. If you would like to check out more of Stanley's work, hit up his various social media accounts and websiteFacebook, 500px, Stanley's website, and of course Instagram.

Comments

  1. I’ll put a BIG check mark by Photopills. An amazing app. I wanted to do some Milky Way photography and there was a great video that explained exactly how to do it. Told me when there would be no moon and where and what orientation the Milky Way would appear at any time of the night. All I had to do was find a dark place. Oh yeah. I also needed to find a night that it didn’t pour rain. Better luck next month.

    1. Thank you for reading Tony C. I feel for ya. When it comes right down to it, I might end up shooting the Milky Way once or twice a year just because the way things work out for me. Definitely takes some luck to have everything align to get a clear sky.

  2. Hi Stanley,
    I really enjoyed the article. I generally read them right in the email. I however had to go to the website to find out who wrote the article….then scroll all the way to the bottom of the article to find out. It would be nice if the authors name could be noted right after the title on the emails, and on the articles. Not just your article here, but all that come from IP.
    I’m still always expecting the articles to be coming from Jim, or Dustin. Now, there are so many authors the only way to find out who wrote the article is to go to the website.
    Thanks, please rely this note to all the IP authors.
    Alex

  3. Nice article, Stanley. Lots of great apps on your list. I’ve just recently started using MyRadar and like it so far, as well. I like Sky Guide to see what I’m looking at in the night sky. One of my most used apps, however, is the Podcast app. 🙂

    1. Haha!!! I forgot to mention the Podcast app 🙂

      Thank you Rusty. I really like what I see from MyRadar and I think it is better than Storm in some aspects, especially for photographers.

  4. there’s a typo in your article. You mention the Android app “Plant It!” it should be Plan It.

  5. I like the article, but I’ve got a standard comment when I see “for IOS” in the title. While you mentioned Android, I almost never seem to see Android apps from a site like IP, we always seem to be an afterthought. Of course I can find something similar based on your article, but I like getting the Android viewpoint from someone that really knows a lot more than I do. I’ve decide I’m not going to Apple ever again, so seeing the Android is important to me.

    Just as an aside, one of the reasons I’ll not to apple again is that the have made my hardware obsolete. My iPad is an older version, and I’ve been instructed not to upgrade to newer version of IOS because it can’t handle it, making it very slow. That was fine with me, but now the apps are getting to where they won’t run on the older IOS versions!!! You get a pop up that states you can’t run it because the current IOS version hasn’t been upgraded!!! Can you imagine Lightroom all the sudden not working on you older Vista PC just because you didn’t want to buy a new PC?

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