Taking a look at the Photo Pills app.

Taking a Look at the Photo Pills App

In the App Store and the Google Play Store you can find a wide range of apps for photography and image editing. Especially in the fields of landscape and astrophotography, the Photo Pills app has become quite well known.

Below we have listed some of the features the app offers:

  • Information about the exact course of the sun, moon, its phases and the Milky Way.
  • Various features and tools to avoid unwanted shadows and take full advantage of the blue and golden hours.
  • A search feature to determine the perfect time for a great photo.
  • Augmented reality features that simulate the course of the sun, the moon and the Milky Way.

All the information and features on the Photo Pills App make it easier for you to always be in the right place at the right time and to skilfully plan, stage, and capture the various light moods of the sun, the moon or the Milky Way for your own shots. In this article we will show you how to use the different features.

The Photo Pills Planner Is a Useful Companion for Landscape Photography

Location, Display, and Meaning

The most extensive and important feature of the app is the Photo Pills Planner. When you open it, the first thing that catches your eye is a satellite map. On this map you will find an orange pin. This pin always shows your current location when the app is opened for the first time, provided you grant the app access to your location. However, the pin does not necessarily have to represent the current location, but it can be placed at the position from where you want to take a photo. You can touch the pin with your finger and move it to the desired location. Alternatively, you can tap anywhere on the map with your finger and then hold your finger on the desired location and then the pin will jump to that location.

A brief overview of the features available on the Photo Pills app.

Several coloured lines emerge from the pin. There is a thick yellow line, a thick orange line and a thinner line that can change its colour between yellow and orange. The thick yellow line represents the sunrise and the thick orange line the sunset. The blue lines represent the course of the moon. The lighter thick line and the thicker darker line also represent the moon rising and setting.

You can change the mode by clicking on the sun or moon symbol on the toolbar above the map.


Movements Over Time

The third part of the Photo Pills Planner is the timeline, which can be found directly below the map. This timeline displays the current date and time in its default setting. If the timeline is moved to the left or to the right, not only will the date and time change, but also the alignments of the lines. However, the date and time can be changed either by dragging the timeline or you can also manually enter a specific date and time by tapping on the clock symbol. This allows you to switch between different dates and times.

Below the timeline you will find the different options, which contains other useful features. These include the Finder, two augmented reality modes, and other useful features, which we will mention later in this article.

Always Have the Sun, Moon and Milky Way in Focus with the Information Toolbar

The Position of Sun, Moon and Azimuth

Beside the change between the courses of the sun and moon, the information toolbar contains a lot of other information and settings. For example, the toolbar provides information about the azimuth, altitude and the phase of the sun and moon. The term azimuth refers to a horizontal angle that aligns itself with the points of the compass.

The information toolbar in the Photo Pills Planner.

If you swipe your finger to the left or right on the toolbar, you can find more detailed information about the rising and setting of the sun and moon. You can also switch between the individual phases of the moon by clicking on the large round symbol. You should pay attention to the changes of the date on the timeline to find out when the next moon phase will be, for example the new moon. Next follow the exact times of the blue and golden hours, which both bring wonderful light moods that every landscape photographer likes to use for their pictures.


Visibility of the Milky Way

The next two tabs on the information toolbar deal with the Milky Way. By clicking on the left Milky Way symbol in the first of the two tabs, several circles around the orange pin and two thick lines in light and dark grey will appear on the map. The light grey line represents the time when the Milky Way becomes visible and the dark grey line for the disappearance of the Milky Way.

Photos from the Photo Pills app of the Milky Way.

If you move the timeline into the blue area the Milky Way will also appear in the form of a dotted, curved line. Here, the accumulation of several thicker points represents the galactic centre of the Milky Way. Furthermore, the curvilinear line gives an idea of how the Milky Way will be seen in the sky. If it is very bulbous, then the Milky Way extends horizontally across the sky. However, if it is close to the centre line, the Milky Way will rise vertically into the sky. The exact time of visibility, the azimuth, and the height of the galactic centre are also specified in this section of the information toolbar. The second tab for the Milky Way is in a form of a blue scale, which indicates how visible the Milky Way will be in the sky. If the bars are full, then the Milky Way can be seen well on the horizon.

Pin-to-Pin Geodetic Info

If you continue to swipe through the information toolbar, you will also see the option to view geodetic information. This feature is especially useful if you would like to take beautiful pictures when the sun is setting. By clicking on the button with the two pins, a black coloured pin will appear on the map. This should be placed on the desired motif. Once this has been done, it is easy to see whether the sunset on the selected day can be seen behind the desired motif. If the first picture in the image below is viewed, it is easy to see that the desired scenario cannot be captured at this time because the black pin is behind the orange line. However, by moving the timeline to the correct time this can be determined. In the second illustration it can now be seen that the black pin is on the orange line. By looking at the date and time toolbar at the bottom, you can see when the best time is to take a picture.

In addition, the course of the sun must be observed. If this line is dotted when the desired motif is reached, this means that the sun is already too low and has therefore disappeared behind the horizon.

Pin-to-pin geodesic information on the Photo Pills app.

Calculating Shadow Cast

The second option, which is available by swiping along the information toolbar is a tool to estimate the shadow cast by buildings or tall trees. In order to use this feature, you will need to know the height of the building or you will need to have a good estimate. Once the building has been selected with the orange pin and you have added the height of the building on the information toolbar a shadow will be displayed in the form of a black line. This allows you to determine in advance which side of a building should not be photographed due to shadows.

The Options Toolbar – Find, schedule and Share with Friends

Finding the Right Place and the Right Time

The information toolbar has a lot of options to find the right place and the right time for the perfect photo. Especially the pin-to-pin geodesic information is very handy if you want to take a photo of a motive with the sun or moon rising or setting behind it. It is easy to find out whether this constellation is available on the desired day. If this is not the case, it is very tedious to find a suitable time by moving the timeline. By using the Find feature on the options toolbar this can make it easier.

The Find feature in the Photo Pills app.

When selecting the Find feature, there are four different constellations that can be searched for such as “Sun at Azimuth”, “Sun at Azimuth and Height”, “Moon at Azimuth” and “Moon at Azimuth and Height”. To be able to determine more precisely how and where the sun or moon will be positioned for the planned shot, it is advisable to select "Sun at azimuth and altitude" or "Moon at azimuth and altitude". Once the azimuth, altitude, and desired time period have been determined, the app displays a list of exact dates where you can get a great photo at the desired location.

Augmented Reality – Simulating Photo Motifs

In addition, the options toolbar contains two Augmented Reality (AR) modes. These two modes are more or less live view modes that display the position of different celestial bodies using a smartphone camera. The AR mode is responsible for the course of the sun and the Night AR for the course of the moon and the Milky Way. By using these modes the exact position of the desired celestial body can be simulated, so that you can align your camera in advance to get a good photo. If one of these modes is activated, the current point in time is displayed for the time being, but the point in time can be shifted on the screen by swiping to the left or right in order to determine the exact point in time at the correct position.


Save and Share with Friends

In addition to the Find feature and the AR modes, the options toolbar also lets you save your own work and then even share it. To do this, press the “Save” button and select “Plan”. You now have the choice of overwriting an existing plan or creating a new one. Once you have given it a name and created it, go back to the main menu and select the category “My stuff” at the top and then select the plans. If the plan is opened in this mode, an icon called “Action” will appear at the bottom right. You can click on this to send your work by SMS, WhatsApp or e-mail.


The Photo Pills App with its helpful features is a very useful aid for all enthusiastic landscape or astrophotographers who prefer planning and being organised to get great photos. The numerous options available to plan light moods and the positioning of different celestial bodies increases the chances enormously to get some impressive photos from your photoshoot.



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