Android and iOS smartphone apps help immensely with our landscape and Milky Way photography quests. So we at looked on our phones and compared notes to find the essential photography apps we use to help create our night and Milky Way photos. We are not talking about apps like Snapseed, Lightroom Mobile, or even Easy Release, all useful apps in their own right. But they help you AFTER you’ve taken your photos. We found the apps we use for weather forecasts, finding the Milky Way, predicting moonrise or set times, visualizing the landscape, and even finding gasoline. So here is our rundown of the best landscape photography apps for 2021 that you should consider for your Milky Way photography quest.

We organized the apps into five categories – General Purpose, Weather, Night Sky, Astronomy, and Landscape Photography Planning. And we only included apps that are available for both iOS and Android. It’s so annoying to read about some great new phone app and find out that they can’t run on your phone. Most of the screenshots presented here are from Android devices; they should look similar regardless of platform. And there are some small differences between the platforms, but generally, they are very close in features.

General Purpose Apps

Here’s a couple of apps that will help you get around. The first, Gasbuddy, helps you find fuel for your excursions. Gaia GPS finds where you are, figures out where you want to go, and shows you how to get there.  


Gasbuddy is a great resource for planning Milky Way Photography trips. I use the app mainly for locating cheap gas while on the road. The website has a trip planning part that allows the user to input vehicle information, your starting point, the endpoint, and the site will calculate approximate fuel costs for the trip.

Gasbuddy receives up-to-date gas prices from fellow users and is almost real-time. They offer a discount buyer plan which they say is available at 95% of stations. They also have a “Pay with GasBuddy” card available.

gasbuddy milky way Best Landscape Photography Apps
The Gasbuddy app offers more than just where gas stations are located. It also has trip planning and a discount buyer plan.

A free web interface is available at

Gaia GPS

There are a ton of GPS-based navigation apps out there. Some of these apps, like Gaia GPS, take over where apps like Google Maps stops. GAIA draws tracks, you can create waypoints, and you can plan out trips using a variety of different map layers.

Gaia GPS Best Landscape Photography Apps
GaiaGPS doesn’t waste precious screen space with onscreen ads.

Several of us at MilkyWayPhotographers have used Gaia for a couple of years now, and we recommend it. MilkyWayPhotographers’ Stanley Harper posted a thorough review of Gaia GPS here.

A feature Stanley finds useful is he can mark locations in Google Earth and upload the .gpx file to GAIA. He can then access that information on his iPad and get a larger display than on the phone.

Gaia allows you to operate your device in horizontal mode, which can be extremely useful when viewing maps.

gaiagps milky way Best Landscape Photography Apps
Running Gaia GPS on a GPS-enabled tablet gives you a much larger and more useful display than on a phone.
Here it is on an iPad.

Gaia GPS Cost

Gaia GPS offers several different membership tiers. The free membership gives users access to the app’s basic functions, such as tracks, waypoints, and uploading files to the website.

Stanley Harper has a membership to Gaia GPS. It allows him to download maps for offline use and access a larger map database. Membership also lets you print maps from your phone so that you can carry a hard copy of your maps. Stanley highly suggests buying membership since many locations are outside the scope of cellular service.

A free web app is available at It does require you to create an account with your email, just as you do for the phone app.

Weather Apps

Next up in our quest for the best landscape photography apps for 2021 is weather apps. There seems to be a nearly infinite number of options for weather apps. We recommend the following three weather apps – Storm Radar, Meteoblue, and Astrospheric. Each offers something a little different from the other. Take a look and see which presents the info you need most for your night photography.

Storm Radar

Storm Radar is a radar-based app that allows you to track severe weather from The Weather Channel. If you live in an area with extreme weather, you should consider Storm Radar. The Weather Channel doesn’t seem to have a page for it currently, but it’s available on Google Play and the Apple App Store.

When you install Weather Radar, it presents a short review of how to read the maps and teaches you how to access features. Tap the map, and Storm Weather popups up a box in the top half of the screen with basic current conditions for that location. Tap the name of the location shown at the top of the box, and a screen filled with detailed conditions displays. Scroll down, and you’ll find the forecast for the next three days (see image below), or you can get more resolution by switching to the hourly display.

storm radar milky way PHOTOGRAPHY apps - From Best Landscape Photography Apps for 2021
A daily or hourly forecast can be displayed with Weather Radar with just a couple taps and a swipe.

The free version allows you to view rain, snow, wind, temps, sunrise/sunset times, and tropical storms. There is also a 2-week forecast for any location you select. Within the forecast module, the user can view an hour-by-hour forecast.

Storm Radar gives you easy access to maps, like this one showing snow accumulation. From the Best Landscape Photography Apps for 2021 on
Storm Radar gives you easy access to maps, like this one showing snow accumulation.

Storm Radar can send you notices on your phone letting you know of changing weather conditions, like if rain is heading your direction. In addition to rain, it gives you a heads up for lightning and Weather Advisories. It’s been quite accurate. You can turn off these notifications if you like.

Storm Radar Cost

Ads occupy the bottom of the screen. They are removed with a Premium subscription, available at either a monthly or weekly rate. The Premium version allows you access to in-depth storm information such as lightning, HD Radar, and storm tracks.


Another weather app that several of us at MilkyWayPhotographers use is meteoblue. It is a robust weather app that offers quick and easy access to forecasts, satellite, radar, weather, and wind maps. A feature that sets meteoblue apart from other weather forecasting apps is “Meteograms.”

From Best Landscape Photography Apps for 2021
The meteoblue home screen shows the forecast for the next four days along with the current conditions. Tap any day, and an hourly forecast appears for that day.


There are 3 sections to the Meteograms. The first two Meteograms are graphical displays for the 5-day and 14-day weather forecasts. The third Meteogram compares 11 international weather models. It can be useful to see just how much variation there can be with various forecast models when making photography plans.

Meteoblue 5-day Meteogram From Best Landscape Photography Apps for 2021
The Meteoblue 5-day Meteogram plots temperature, precipitation, and wind in an easy to read format. The cloud cover graph is much easier to interpret than the “cloud cover, transparency, and seeing” plot found on other weather apps.

The 5-day Meteogram shows all weather information in 3 simple graphs. The first graph shows temperature and pictograms of if it’s sunny, cloudy, or rainy. The second graph shows precipitation along with cloud cover vs. altitude. The third graph shows wind speed along with direction and gust speed.

The 14-day Meteogram has a simplified pictogram showing the weather for each day along with high/low temps, the percent certainty for each day’s forecast, and graphs showing the high and low temperature and the uncertainty for each day’s forecasted temperature and a similar one for precipitation. That’s useful to let you know just how much you can expect that the forecast may change.

Meteoblue where2go

From Best Landscape Photography Apps for 2021
What to know here it’s going to be clear in the next five days? Check out Meteoblue’s where2go feature.

Another meteoblue has a feature called “where2go,” which predicts nearby locations with the best weather up to five days ahead. It takes into account the sunshine hours and precipitation probability and displays the spot on a map. You can set the search function to a radius of 30km to 500km, the time of day to Morning, Afternoon, or All Day, and the time from Today up to five days ahead.

Meteoblue Cost

Meteoblue is a free app with ads. Recently, a full-screen popup has started to pop up when accessing the maps occasionally. That aspect isn’t very enjoyable, but there are enough useful features in Meteoblue to keep using it. A subscription service of $0.99 per year hides the ads.

A free, web-based interface is available at


Astrospheric is probably the most underrated app on this list. It bills itself as the most advanced forecasting service for North American astronomers. It stands out because it combines interactive maps with several points of information that night photographers use – all into one app. Additionally, the data is presented in an easy-to-read format and accessible right from the app home screen.

The Astrospheric home page shows weather information most needed by night photographers - a mini-cloud map and a detailed 48-hour forecast. From Best Landscape Photography Apps for 2021
The Astrospheric home page shows weather information most needed by night photographers – a Mini-Cloud Map and a detailed 48-hour forecast.

We are all probably familiar with the “Clear Sky” type of forecasting apps. Astrospheric combines those tables of data with a weather map into one display. Called the “Mini-Cloud Map,” it is seen at the top of the app’s opening screen. Scroll down, and you’ll see a detailed 48-hour forecast and a long-range cloud forecast. A bit further down, and you’ll see details about the Moon and its phases. At the bottom of the home screen are details about the forecast and the location. Astrospheric even tells you when to expect when it will update the forecast.

The middle section of the Astrospheric home page shows current conditions and Sun/Moon rise and set times for the next 48  hours. From Best Landscape Photography Apps for 2021
The middle section of the Astrospheric home page shows current conditions and Sun/Moon rising and setting times for the next 48 hours.

Astrospheric Interactive Forecast

The feature we like most about Astropheric is the interaction of the 48-hour forecast with the map. The map shows Astropsheric’s clear sky predictions and overlays them onto the map (see above). The vertical blue bar near the left edge shows the current time. You can scroll the timeline horizontally, tap any region in the timeline. That hour of the timeline becomes highlighted in white, and the map displays changes to show the predicted forecast – at that time.

The bottom third of the Astrospheric home page shows the Moon phase and details about when to expect the next weather forecast updated. From Best Landscape Photography Apps for 2021
The bottom third of the Astrospheric home page shows the Moon phase and details about when to expect the next weather forecast updated.

Tap on the “Map Layer” button, lower right corner of the map, and you have the option to display various layers – Smoke, Cloud, Transparency, Seeing, Ground, Jet Stream, Satellite, or Light Pollution on the map. Select one, and a full-screen map displays that data with a red crosshair in the map center.

Astrospheric's map changes the display from cloud cover to transparency and seeing at the touch of your fingertip. From Best Landscape Photography Apps for 2021
Looking for a location with clearer skies? Astrospheric’s map can display cloud cover, seeing, or transparency (shown here), so you can find them. Place the crosshair over a prospective location, tap the “Get New Forecast” in the lower right for detailed info at that location.

Slide the map around, and you can align the crosshair on a location you’re interested in. Tap “Get New Forecast” in the lower right of the display, and Astrospheric pops you back to the home display with data for that location. You can also use the search feature above the map to change forecast locations by name or lat-long.

astrospheric milky way PHOTOGRAPHY apps From Best Landscape Photography Apps for 2021
In addition to mapping seeing conditions, Astrospheric can quickly display other conditions like the temperature.

Astrospheric’s Animated Maps

All the maps in Astrospheric, except the Light Pollution map, have a play button icon. Tap that, and it downloads overlays for the next 24-hours and animates them. It can take a minute to get downloaded, but once it does, it smoothly animates them and displays the time for each animation frame. This is super useful as it can show you nearby locations that may have better viewing conditions. Astrospheric works in horizontal mode, allowing you to see the display in greater detail.

Astrospheric vs. Clear Outside

The Clear Outside app is probably the most popular app of this type with landscape photographers. Sadly, it has not been updated since 2015 and is in desperate need of attention. Astrospheric offers much the same information as Clear Outside but presents it in an easier-to-read display. Astrospheric’s graphs are more intuitive than Clear Outsides’ table after table of numbers. And the addition of animated prediction maps makes Astrospheric our top choice for prediction viewing conditions.


If you want clear sky forecasts outside the continental USA and Canada – sorry, you’ll need to look elsewhere. Astrospheric’s map shows regions outside North America, but it doesn’t display forecasts for those regions. Even Hawaii isn’t covered. Interestingly, the light pollution map does work worldwide.

Astrospheric Cost

Astrospheric is a free app with ads. The ads occupy about the bottom 10% of a phone screen. You can become an Astrospheric member for free to use Favorite Locations, Weather Alerts, and a feature called Subspace which lets astronomy societies communicate with members and friends. A US$0.99 a month subscription removes ads and opens what Astrospheric calls the “Ensemble Cloud Forecast.”

A free, web-based interface is available at

Night Sky Apps

Continuing our Best Landscape Photography Apps for 2021 survey, here are our night sky app recommendations. While there are apps for finding dark skies, we have a slightly different take. SpaceWeatherLive is our recommendation for Aurora predictions.

Dark Sky Maps

A Dark Sky Map is a self-descriptive name for this useful type of app – it is a map with a light pollution overlay. This allows the prospective Milky Way photographer to scout for locations with dark sky locations.

But rather than recommending an app for finding dark skies, we recommend using other apps that you probably already have, including a light pollution map. This approach saves space on your phone and lets you use the apps you have to their fullest potential! And it seems that all the light pollution maps available use the same data, so there’s no reason to use a separate app.

The apps on this list that include a dark sky/light pollution map are Astrospheric, The Photographers Ephemeris, and PlanIt for Photographers. The presentation is a little different in each of these apps, so try them out and use the one that works best for you.

A dark sky map for night photography apps from the Best Landscape Photography Apps for 2021 at
Dark Sky maps are an integral part of every night and Milky Way Photographer’s app arsenal.


For the Aurora hunters out there, SpaceWeatherLive is THE app you should check out. This app sports all the data you need to know about the space weather conditions like Kp-index, hemispheric power, solar wind density, and Bz/interplanetary magnetic field that affect the aurora. It also includes push notifications, so you don’t miss that aurora you’ve been waiting for in your location!

Kp-Index Forecast

Home screen of SpaceWeatherLive. Best Landscape Photography Apps
The Kp-index value dominates the SpaceWeatherLive home screen.

SpaceWeatherLive opens with the number everyone wants to see first – the Kp-index. Below that is a Probability Forecast for high and mid-latitudes, and a Kp-index forecast on the first screen, along with a map to show where you might see the Aurora.

Mapping the Aurora

Aurora Map Spaceweather Live, Best Landscape Photography Apps

Sometimes, you just want a map to see where the estimated position of the aurora. SpaceWeatherLive shows a map of the entire world on the home screen, tap on the map, and an easier-to-read view of the Auroral Oval, for both hemispheres, opens.

Real-Time Data

BZ plots are perhaps more important than Kp numbers.
BZ plots are perhaps more important than Kp numbers.

The interplanetary magnetic field, aka Bz-number, is an important number to track when chasing the aurora. It tells you if the field is oriented North or South and how strong the field is. Satellites around the sun actually let us know what the values are before they reach Earth, shown by the vertical grey line labeled “Earth.”

Solar Activity is the Key

Coronal holes on the surface of the sun show where the solar wind can escape into space.
Coronal holes appear as dark areas on the sun’s surface. They are where the solar wind can escape into space.

At the top of the SpaceWeatherLive home screen is a tab for Solar Activity. Scroll down, and it shows the sun with various imaging techniques. Sunspots, solar flares, coronal holes, and coronal mass ejections are all there. It even has an image of the far side of the sun. It’s not there in case you’ve ever wondered what it looks like. It can show you when more potential solar activity may be heading in our direction.

Take a Chance

Local predictions are available for when all the numbers get too complicated!
Local odds predictions are available for when all the other numbers get too complicated!

If all the numbers are too much, there’s a handy table of locations with an estimated chance of aurora seeing.

Learn as You Go

A neat feature of SpaceWeatherLive is the blue “i” in a circle placed by each data set or image. Tap that, and SpaceWeatherLive pops up info letting you know what that item means for aurora seeing. You don’t have to go elsewhere to learn the science shown in this app.

SpaceWeatherLive Cost

SpaceWeatherLive is a free app with ads that are removed with a subscription. They start at US$0.99 a month and go to US$9.99 a year.

A free web-based interface is available at

Astronomy Apps

The night sky is filled with numerous objects. To learn what and where they are, we recommend a couple of astronomy apps to help you find your way. One is geared towards stargazing, Star Walk, while Stellarium is a photo-realistic planetarium app.


Star Walk is a great app that displays the solar system. It allows the user to visualize the Milky Way position in the sky, in any place, at any time. If you want a solid app that covers the entire night sky in addition to the Milky Way, we highly recommend this app.

star walk milky way PHOTOGRAPHY apps From Best Landscape Photography Apps for 2021
Star Walk works in horizontal mode, allowing a more natural view of the sky.

It is updated regularly with upcoming events, such as the recent NEOWise comet event. Star Walk is a premium app that has been around for a few years, but it stays relevant in the planning process. 

X-Ray Vision

Star Walk shows the sky in multiple spectrums - including Hydrogen-alpha.
Star Walk shows the sky in multiple spectrums – including Hydrogen-alpha.

One interesting feature of Star Walk is it can display the night sky with different light spectra. If you have an Astro-modified camera, this can help you find interesting Hydrogen-alpha targets to capture. And yes, you can even see the night sky with X-Ray Vision!

The app opens with both music, and sound effects turned on. Fortunately, you can turn both off in the Settings menu. Star Walk works in horizontal mode, allowing a more natural view of the sky.

Two Star Walks

There are two versions – Star Walk and Star Walk 2. Star Walk 2 is an updated version and sports a redesigned interface, and has several camera modes. Tap the compass icon in the upper left corner, and Star Walk goes into free roam mode – it displays what’s in the sky behind your device. By tapping the camera icon on the upper right, you’re in augmented reality mode. If you use the AR mode in other apps for your night photography planning, you might want to try Star Walk 2 since access to it is super fast.

Star Walk Cost

Star Walk and Star Walk 2 have popup ads. You can block them for US$2.99. You can get an “All-in-One” bundle that not only removes ads, but it gives you additional Planet, Satellite, Solar System, and Deeps Sky Object data. A 7-day free trial is available for the All-in-One bundle.


Stellarium Mobile Plus app is perhaps the best planetarium app available today. If you’ve seen videos showing upcoming astronomical events, like Alyn Wallace’s excellent “What’s In The Night Sky” Youtube series, you’ve seen the desktop version of this app in action.

From Best Landscape Photography Apps for 2021
Stellarium’s constellation overlay can help you learn astronomical lore as well as the location of brighter stars.

Stellarium has many features geared to astronomy needs like a catalog of 1.4 billion stars, 3 million nebulae and galaxies, all the known planets and their natural satellites, all known comets, and many visible artificial earth satellites including the International Space Station. You can even control a wifi-controlled telescope with Stellarium from your phone!

The Sky in High Res

Stellarium can zoom in - way in! And the resolution is amazing!
Stellarium can zoom in – way in! And the resolution is amazing! Zooming in on the Moon here makes it look like you’re in orbit!

Perhaps the coolest feature of Stellarium is the high-resolution image of the night sky. You can zoom in, and it just keeps adding more and more detail! You can zoom in on the Moon, regardless of phase, and it looks like a photo of the Moon!

Night Vison

There’s a “night vision” mode where the screen switches to shades of red. You have control over constellation markings, including which cultural lore is used for the basis. Various landscape modes are available to approximate viewing location conditions. The amount of “light pollution” is user adjustable to simulate your local sky.

From Best Landscape Photography Apps for 2021
Stellarium’s easy to read rise and set time screen for the planets. Wait a second – where’s Pluto???

Virtual Reality Mode

Stellarium mobile has a Virtual Reality (VR) mode – point your device at the sky, and Stellarium will show you what is there. Since you can’t overlay Stellarium’s VR display on your phone camera image, it’s perhaps not as useful as the VR mode in PhotoPills or PlanIt.

Stellarium Cost

For Android, Stellarium comes in three versions – Stellarium Mobile Free, which is free. Stellarium Mobile costs US$2.99, and Stellarium Mobile Plus for US$9.99. For iOS, it seems Stellarium Plus is the only version available at US$9.99. The following description is for the Plus version of Stellarium.

One benefit of using Stellarium is you can use it on pretty much any platform – it’s not restricted to mobile devices. It has a web-based interface, and it is also a free, open-source download for Mac, PC, and Linux.

Best Landscape Photography Apps

Planner Apps - Side by Side. Left to right, The Photographer's Ephemeris (TPE Android), PhotoPills, and PlanIt Pro. PlanIt offers the most info while TPE shows the least. Copyright 2021 Kirk D. Keyes. Best Landscape Photography Apps
Planner Apps – Side by Side. Left to right, The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE Android), PhotoPills, and PlanIt Pro. PlanIt offers the most info while TPE for Android shows the least.

We’re rounding the last bend in our exploration of the Best Landscape Photography Apps for 2021. Here’s where we often spend most of our time planning our Milky Way photography. As with the other apps, there’s more than one way to present the info you need for a successful outing of night photography. So we’re going to look at three landscape photography planning apps.

First up is The Photographer’s Ephemeris, the first photo planning app and it is available on desktop. PhotoPills is the 500-lb gorilla, with its popular Augmented Reality mode. PlanIt for Photographers Pro is the new kid on the block. But don’t let that dissuade you from trying it. PlanIt Pros’ killer feature is a Virtual Reality mode that models the landscape, with 3D rendering, from any location.

App Similarities

First, let’s talk about the similarities between these apps. All three offer a variety of maps to give you a bird’s eye view of your location. Each shows the sun and moon’s position, where and when they will rise and set, as well as important times like astronomical twilight, blue, and golden hour. You can search for locations and save your times and locations for later recall. They all offer augmented reality mode, letting you hold up your phone and see where the sun, the moon, and Milky Way will be at any given location and time. They all use a timeline slider along the bottom of the screen.

Photographer’s Ephemeris and PlanIt Pro contain a light pollution map. This is handy for refining your prospective shooting locations. Come on, PhotoPills, you need to add this feature. Why make users leave your app to find something so intrinsically needed for night photography?

Data Download

One thing to consider with each of these planning apps is an internet connection is needed to download new map information. They will work without the internet, but maps may have little to no detail. So before you head out to a new location, zoom into the areas you may visit to let the apps load in the maps data.

The Photographer’s Ephemeris

The Photographer's Ephemeris Web runs on your desktop computer giving you a larger work area than your phone.
The Photographer’s Ephemeris Web runs on your desktop computer giving you a larger work area than your phone.

The grandpappy of all photography planning apps is The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE). It started as a desktop program in 2009 and moved to iOS the following year and eventually Android. The desktop version has morphed into Photo Ephemeris Web – a web-based app.

The Desktop version lets you do just that – run on a screen larger than a phone or a tablet. There are times when you just want to use a planning app on a large screen or computer. Sure, PhotoPills and PlanIt for Photographers run on tablets, or you can use programs like BlueStacks to emulate the Android environment on a desktop. But that’s extra work. At MilkyWayPhotographers, we like to keep it “Simples!”

All the Basics

Photographer’s Ephemeris does all the basics of landscape photography planning. A nice map selection is available, including the all-important light pollution map. You can even overlay the Light pollution map over the other map layers.

Augmented Reality, Moon phases, line of sight, saving locations – they are all there for iOS.


TPE 3D for iOS creates photorealistic renderings of the landscape. Sadly, it's not available on Android.
TPE 3D for iOS creates photorealistic renderings of the landscape. Sadly, it’s not available on Android.

If you are an iOS user, there is an upgraded version of TPE called Photographer’s Ephemeris 3D version that is definitely worth checking into. It uses topographic map data to create a bird’s eye 3D view – including shadows moving across the landscape! This feature is very cool for planning landscape photos. Sadly it is not available for Android or desktop versions. So we will not be discussing this version beyond giving it a mention.

TPE Android is “Taking a Rest”

Sadly, the Android version of TPE has fallen severely behind the iOS version. As such, TPE has removed it from the Google Play store since the start of this year. If you’re an Android user and have already bought it, you can still use it. And TPE says they will continue to update it. But it’s not available if for new users – at least for now. TPE says they are working on updating it, but they expect it to take several months.

The Photographer’s Ephemeris Cost

TPE iOS app costs US$9.99 in the Apple Play Store. TPE 3D is US$11.99. Again, an Android version is currently unavailable.

For the desktop Web app, you need to sign up for a free account and then sign in when you use it. Upgrading to a Web PRO account enables a wide range of base map styles, including Google Maps and Google Streetview. Night photography features like Milky Way and Meteor Shower position, searching for ideal dates to find targets in exactly the right position are added as well. The Web Pro version costs US$4/month or US$30/year.


PhotoPills displays the Milky Way as a series of dots across the Planner map. Swipe the timeline to see where it will appear. Copyright 2021 Kirk D. Keyes.
PhotoPills displays the Milky Way as a series of dots across the Planner map. Swipe the timeline to see where it will appear.

The 800-pound gorilla of landscape planning apps is PhotoPills. It is currently the dominant app for several reasons – it’s pretty easy to use, it has a simple interface, and many popular photographers are using it. And PhotoPills has a huge YouTube library of tutorial videos. That said, it’s not the be-all and end-all of landscape photography apps. Make sure you look into PlanIt Pro as well.

Tabs and Pills

PhotoPills opens to Pills home page. Best Landscape Photography Apps
PhotoPills opens to Pills home page.

When you open PhotoPills, you’re presented with a series of tabs – those are oddly referred to as the Pills. The first three are the Planner, Sun, and Moon. The Planner displays a map and presents the sun and moon’s positions, rising and setting lines, and even the Milky Way position. The Planner is where you’ll spend most of your time looking for locations for your photography. The Sun and Moon Pills have info like rising and setting times for each, but much of it is viewable from the Planner Pill.

Calculators Galore

Other Pills have numerous photographic calculators like an ND Exposure Guide, Meteor Showers, Star Trails, Time Lapse, Focal Length Matching, and Hyperfocal and Depth of Field calculators. There’s even a timer.

The PhotoPills Augmented Reality view is it's killer feature. Best Landscape Photography Apps Copyright 2021 Kirk D. Keyes.
The PhotoPills Night AR (Augmented Reality) view is it’s killer feature. Here’s the view from Cape Kiwanda, Oregon.

Night AR vs Sun AR vs Moon AR vs AR AR!

PhotoPills Augmented Reality modes are arguably its killer app. Somewhat confusingly, there are four different AR modes! Sun AR shows the Sun’s position and is available from the Sun Pill; Moon AR shows the Moon and is found in the Moon Pill. The Planner Pill has the other two – Night AR shows the Milky Way’s position and has animated dots that move across the screen to show the sky’s motion. The other Planner AR mode is simply called “AR” and shows both the Sun and the Moon’s current position along with small dots to show their hourly position through the day.

I don’t know about you, but that seems like a bit of duplicity. A Night AR and then a second AR mode with the Sun, Moon, and AR modes rolled into one would simplify this a lot. Or even just roll them all into one. And dump the animated dots – many people misunderstand what the dots are trying to show, mistaking them for stars.

photopills milky way PHOTOGRAPHY apps From Best Landscape Photography Apps for 2021
PhotoPills on a tablet is a great way to plan your photography.

Despite that nitpick, PhotoPills has pretty much everything you want in a planning app as a landscape photographer. It’s well worth its cost to have all the tables and calculators in one easily accessible app.

YouTube to the Rescue

To get the most from PhotoPills, check out their great series of YouTube videos. And they are built into PhotoPill’s Academy tab – look for the Videotutorials Pill. Not only are there tutorials on the various Pills there and on YouTube, but there are numerous photography classes with landscape photographers that use PhotoPills, like Alyn Wallace, Rachel Ross Jones, and Jennifer Khordi.

PhotoPills Cost

PhotoPills is well worth the US$9.99 price for both iOS and Android.

PlanIt PRO For Photographers

Last but so not least is Planit Pro for Photographers. PlanIt Pro is so rich; it does take some time to learn how to use it. But don’t be put off by that. Once you get into it, we predict it will become your “GoTo” planning app.

The Virtual Reality view is PlanIt Pro's killer feature. Enter your camera location, camera and lens info, and your subject location, and PlanIt can 3D render the view. Copyright 2021 Kirk D. Keyes.
PlanIt Pro’s Virtual Reality view is its killer feature. Enter your camera and lens info plus your camera and subject location, and PlanIt will 3D render the view.

Like TPE and PhotoPills, Planit Pro allows you to plan a Milky Way shoot at a specific location, using the Sun, Moon, and Milky Way information for any particular day using a map. But PlanIt goes a step further – It creates a Virtual Reality view of your planned image.

PlanIt Pro lets you input what camera and lens you want to use. Next, place a marker for the camera location on the map and another marker for the subject. And here’s the killer feature for PlanIt – tap on the white button with a viewfinder frame, pick Viewfinder (VR), and PlanIt downloads digital map data to render a virtual reality view of the landscape.

Once you see the VR camera view of the landscape before you’ve even been on-site, it is simply magical. You’ll probably find you don’t even need to use PlanIt’s Viewfinder (AR) mode (or even PhotoPills AR).

Ephemeris Tables Galore

PlanIt includes 19 Ephemeris features divided into four sections – Sun and Moon, Night Photography, Special Interests, Meteorology, and Oceanography. These sections include the standard items like the position and rising/setting times for the Sun, Moon, Milky Way, twilight, blue, and golden hours.

It also calculators for Star Trails, Sequence, and Time Lapse photography. But unlike other app calculators, PlanIt Pro can animate the sky’s motion in its Virtual Reality display.

The Tide is Rising

If you ever photograph at the coast, check out PlanIt Pro’s Tide Tables. In addition to listing daily high and low tides, PlanIt plots the tide height on the timeline along with the Sun and the Moon, so it’s super easy to see when they will be relative to each other.

Best Landscape Photography Apps Light Pollution Map

PlanIt Pro has the best implementation of a light pollution map of all these apps. You can zoom in far more than the other two planning apps.


PlanIt Pro's calendar helps you pick the best nights for Milky Way photography. Copyright 2021 Kirk D. Keyes
Want to know when the best nights for Milky Way photography, PlanIt Pro’s Calendar, shows you at a glance.

Planit Pro offers four calendar views to help you plan your outings. Included are Moon Phases, Milky Way Visibility, Moonless Nights, and Important Dates, which shows the Moon quarter phases, Moon Apogee and Perigee, Meteor Showers. Tap the day you want on the calendar, and the planner uses that date.

Learning PlanIt Pro

planit pro From Best Landscape Photography Apps for 2021
PlanIt Pro’s layout is often criticized as too confusing, but once you start using it, it’s actually well laid out. And if you’re unsure, tap the Question Mark icon, and it pops up a help screen.

When you first open PlanIt Pro, it is easy to get overwhelmed. It presents a lot of information, so it’s easy to get lost. Slide the timeline, press the Plus icon to place your camera and scene markers. Slide the ephemeris data, located below the location info, left and right. Press the Question Mark icon to see more tips. And definitely check out the excellent tutorials on YouTube. TUtorials are available not only in English but Spanish and Chinese as well.

PlanIt Live Companion App

PlanIt Live gives you quick access to information when on location. Scroll down to see the Milky Way times. Best Landscape Photography Apps. Coopyright 2021 Kirk D. Keyes.
PlanIt Live gives you quick access to information when on location. Scroll down to see the Milky Way times.

Check out the free PlanIt Live app. It strips out many PlanIt Pro functions and concentrates on the Sun, Moon, and Milky Way. PlanIt Live only shows you info for today, the five days previous, five days after, and at your current location. Literally, it is “Live.”

Quick Info

PlanIt Pro Live is best used while you are in the field and need to quickly look up particular info.

It’s a super quick way to plot the Sun, Moon, and Milky Way path and see when notable times like rising and setting times and directions, blue hour, nighttime, the angle of the Milky Way, or the phase of the Moon. The Moon diagram even shows detail on the “dark side” so you can get a feel for how your crescent Moon earthshine photo can look.

PlanIt Live 3D Compass

PlanIt Live's 3D Compass quickly shows the path of the Sun, Moon, and Milky Way at your location. Copyright 2021 Kirk D. Keyes.
PlanIt Live’s 3D Compass quickly shows the path of the Sun, Moon, and Milky Way at your location.

Tap the Compass Icon at the top, and PlanIt Live displays a 3D compass. Not quite augmented reality, but it is a fast way to see where the Sun, Moon, and Milky Way will be. Aim your phone your compass heading shows under the date. A visualization of the Sun, Moon, and Milky Way path appears based on the displayed time. Swipe your finger on the screen, and the time changes.

PlanIt Pro Cost

PlanIt Pro costs US$9.99 and is well worth having in your toolbox. The PlanIt Live app is free.

Concluding the Best Landscape Photography Apps for 2021

That’s our selection of the Best Landscape Photography Apps for 2021. We know there are many other apps available to help you plan out your Milky Way photography ventures. But if you have not tried these, we highly recommend you check them out!

There’s one takeaway, if you’re a PhotoPills user, check into PlanIt Pro. Both apps are very similar in what they present. However, there are some major differences between how they present information. Many people find Photopills is a little more user-friendly than Planit Pro. And your photography will surely benefit from PlanIt’s Virtual Reality mode. But you cannot go wrong by going with one over the other.

And if you use an app that you think should be on our Best Landscape Photography Apps list, let us know in the comments below. We’d love to learn which apps help you with your night and Milky Way Photography. And if you point us to something really awesome, we’ll update our list and add it.

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