I have had a recent fascination with photographing the night sky. It all started with a trip to a cabin in the woods in northern Michigan this summer. After quickly becoming bored photographing green ferns and woodland scenery, I planned a night shoot of the Milky Way. I became hooked!

After that, my poor husband was at the mercy of the weather and the timing of the Milky Way with late night drives out into the countryside to get away from the light pollution of the city. (yes, I am still scared of the dark!) It gives me a sense of security to have a tagalong or fellow photographer, especially out on the back country roads in the middle of the night.

It did not take long to figure out which apps would help me with this venture and take a lot of the guess work out of the positioning and best time to catch the brightest part of the Milky Way. You can lose a lot of sleep and miles driving if you do not plan ahead.



App #1: Sky Guide

This App is amazing in that you can pre-plan a photo trip into the future by using the Time & Date setting. If I want to look ahead to next weekend, all I have to do is put in the date and approximate time I want to go out to see the Milky Way. It will let me know where the Milky Way is by direction and position above or below the horizon. You can point your device in any direction and it will show you the position of the Moon, Sun and all of the stars. You can even select a star or planet and it will give you a detailed description. You can go years into the future with this app.

Cost: $1.99 – by Fifth Star Labs


App #2: Storm

This is my favorite weather app. It’s very important to know the predicted weather and cloud cover for your upcoming photography adventure. There is nothing worse than driving 2 hours to your special location and not being able to see the stars. Although there is always a chance of haze, even the lightest cloud cover can ruin a great shot. It always helps to study the weather beforehand.

Cost: Free – by Weather Underground LLC


App #3: Compass

This app has turned out to be really important for me to verify which direction I am facing. Even though Sky Guide has a built in compass/tracking feature. I find that my iphone can sometimes be about 15 degrees off with this app, especially inside my vehicle. I like to verify my direction with the compass app. It can be hard to see the Milky Way with the naked eye, especially in low light polluted areas. The compass app will help you set your first shot up in the general direction.

Cost: Free


App #4: Photo Pills

This app is especially helpful when you are new to night photography. You can use the Exposure Values chart to get basic guideline for setting up your camera. It will have some nighttime settings for photographing the moon, with recommended aperture, shutter speed and ISO. It even includes a Milky Way planner. I have not used this app to its full potential, but I have used the exposure chart.

Cost $9.99 – by Photo Pills


I am sure that there are multiple apps out there that work just as well and would love to hear our feedback on what works best for you!


All Photography Copyright by Robyn Porteen


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