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LightTrac: A Knockout App For Real Estate Photographers

Published: 09/10/2010
By: larry

Thanks to readers John Quarles and Steve Mather for pointing out this new $4.99 iPhone and iPad app LightTrac.

When you are scheduling a shoot ideally what you want to do is know how the home is sited, i.e. which direction it is facing and what the sun angle is going to be when you show up because unless you are careful, you could be shooting directly into the sun and find it impossible to get an acceptable front exterior shot.

This is exactly what LightTrac will do for you. You give LightTrac a address and it shows the sun angle and elevation at sun rise and sunset as well as the sun angle and elevation at any given date and time. If you have this app available when you are making an appointment for a shoot if you have this app you can be sure you are not going to have a sun problem or while the client is on the phone you can move the shoot to a time when the sun is at a good angle. I've shot listings I had to go back 2 or three times because I didn't have this app.

This app is hands down the best app I've seen for this purpose! The same app works on both the iPhone and iPad. You can easily get by on an iPhone screen but using it on the iPad is a perfect size. Click on the image above to see a full size iPad image from my iPad screen.

Thanks again to John and Steve! This is an awesome app... well worth $4.99 $9.99 it actually went up in price since I wrote this post- honest.

Update 10-09-2010: See Chris's comment below. This app is very similar to The Photographer's Ephemeris by Stephen Trainor, a donation supported desktop app for Windows, Mac & Linux. The Photographer's Ephemeris (called TPE) has a $8.99 iPhone app.

Second update 10-11-2010: Since I wrote this post Lighttrac has gone up in price. Also, I got TPE to compare it to Lighttrac. If you are going to use it just on an iPhone Lighttrac and TPE are pretty close but if you have an iPad Lighttrac works on either and on the iPad it really shines because it supports the large screen. Also I personally like the time of day slider on Lighttrac.

20 comments on “LightTrac: A Knockout App For Real Estate Photographers”

  1. This is very similar to The Photographers Ephemeris. The desktop program is free. The mobile version is $8.99. Google the name to get the website for more info.

  2. I'm good enough seeing a map and knowing the sun makes a rotation every 24 hours (360°/24h= 15° per hour), but it wasn't so simple for my coworkers, so I made for them some ephemeris printed on tracing paper to overlay on maps, pdf : (good for sun time+2 hours in summer time and +1 hour in winter)

    I often prefer to print a physical map rather than bringing a gadget.

  3. Nice little app for us iPhone junkie's - thanks Larry.

    It's great for homes that are facing East, West & South, but is there a trick for shooting homes facing North that always seem have the front shot in the shadows?

  4. Just tried out the The Photographers Ephemeris and its pretty cool. I can see this helping me in not only my RE photography but also in my Waterfall photography.

    Thanks for the great info.

  5. @Dave- Bummer- It must have just gone up, I just looked at my iTunes receipt and I got it on Oct 8 for $4.99. I'll update the post.

  6. Wow that's pretty neat, and home aspect is actually pretty important to home buyers; at least, that is what I have found in my own experience. Whenever I can, I will always comment on the west aspect of the back deck for sunset views, or the east aspect of the kitchen for the morning etc. This little app gives more than just a good idea of when the best time to shoot is, it also gives you an idea of what comments can be made about the solar exposure of the home.

    Good post!

  7. I dropped $10 for the iPad app, and gave it a quick test helping me sell a few extra helicopter aerial shots. By SHOWING clients where the sun will be, it was quite easy to put any fear of "Paying for a bad shot" to rest.
    Thanks for the heads up on this one!

  8. I have been trying to find the app and I cannot. It is not on the Apple app store. Am I lost or is there a "secret" entrance 🙂

  9. What is the best time to shoot a house when only using natural light and HDR?

    Here's what I came up with:
    Inside: Sun directly above the house so windows aren't blown out
    Outside Front: When the sun is in front of the house so you don't have shadows.
    Outside Back: Opposite of front.


  10. @Jon- The best time to shoot a home is always (for any technique) is the period from 15min before sunset/sunrise to 15 min after sunset/sunrise but the problem is there's never enough time to do the whole house so you rarely can schedule around twilight. You are lucky if you can just do the exterior.

    When you make an appointment the two major things you need to check is 1) the sun angle for the front exterior and 2) if the home is a view property which direction is the view. Home owners always want their view documented!

    When you are shooting the front exterior or view you want to make sure you are NOT shooting into the sun. Ideally it should be at your back but you can never get it perfect, particularly if you have a busy shoot schedule. The idea is try to schedule so the front exterior and any possible view shot is not into the sun.

  11. Right now I use Sunlight, but it is only available in iPhone version. This app looks pretty nice & I can definitely utilize it more than the one I'm using now.

  12. @Cal Mitchener - The only thing I found for the Blackberry so far is Heliostat. I think it was $6 or so. It doesn't give you visuals, but does give you rise and set time and direction, as well as azimuth for both the Sun and Moon.

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