Plan your shot! No worries this post is not going to be a preachment towards that you from now on should plan all your shootings before hitting the release button on your camera. This posting is more about an app that supports you to plan your shooting if you like. PlanIt! for Photographers is dedicated to all landscape, travel, nature photographers and all those who are interested in night, time-lapse, astro, star-trail and Milky Way photography.
Up to now “The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE)” has been the standard app for me to plan my outdoor shootings and find the right location and timing. TPE is available on multiple platforms* which makes it easy to have it always available at your fingertips. But since a few weeks now, I own a Nexus 7 in addition to my iOS devices to remote control my camera, so Android comes more and more to my attention. While looking for same or similar apps that I used to have on my iPad for my Nexus, I stumbled upon PlanIt! while I was searching for TPE. PlanIt! is currently only available for Android but it has a lot more features than TPE has and will replace several other apps I used for planning’s thus far.
* (iOS, Android and Web, the desktop version PC/Mac has been discontinued thanks to a change in Googles API politics)
Please note all screenshots I have taken will show the German version of PlanIt! but of course the app will show up at least in English, if your language is not available.
TPE the mother of all tools to plan your photography shooting has been reviewed and praised already hundred times on various blogs and honestly it is a great tool to find out the perfect time and location for shooting outdoors. You will know where the Sun or the Moon will appear or set and at which time. You will also be noticed about dusk, dawn and twilight times. Whereas twilight is always mentioned in three different definitions:
- civil twilight – you can still read outdoors (geometric center of the Sun is 6° below the horizon )
- nautical twilight – you can see the skyline and a few stars (center of the Sun is geometrically 12 degrees below the horizon)
- astronomical twilight – up to a maximum of darkness into deep night (center of the Sun is geometrically 18 degrees below the horizon)
But PlanIt! takes you beyond the capabilities of TPE. Often it is not enough to just know the twilight times, at wich direction the Sun or Moon will rise or set. Wouldn’t it be good to know, to visualize and to know at any time for any location on the world, where the Sun or Moon will be located? Even more important, will you have a clear view towards the scene or will any object like a mountain hide the object? Wouldn’t it be nice to get answers on questions like: what kind of lens or focal length will I need to capture the scene? How many shots will cover the scene if it is to wide or to high for a single photo? When taking a panorama, what is the angle I have to move my camera between each photo? What is the best time to capture the Milky Way, a specific star, star-trails or the night sky? What are the exposure times to get star-trails or prevent to have star-trails appearing? How long will the star-trails be at specific exposure times? Where are specific stars like the Polaris at a specific location, time and date, will I gonna see that star or the Milky Way at all?
PlanIt! will answer all these and many more questions. The only thing I’m missing is a weather and cloud forecast, but to be honest, this is something that will never be precise enough in my opinion, as a weather forecast is nearly impossible. But PlanIt! for Photographers will give you reliable answers and information about GPS coordinates to your camera and scene location, if you like PlanIt! will hand over the coordinates for navigation. You can see and read from various screens and tools, figures like distance, elevation gain or loss – which will let you visualize if you will have a clear view towards the scene. You can define your camera setup by giving the sensor size and focal length you are going to use for the shot, even the cameras orientation is taken into account. With this said you can easily find out about the depth of field, focal distance and how many shots your panorama is going to need to capture the entire scene with a lot more of information you will find very handy. PlanIt! will also let you know about special hours like the “golden hour”, “blue hour”, “dark night”, civil, nautical and astronomical twilight, Sun and Moon position at any time and location, search for the Sun, Moon and even Milky Way, look for specific stars out of over 100 named stars, get hint’s about time-lapse such as interval, duration, start and end times, video clip duration and number of photos to shoot for specific frame rates.
As you might already know from TPE you can choose out of various map types like map, satellite, terrain etc. but PlanIt! let’s you also choose to use your own map pictures. An artificial viewfinder is available under virtual or augmented reality (VR, AR). If you already have taken a photo previously from the scene you can make use of this scene photo in your viewfinder simulation. With the viewfinder views you will be able to see and know where the stars or the Milky Way will show up (and if) at a specific time from your location you have chosen previously. The viewfinder takes the horizon and skyline into account and will let you know for example if the Moon will below the horizon or behind a mountain.
The viewfinder can simulate star-trails, how long will they be, how many will I see. You can define the amount of stars to simulate respectively which stars depending on their brightness should be simulated. What is the time frame to take star-trails and how long should my exposures be?
You can set additional marker for example to pin secondary objects on your scene, like a waterfall, a mountain next to your main subject, a lighthouse or what ever you plan to capture at your composition. This is an easy tool to see if your scene can be captured in a single shot or if you need a different focal length or even the need to take a panorama.
Please be aware that PlanIt! for Photographers comes in two versions, there is a free version to let you sneak peak into the app. With the free version there are some essentials that you will gonna miss, like pinning the scene or camera marker and other settings. But you will get an idea of how valuable PlanIt! will be for your planning’s. You will learn fast that it is a real good investment to spend about 4,50€ in a single app. TPE compared will already cost about 3,80€ and give you just a tenth of features PlanIt! has built in. iOS users will love to hear that an iPhone app is already under development. PlanIt! comes with a German translation which is sometimes sounding a bit strange, but as I liked the app that much from the first sighting, I contacted the developer and offered my help to enhance the German experience and its translation. One of the next releases will therefore come with an entirely re-worked German translation. I don’t wanna miss PlanIt! for Photographers any longer. I love to plan my outdoor shootings with PlanIt! and like exploring the locations, surroundings and ephemeris conditions. I share my unreserved recommendation of the Pro version of PlanIt! if you like to have a deeper insight of the capabilities please visit the developers homepage and find more instructions and a manual for download.
If you are already impressed right away get your digital copy of PlanIt! for Photographers at the Google Play Store.