Review Of PhotoPills On iOS For iPad Mini

By Jason Row / September 10, 2016
Review Of PhotoPills On iOS For iPad Mini

Image by Gianclaudio Spena

A Review Of PhotoPills:

A less talked about aspect of the smart device era is the speed at which apps are developed and updated. The world of photography apps is a prime example of this.

Before the advent of smartphones and tablets, much photographic software was both powerful and comprehensive. It was also quite bloated. Typically it could take two or more years for a program to come to market and a similar amount of time to get an update.

Today we are used to new photographic apps appearing on an almost weekly basis. This in itself presents a problem, sorting the chaff from the wheat. Every so often one app comes along that really catches your eye. That app is PhotoPills and this is our review of it.

What is PhotoPills?

Jack of all trades springs to mind. To use perhaps another well-worn cliche, the Swiss Army Knife of photographic apps. It is at once a shoot planner, exposure calculator, ephemeris, astro photography guide and time-lapse calculator.

In fact, it is even more than this, but is it any good?  Let’s take a look at some of the more useful aspects of this photographic app in this review of photopills.

Features of PhotoPills

The Planner Tool:

The planner takes the bests bits of The Photographer’s Ephemeris and adds to them. Like Ephemeris you see sunrise and sunset times and directions and overlay them on a map.

In addition, there are very handy graphs showing the height of the sun and times of golden and blue hours. It will also predict the color of light through the day. Additionally, it also shows the position and phase of the moon and the position and elevation of the Milky Way.

You can save each location separately allowing you to pre-plan numerous places before the shoots.

The planner shows the colour of the light for a given time of day as an overlay

The planner shows the colour of the light for a given time of day as an overlay

On location, you can also use your device's camera to overlay an augmented reality visual of where the sun will be during the day. Very useful for location scouting.

Now, this app has some great tools for getting those fantastic Sunset shots, from sunset times to direction of the sun, golden and blue hours…etc etc. Well, this course with Brent Mail Photography allows you to get a real understanding of exactly what it takes to capture Amazing Sunsets. So why not get your skills up to scratch before you head out on location.

The Exposure Tool:

This tool gives you the exposure settings for any shutter speed, aperture and ISO combination. It also gives you the EV value both actual and rounded as well as a very useful ND filter calculation. From this, you can work out exact exposure settings for whatever ND filter you are using.

The exposure calculator is particularly useful when using ND filters.

The exposure calculator is particularly useful when using ND filters.

Depth of Field Calculator:

Under the app's Settings menu, you can define which cameras and lens combinations you use. This gives the app information such as sensor size and maximum aperture to accurately calculate the DofF.

You can input variables such as subject distance, aperture, focal length and even factor in teleconverters. Useful graphs show regions that will be in and out of focus for a given subject distance.

In addition to the main section, there is also a DofF table plus a hyperfocal distance table. Both very useful to outdoor photographers

Useful diagrams demonstrate the calculated depth of field

Useful diagrams demonstrate the calculated depth of field

The Field of View Tool:

Again using the camera/lens data that you have provided, the field of view calculator shows a neat graphic of spatial coverage for a given distance. You can also use the augmented reality tool to get a rough visualization of that field of view.

Focal Length Match:

This useful tool is ideal for photographers that use mixed sensor systems such as full frame and APS. It will provide horizontal and vertical field of view, and near/far DoF limits and well as actual DofF for two separate camera systems.

Night AR:

This is a great tool for astro photographers and will project an augmented reality overlay of the stars in your location for a given direction. Also worth mentioning is the star trail visualiser. This will give you an indication of how far stars will travel during a set exposure time for a given angle.

Star trails for a given exposure length

Star trails for a given exposure length

The Time-Lapse Tool:

This very useful tool allows you to calculate the number of shots and time between shots to achieve a certain clip duration. You input the duration of the event, how long you wish the clip to be and at what frame rate per second.

The tool will calculate the number of shots required and card space needed. In addition to this, there is an interval timer table that gives typical values for common time-lapse scenarios such as fast moving clouds or rush hour traffic.

Time-lapse calculator is a another useful tool

Time-lapse calculator is a another useful tool

Summary

I planned my recent Prague and Dresden shoots using PhotoPills and found it to be highly useful. The planner is a great way to pre-visualize the lighting in shots before you arrive on location as well as having a visual idea of the color of the light for a given time of day.

I also found myself using the time-lapse calculator a fair bit as I typically shot time-lapses whilst flying my Phantom 3 Quadcopter.

The Swiss Army knife of apps would seem to be a useful description for my latest review of PhotoPills. With the exception perhaps of the ephemeris, none of the tools are comprehensive. They are however very functional and can provide very useful information when working in the field.

This app has some great tools for getting those fantastic Sunset shots, from sunset times to direction of the sun, golden and blue hours…plus a load more. Well, this course with Brent Mail Photography allows you to get a real understanding of exactly what it takes to capture Amazing Sunsets.

Further Resources


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About the author

Jason Row

Jason has been writing for Light Stalking for over six years now and has 35 years of experience as a professional photographer. He now concentrates on producing travel stock photography and video from around the world. You can find his portfolio here. His work has been featured in numerous publications, both online and in print, as well as for major companies such as Virgin, Etihad, Tripadvisor and Booking.com. Jason has also produced a number of video tutorials for Light Stalking and Photzy. Born in London he now lives in the beautiful city of Odessa, Ukraine.

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