Which photography apps & software do I use to plan and edit my shots?
I use a lot of different photography apps and software to plan and edit my work. This page lists all the things I use, or have used and recommend. To me, editing is just as much part of the photography-process as shooting is. It’s where you turn an image into the color style you like. And it is heaps of fun to play around with those pixels and use your technical creativity to make the most out of it. Of course, nothing beats Photoshop in that regard. Armed with Raya Pro and Nik filters, you don’t need much else. You can even edit and compose videos in Photoshop, although for the composing I prefer the advanced After Effects or Premiere Pro.
Our smartphone is an incredible tool to help us plan our shoots and check whatever we want. We can see when the Milky Way’s position will be ideal, scout locations without going there, look for inspiration, plan the route etcetera. And if you use your smartphone for your photos and videos, there are a bunch of incredible apps available to shoot and edit photos, videos and timelapses.
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Photography apps & software: SOFTWARE
Photoshop, Bridge & Lightroom:
Photoshop is king of all photo editing programs. There simply isn’t anything better. If you’re serious about your photography, get it and invest the time to learn how to use the program. It never has been easier, with a wealth of free tutorials and video guides available on the internet. To understand the basics of Photoshop is fairly easy. But you should advance yourself as soon as possible to make the most of your photography and skills. Learn how to edit non-destructively to achieve maximum quality and flexibility.
Bridge comes for free with Photoshop and is an image viewer that works similar to the Finder (or Explorer on PC). The program creates thumbnails of all image and video files, so you can quickly see what’s in your folders. It lets you browse (although creating the thumbnails may take some time) through files without having to open to them. It has heaps of functionalities, for example it lets you display all kinds of info under the image, lets you sort the files, rate them, tag them, rename etc. This is my most used desktop program. No matter what other program I’m working, I always have Bridge open, so I can drag whatever other file to wherever I want it. It saves so much time.
Photoshop’s Camera RAW editor is part of Bridge and it allows you to edit your RAW files, similar to most other RAW editors. I usually open my RAW files as Smart Objects, which allows me adjust the RAW settings at any time, even after I have applied changes to the layer. You can edit any file with the Camera RAW editor, you’ll find it under filters.
Raya Pro is ‘set of panels’ developed by Jimmy McIntyre, based on using Luminosity Masks to edit your photos. These masks let you edit certain tones of an image, giving you much better control over the image. Basically you use 3 exposure (highlight-medium-shadow) to blend your final image, same as when you’d shoot HDR. The difference is this technique works non-destructively and give you a lot more flexibility with a much more natural result. There’s a lot more to the whole Raya Pro package with many shortcuts to edit your photos, sharpen them, export them and so on. This package is for advanced Photoshop users, but the quicker you learn it, the better. I’m still mastering it, but believe there is no better way of editing photos.
Lightroom Classic comes with Photoshop in the Photographers Bundle. Lightroom has many of ‘Bridge & Camera RAW’s’ functionalities, but even way more. It does not allow you to work in layers and with masks, such as Photoshop. Personally I mainly use Lightroom for editing my timelapses and use Photoshop to edit my images. I just don’t like how Lightroom works with a Library and how things aren’t a representation of what’s on your drive. Also, I can do everything I want in Photoshop, I can’t in Lightroom. So for me it’s an extra step in my workflow, considering Bridge is already part of my way of working. While for many others it’s one step less. Some people have all they need in Lightroom, compared to work in Bridge ánd Photoshop.
The new Lightroom CC is a cloud based editing program, which seems to focus more on non-professionals. To edit photos you’ll have to upload them to the cloud first. Considering the huge amount of data I work with, this just isn’t an option. Especially not if you’re traveling and have limited bandwidth already. Lightroom CC comes with Photoshop as well in their Photographers Bundle.
- Photo Mechanic is ideal to quickly view images and videos. It loads the images much faster by loading the embedded thumbnail instead of reading the data like Bridge does. I find this program ideal to rename timelapse sequences and to quickly look up certain files in a folder, like when I need to remove or fix certain frames in a large folder of timelapse images. That would take forever in Bridge.
- LRtimelapse is a godsend for timelapse. In short: the program lets you remove flicker and create smooth transitions for when you’ve adjusted settings. This is necessary when you’re shooting in light-changing conditions, such as during a sunrise or sunset.
- Starstax (free!) blends images and is typically used to create star trails. I use this program as well for my TimeScape images. It’s easy enough to do these effects in Photoshop by stacking the images and use transparency blending. But this program just does it faster.
- Autopano is a program dedicated to creating panoramas and is among the best there is. It can get quite complicated to do the complex panoramas, but this program is able to stitch panoramas where others fail. That actually is the only time when I use this program. Usually I use Camera RAW to stitch the files in a DNG file, which allows for better RAW editing and does a fine enough job for my type of work.
- Aurora This HDR program is actually quite good and allows for a lot of flexibility and even offers editing in layers. Since this ‘destructive’ editing does not favour the pixel quality of images, I only use this program when I’m trying to achieve a look that I’m otherwise not able to achieve. If I can do without, I will, but sometimes with ‘difficult’ images it does miracles.
- The NIK Filter collection is the best filter collection around. Best thing is it’s free! This collection comes with several filter menus that work as a plugin or a standalone version. My favourite two are Color Effects and Silver Effects, which allow for great color effects and black & white edits. Nik has some great ways to decrease noise and increase sharpness as well as Analogue Effects and HDR.
- Luminar is nice alternative to Photoshop that lets you edit in layers as well. I haven’t used this program much though, because since I’ve been using Raya Pro, I prefer that type of editing.
- OnOne Photo RAW is pretty good program as well to edit your RAW files if you’re looking for a Photoshop alternative. Although I think it’s a pretty good program, I haven’t found myself using it much. My workflow with Bridge/Photoshop is much faster.
- After Effects is a great video editing program, which I use for composing my videos. I’m not extremely skilled with it and have only scratched the surface of what’s possible with it.
- Premiere Pro is similar to After Effects, but even more advanced. I’m slowly ‘upgrading’ myself to use this over Premiere Pro.
Photography apps and software: APPS
- Maps.me is the offline map I use most for looking up things and navigating. The great thing about it, is it is free. You can download maps for the areas you’re planning on visiting. What I like is that it lets you save flags in different colours, so you can use them to point out places you have visited and still need to visit, for example. The app is far from great though and I’m often very frustrated by it. It just acts up sometimes and some of the attractions on the map are wrongly named. Also it can be hard to impossible to look up certain locations, spelling might be slightly different, but gives no results.
- Google Maps is a better maps app than Maps.me, the only downside is it uses a lot of data. So if you want to save on that, an offline map like Maps.me is the alternative.
- Google Earth is great to look up images of locations that you’re planning on visiting and checking out areas.
- Qdslrdashboard I use as a remote to control my cameras when doing timelapses that require settings to be changed. You can set the app to adjust the settings automatically or do it manually without touching the camera. It’s mainly designed for Canon and Nikon though, for other brands you don’t have full control. With my RX100iv, I can use the wifi to setup a timelapse with QDSLRdashboard, but I still have to adjust settings on the camera.
- Photopills is the best photography app out there. It is actually a whole collection of apps in 1 place. It helps you plan your shots and calculate photography related things, such as Depth of Field, how many shots are needed for a certain star trail image and many other things. By using the AR modes, it lets you see what the position of the Milky Way/Moon/Sun will be at any given time, so you can plan your shoot accordingly.
- The Photographers Ephemeris is an excellent app (web app version available as well) that works a planner as well. Similar to Photopills, it lets you see the position of the sun/moon/Milky Way to plan your shots beforehand. I do find Photopills more pleasant to use, but believe this might be even more advanced.
- SkySafari is great if you’re interested in the stars and planets. It’s a fun app to explore the universe. Imagine this, the app has over 27 million stars, 740,000 galaxies and 620,000 solar system objects (including every comet & asteroid ever discovered). You can play around for a while 🙂
- Snapseed is best editing app available (in my humble opinion) and it’s completely free. It has all the required options for editing a photo properly. What I like most about this app, is that it is able to create an editing file, which saves the settings applied to the original image. This way it saves the original and lets you adjust any of the settings at a later time. You can export the image even as a Tif file, ideal for further editing on a computer.
- Enlight is a really great editing app as well, but you have to upgrade to use all functions. It’s not that necessary though.
- Photofox is a great fun app with heaps of creative options, go pro for all options.
- Lightroom is one of the best, free editing app as well, particularly handy if you’re used to Lightroom or Photoshop already. It also lets you work via the cloud, so you can later easily edit a photo on your desktop.
- Lucid is an editing app with heaps of portrait adjustments.
- Prisma is an incredible app that let you turn photos in to works of art. The results are amazing, a must have.
- Wordfoto lets you choose words (and their fonts) to decorate an image. It’s a really fun app to play with and you can create some really cool images with it.
Hyperlapse by Instagram creates a hyperlapse: a timelapse recorded while moving. It’s a very simple app to use, just start recording and when finished you choose the speed before you export it. What blows me away is the incredible stabilisation. This is one of my favourite apps, try it!
I don’t use my phone much for video recording or editing, but I do like to keep up a few good apps in my collection to play around with every now and then:
- iMovie is great for composing videos on IOS, easy to use. It’s free as well!
- 8mm has been around a long time and still remains to be one of the coolest vintage-looking apps, based on the 8mm camera.
- Cinamatic is a fun app that lets you record short fragments that it turns into a movie, pick a nice filter and done. Easy.
- Videorama is a very app that let’s you compose videos in an easy and creative way, by adding images, text, voice over, video & sound fx and so on.
- Splice is one of GoPro’s best apps to let you create cool videos.
- Quik lets you pick photos and videos and turns it into a quick video, allowing you to choose different themes and music. Fun for a few times.
When it comes to landscape photography, one of the most important elements is the sky. It can make or break an image. So, it’s important to know how the weather will be. There’s no point going out if it’s going to rain, right? True, but you never know what you’re gonna get. The weather forecast is notorious for being wrong. I have got some of my best shots when I least expected it, due to the weather forecast. And I have returned home empty when the forecast said it was going to be great. Point of it all: Don’t ever let the weather stop you. Sometimes you’re lucky, sometimes you’re not.
When you’re out to shoot timelapses at night, you’ll want to look for ‘dew temperature’. If temperature drops below dew temperature, your gear will get wet. Avoid that, it’s what caused my lenses to get fungus. Dew is worse than rain, because the small particles get into your gear. Use a camera rainsleeve.
- Weather Pro is said to be one of the best apps. I find it works decent in Europe, but not so much in Asia.
- Accu Weather is a well built app with heaps of info. In Asia I find this app better than Weather Pro.
- NOAA Radar This lets me check the radar in case of any storms. Hasn’t been very useful yet.
Check out the other travel and photography tools I use: