Sun Position Tracking Apps
Photographers are always searching for the perfect light and, no surprise, there’s an app for that. In fact, there are a number of sun (and moon) tracking apps. Although these apps may not be able to predict the weather, they can ensure the light is right for your outdoor shoot. We gathered a few of our favorites here but feel free to share the sun tracking apps you find most useful, too.
LightTrac plots the angle and elevation of the sun (and moon) for the location, day, year, and time of your choice. A slider bar changes the time of day so you can plan the perfect lighting down to the minute. Sunrise, sunset, and twilight along with moonrise, moonset, and moon phase information is available for any day you want. Multiple location information can be saved, and the iOS version allows photographers to share locations as well. iPad users also benefit from an integrated compass view. This colorful app is a real time-saver and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to use it.
$4.99 (iOS and Android)
You’ll never miss another magic hour with this little countdown app. All you have to do is set a location and turn on reminders. Then an audio reminder will sound on your mobile device. You can set reminders to ding at a specific time prior to the start of Magic Hour (morning or evening) and/or when Magic Hour starts. There’s even a countdown clock to let you know how much longer the “magic” light will last. You might not use it on every outdoor shoot, but the app is free and, despite its simplicity, may certainly come in handy from time to time.
Sun Seeker comes fully equipped with a flat view compass and provides an augmented reality camera 3D view so you can accurately see the sun’s path as it rises and sets. The app also shows the elevation and shadow length ratio to better pinpoint where and when to shoot. Of course, sunrise and sunset times are available, so you’ll be well equipped to plan your shoot. There may be a bit of a learning curve, but it shouldn’t take much time to get up to speed. The company offers a lunar phase app as well.
Highly useful with advanced features, Sun Surveyor incorporates a cool 3D compass and an Augmented Reality mode that overlays information on the live image viewed through your iPhone/iPad camera. Of course, there’s a map view (and for iOS, a panoramic Street View where available) and detailed data for all phases of the sun and moon. For those of us who find the 3D compass a little too confusing, the app provides a color-coded list with the times and duration of the sweetest light. Screenshots and detailed data can be emailed from within the app so you can plot out your next shoot wherever or whenever it may be. Info can be stored for offline reference as well.
$6.99 (iOS), $6.49 (Android)
The Photographer’s Ephemeris
Probably the most sophisticated app in the bunch, and especially valuable for hikers and outdoors people, The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE) shows you when and where the sun/moon will rise and set (among a long list of other important information). More importantly, the app also provides visual information, such as shadow length and direction (to scale) and whether or not the sun will rise high enough (i.e. over a mountain range) to actually shine on your chosen location. You can use TPE’s visual search function to determine the next date and time the sun (or moon) will be in the perfect position for your shoot. There’s even a topographic map option. And that’s only scratching the surface—the depth and breadth of this app is impressive. Shake your smartphone or tablet to activate an overlay that will guide you through the app’s controls. Check out the free desktop software first if you’d like, but move quickly to the iOS or Android app to reap the full benefits of this fantastic piece of software.
$8.99 (iOS), $4.99 (Android), free (Desktop)