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What Sun Tracking App or Website Do You Use?

Published: 23/10/2018
By: larry

lightracJohn in Alabama recently asked:

Does anyone know a good sun tracking site now that works since Google has changed is map APIs and the address search feature does not work for The Photographer's Ephemeris and SunCalc? It looks like Google has now decided to charge big money to use their embedded mapping scripts and only provides a low-resolution map for development purposes only. You can not input an address anymore on these two sites.

I verified John's claim above that SunCalc.net and PhotoEphemeris.com no longer support search by address. This is clearly a problem when you want to understand the light conditions at a given address.

I've always been partial to using the LightTrac App so I verified that it still works when you search for an address. My iPhone version of LightTrac has an option in Settings to use either Apple Maps or Google Maps but it works just fine with either map settings option. LightTrack has an app for both Apple IOS and Android.

I know there are many websites that provide sun tracking features but I've always been a fan of the SmartPhone sun tracking apps because they have a nicer user interface and they are on devices with GPS that can give extra functionality.

What is your favorite sun tracking app or website?

17 comments on “What Sun Tracking App or Website Do You Use?”

  1. I've been using LightTrac for a few years on my iPhones and it's an excellent app. I've recommended it to at least a dozen friends/acquaintances. I used SunCalc for quite a few years on my laptop (never quite got it to work correctly on my phones), and checking it now, I see that it's a bookmark that I can go ahead and delete. I had no idea that SunCalc no longer worked. Can't say I'll miss it though.

  2. I've been using LightTrac on my I-Phone 8 Plus, since it was talked about on a blog. Since many agents do not know which way their property is facing, LightTrac has been a wonderful tool for me.

    I just purchased a Samsung Tab A 8 to use with my DJI drone and wanted to download LightTrac on this tablet. Unfortunately, I cant find it on any of my Android app downloads. does anyone know where I can find the app and download LightTrac onto my Tablet?

  3. I still use TPE. It takes an extra minute to pinpoint a property, but the application still works fine. I put the address in Google maps on one screen and TPE on the other comparing each to fine down the location. I use TPE to find the best and worst times of day to photograph a home based on which direction the front faces. I don't have to be spot on the exact house most of the time to get the information.

    I do all of my ephemeris work before I leave the house, so I don't need (or want) an app on the phone. I pretty much know how the sun will be moving and can assess how that will affect a home I am making images in quickly enough. If I were doing more landscape work and wanted to line up the sun over a landmark I would likely want an app on the phone.

    I always "advance" the job online with Google Maps/Street View when I book the appointment. It gives me a chance to see what challenges I might have with the exterior and where I might be able to go to get a nice overview shot of a property without driving all over the place to see if I can get to a good vantage point. I also find out if the home is single or multi-story. If the front door is inset or going to be lit. I am more of a "planner" than somebody that just "wings it". That's not to say that I don't look for novel compositions and new ways to photograph something, but I like to go in with most of my plan in place.

  4. Apps are great and I use to use them but...

    I look at a calendar, I look at my watch, I look at google maps. Seems to be close enough for me and it works except for those sunrise and sun set photos and then I look at the weather report. The time for those is right there.

    I'm 71 years old. You get a sense for it after experiencing it for that many years.

  5. I have used PhotoPills for a few months, not specifically for looking up by address. I'm not sure it has that feature, tbh. In addition to sun/moon tracking there are a variety of other tools in the app that I find useful.

  6. Part of the equation is sun position, but its also worth considering the weather … rain, wind, clouds can all cause a problem as well. (Shameless plug sorry) I wrote a tool as a side project to check for these so that it was easy to determine which day gave me the best chance at capturing my architectural photographs, GetOutCast (https://www.getoutcast.com/forecast/photo-architecture). Hope you all find it useful.

  7. Ok guys and gals, in what situation would you need to know the sun data anyways? If a client has an appointment time they need and I have it available I am going to shoot the location no matter what. For what situation are people deploying the sun calculation? How will knowing the sun position at a given appointment help me?

    Thanks for the help.

  8. Jacob - overall I agree with you, it will be shot when there's an opening in my schedule and/or when the agent/home owner says it will be ready. However, sometimes it can be useful to know what time you might get better results and it never hurts to know this in advance. For example, from using a tool like TPE you might determine you should take the exterior photos as soon as you arrive at a property, or to do them last, or it might not matter. At least you'll know and won't regret it if you miss a shot. I also find it helpful with properties that face north, determining if there's any time the front of the house will get direct light, but in the end other scheduling factors may win out.

  9. TPE and PhotoPills. Useful for twilight shoot planning and when to shoot exteriors (when I have the luxury of choosing a time).

    The augmented reality feature in photopills (iOS) is excellent when you're on-site and trying to determine exactly where the sun will fall at a given time.

  10. Jacob

    I have to agree with Alan.

    If you have a really busy schedule and your clients are very demanding that a home be shot at a certain time of day, knowing the sun position may be irrelevant. But, there may be instances where your schedule allows you to shoot at a time of your choosing and in these cases, wouldn't you rather shoot with the sun hitting the front of the house than shooting it when you are facing the sun?

    I almost always recommend the best time to photograph a listing to my clients. Sometimes it doesn't work out. Most of the time it does. Most of them appreciate the suggestion and will accept the choice of time unless there are overriding considerations.

    I once acquired a new client (he told me) because I was the only photographer he called (he called several) who suggested the best time to photograph the house, based on the position of the sun in relation to the front of the house. He is a great client to this day.

  11. I used to worry about such things, but I can't change anything except the time of day I shoot.
    So if the sun is an issue when I arrive, I do the exteriors on my way out (rather than the other way around)
    I also keep an umbrella handy to shade the sun if needed. Sky replacement is a cakewalk.

  12. @Jacob, Like John, I prep my customers so they know that if I can select a time when the home will have the best light, they will get the very best images. If the way the house is sitting on the light/time of year means there is no "best" time, I can at least find the time where I'm not shooting directly into the sun. Once your customers understand that you are so dedicated to getting them the best possible images you can, the ones worth keeping are going to ask you upfront when you think the best time will be to do a certain job.

    The vast majority of the time my clients will take my suggestion about the best time but I do have occasions where there isn't the flexibility. Sometimes I can work around that by photographing the front exterior on a different day or ealier/later than I am doing the interiors if the exterior is ready and I'm going to be in the area. My last resort is to know whether I photograph the exteriors first or last.

    Forget about the camera body and lenses. The quality of light is hugely more important. Great composition and great light absolves you of nearly every technical deficiency you think you might have. Those are what most people are going to see, not CA, noise or lens distortion. If you completely blow the focus or have bad motion blur, you may have some complaints, but that's nothing to do with level of gear. So, start with scheduling jobs when you can at least have the best possible light that day.

  13. Hi - just wanted to update this thread to say that we at last have address search capability available once again in the web version of The Photographer's Ephemeris. (This was never an issue with the mobile apps, only the web version, due to significant cost increases.)

    I'd be grateful to hear any feedback or feature requests from the real estate photography community, so please do get in touch if you use any of our apps.

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