There are so many factors to consider when shooting outdoors. The time of day, angle of light, weather conditions (current and future), subject matter and potential location restraints are just a few. In today’s futuristic and digital-driven world, many of these factors have become quite a bit easier to prepare for and predict.
First, let me say that even the best apps could never replace a good ol’ fashioned “location site scout.” Seeing is believing, as the saying goes, and nothing is more important to your outdoor shoot than careful planning. Actually getting on location, planning your shots and scouting different angles is of paramount importance. While you’re there, though, make sure to check in with the following apps for a little extra edge.
This amazing little app uses your GPS coordinates to calculate exactly where you are. Once it has your location locked in, the app can determine the time the sun will rise and set any day of the year and help you discover the best lighting conditions for your shoot. I’m usually looking for that golden hour in the morning or evening, that perfect time when the light is streaky and beautiful. LightTrac always gets the job done for me. On a side note, waving an iPhone around in a figure-eight pattern to recalibrate GPS is still one of the most annoying and foolish-looking things I can imagine. The app is still great, though.
Knowing when, and from which angle, the sun will set and rise is incredibly useful information -- but what if your subject isn’t in the path of direct light? You can use the Compass app to establish which direction is north and work from there. Northern light is traditionally beautiful and soft all day long. As far as eastern and western light go, obviously the sun rises in the east and sets in the west so that light will be inconsistent throughout the day. It’s always good to have your bearings for an outdoor shoot, and there’s no easier way than with the Compass app.
And finally, let’s talk about the weather (but not in a boring “we don’t have anything else to talk about” way). I’ve gone through tons of different weather apps -– RainAware and AccuWeather, to name a few -- but I still haven’t found one that I trust more than The Weather Channel app. The customizable radar maps show both past weather and predicted weather, which is invaluable information for an outdoor photographer.
I hope you find these apps helpful when you head outside for your next photoshoot. Are there any apps you use frequently as a photographer? We’d love to hear about your experiences. Let us know in the comments below!