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App introduction: Photo Pills

In the App Store and the Google Play Store you can find a collection of apps for all kinds of situations. This is equally true for photography. But there are not only programs for image processing. Especially in the fields of landscape and astrophotography, the Photo Pills app has made a name for itself.

Among others, this app offers you:

  • 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 finder function to determine the perfect time for your dream scenario.
  • Two augmented reality modes that simulate the course of the sun, moon and Milky Way so that you are perfectly prepared.

All the information and applications of the Photo Pills App make it easy for you to always be in the right place at the right time and to skillfully plan, stage, and capture the various light moods of the sun, the moon, or the Milky Way for your own shots. You will learn how to use all these functions correctly in this post.

The Photo Pills Planner: A useful companion in 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 with several lines emerging from it. 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 can be placed at the position from where you want to take the photo. You can touch the pin with your finger and move it to the desired location. Alternatively, you can tap anywhere with your finger for a long time, causing the pin to jump to the desired position.

Screenshots der App Photo Pills, die die verschiedenen Bereiche des Planers zeigen.

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 thinner line represents the current position of the sun. If the mode is changed from sun to moon, the orange-yellow lines disappear and new lines appear in blue tones. Here, too, the brighter thick line represents the rising of the moon and the thicker darker line the setting of the moon. The same goes for the thinner line, which indicates the position of the moon.

The mode can be changed by clicking on the sun symbol in the field above the map (information bar). The sun symbol changes to a moon symbol. If you click on the field again, both the lines of the sun and the lines of the moon will be displayed.

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 you move the timeline to the left or to the right, not only the date and time will change, but also the alignment of the lines. As the thin lines approach a sunset or moonset, the colour of the line becomes darker. As a sunrise or moonset approaches, they become brighter. But time and date cannot only be changed by dragging the bar. To enter a specific time, simply tap the clock to enter the information manually. This lets you make larger jumps, especially when it comes to the date.

Below the timeline is the last part of the planner, the options bar, which contains other useful features. These include the Finder, two augmented reality modes, and other features, but more on that later.

Sun, Moon, and Milky Way always in focus with the help of the information bar

Position of sun, moon, and azimuth

Beside the change between the courses of sun and moon, the information bar contains a lot of other information and settings. The basic position of the bar gives us insight about the azimuth, the height and the phase of the celestial bodies sun and moon. The term azimuth refers to a horizontal angle that aligns itself with the points of the compass.

Screenshots der App Photo Pills, die die verschiedenen Bereiche des Planers zeigen.

If you swipe your finger once to the left on the bar, more detailed information about the rising and setting of the sun and moon will appear. 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 in the timeline to find out when the next moon phase, for example new moon, occurs. 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 in the information bar 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 appear on the map. The light grey line stands for the time when the Milky Way becomes visible and the dark grey line for the disappearance of the Milky Way.

Screenshots der App Photo Pills, die die beiden Reiter zum Thema Milchstrasse in der Informationsleiste zeigen.

If you move the timeline into the blue area, i.e. into the night, the Milky Way also appears in the form of a dotted, curved line. Here, the accumulation of several thicker points represents the galactic center 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 Center are also specified in this section of the information bar. The second tab for the Milky Way, in the form of a blue scale, indicates how well the Milky Way will be visible in the sky. If the bars are filled, the Milky Way can be seen well on the horizon.

Pin-to-Pin geodetic info

By swiping from the starting position to the right, further options open up. The first is pin-to-pin geodetic info. By clicking on the button, a second pin in black appears on the map. This pin should be placed on the desired motif. Once this is done, you can quickly see whether the sunset is behind the desired motif on the chosen day. Looking at the first picture in the illustration below, it is easy to see that the desired scenario cannot be captured at this time. However, by moving the timeline, you can determine the correct time. In our example, this would have already been on October 6 and is now in the past. The next suitable date is almost a year in the future – so the motif can no longer be photographed in the near future.

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.

Screenshots der App Photo Pills, die die Pin-zu-Pin Option und das Schattenwurf-Tool in der Informationsleiste zeigen.

Calculating shadow cast

The second option, which results from swiping to the right in the information bar, is a tool to estimate the shadowfall of a building or a tall tree. In order to use this function, however, it is necessary to find out about the height of the building or to be able to estimate it well. Once the building has been selected with the orange pin and a height has been entered in the information bar, the shadow is 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 the amount of shadow.

The Options Bar – Find, schedule, and share with friends

Simply find a dream scenario

The information bar already offers many possibilities to find the right place and the right time for the perfect photo. Especially the pin-to-pin geodetic info 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 arrangement is available on the desired day. If this is not the case, it is very tedious to find the suitable time by moving the timeline. The Find function in the options bar can help with this.

Screenshots der App Photo Pills, die die Finder-Funktion in der Optionenleiste zeigen.

When selecting the Finder function, there are four different constellations of criteria that can be searched for: “Sun at Azimuth”, “Sun at Azimuth and Height”, “Moon at Azimuth”, and “Moon at Azimuth and Height”. In order to be able to determine more precisely how and where the sun or moon should stand for the planned image, it is advisable to select “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 will find the desired scenario at the desired location.

: Screenshots der App Photo Pills, die die beiden Augumented Reality Modi der Optionenleiste zeigen.

Augmented Reality – Simulating photo motifs

In addition, the options bar contains two AR modes (Augmented Reality). These two modes are more or less Live View modes that display the position of different celestial bodies using the 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 on site, so that you can align the camera to the situation in advance. If one of these modes is activated, the current point in time is displayed for the time being, but here, too, 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 Finder option and the AR modes, the options bar also lets you save your own project 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, a field called “Action” will appear at the bottom right, through which you can send your plan by SMS, WhatsApp, or e-mail. This is especially useful for sharing plans with a friend who is also a photography enthusiast to go on a photo tour together.

Conclusion

The Photo Pills App with its extensive planner is a very useful aid for all enthusiastic landscape or astrophotographers who don’t like to leave their success to chance. The numerous options to plan light moods and the positions of different celestial bodies increase the chances enormously to come home with successful and impressive photos from your photo tour. The app is available in the App Store for CHF 10 – we think it’s a worthwhile investment.

Image processing with the VSCO App

Image editing using an app on a smartphone is becoming more and more popular. This is not only due to the fact that apps and their functionalities are getting better and better. One of these popular apps is “VSCO”. This app is particularly well suited for fast, but high-quality and modern image processing. In addition to a number of tools, the app is also known for its many filters. These are especially popular with Instagram users and amateur photographers to give their own images a uniform and modern look. But many users also use the community function to exchange ideas with other creative users and discover trends in image processing.

Here you can download the free app for Apple and Android devices. What’s particularly pleasant is that the free version of the app doesn’t come with any advertising.

Below, we explain what possibilities the app provides for image processing in detail, what secret functions there are, what the community function is all about and what advantages “VSCO X” has to offer.

Possibilities of the VSCO app for image editing

To edit pictures with the app, you can use your smartphone to take them directly with the app or upload images from memory. A variety of filters and tools are available for image editing.

The main feature of the app and the reason why it is so popular with many photography enthusiasts are the numerous filters. In the free version, the app offers a lot of interesting filters you can spice up your photos with. If that’s not enough, you can buy additional filter collections directly through in-app purchases. The price range here is between CHF 0.50 and CHF 8.

VSCO filters are titled with letters and numbers and target different photographic situations. For example, the U1 to U6 filter series has been specially developed for different lighting conditions to improve urban photography. On the other hand, there is the filter series G4 to G9, which was designed for portrait photography.

Once you have decided on an image that you want to edit, the VSCO filters can be applied with a touch of a finger. If you are satisfied with the result, you have the option of saving the edited image directly in the app. If you like, you can also save it to a central folder on your smartphone or you can share your work on Instagram, Facebook and the like as well as in the VSCO network at the touch of a finger.

Screenshot VSCO app: Overview filters for image processing

Overview: Filters for Image Processing in the VSCO App and the Filter Shop

In addition to the multitude of modern filters, the app also offers a range of standard tools for classic image processing. Beside the normal tools for brightness adjustment or straightening, the VSCO app also has tools to make images sharper, to adjust the skin tone or to play with the light colour. All tools can be adjusted in their intensity.

Available tools in the VSCO App:

  • Exposure
  • Contrast
  • Straighten (Rotate)
  • Horizontal perspective
  • Vertical perspective
  • Cutting
  • Sharpening
  • Satiation
  • Light colour
  • Shadow
  • Temperature
  • Colour
  • Skin tone
  • Vignette
  • Grain
  • Fading
  • Shadow colour
Screenshot VSCO app: Overview tools for image processing

Overview: Available tools in the VSCO app for image processing

Tips for image editing

As with any other image editing app, the VSCO app also has a few “secret” functions that simplify image editing and save time. We will introduce two of these functions to you in more detail.

Adjusting the intensity of the filters

Each filter can be adjusted in its intensity. This function is a little hidden and not visible at first sight. To adjust the intensity, simply tap the selected filter again. Each filter can be adjusted this way. The intensity levels range from 0 to 12, where 12 is the highest intensity of a filter. Adjusting a filter is particularly important if, for example, there were light fluctuations during a shoot. With the customisable filter, you can now edit each photo individually to create a consistent look.

Screenshot VSCO App: Bildreihe Intensität des Filters: 2, 6, 12

Copying edits

The “Copy Edits” feature saves a lot of time, especially if you want to edit more than a handful of images in the same way. This feature allows you to transfer the editing steps from one image to another with two taps. To do this, simply tap on an image in your overview that you have already edited and tap on the three dots “…” in the lower right corner. There, you have the option to copy the changes. If you want to transfer the changes to another image, first tap on this image or the desired images and then tap on the three dots at the bottom right. There you can now “Insert edits”.

Screenshot VSCO App: So lassen sich Bearbeitungen kopieren

Community functionality of VSCO

In addition to classic image processing, the app also has a community function. Similar to Instagram, you can follow people and interact with their images. As part of the VSCO network, you can also share your own work with the world. To do this, you register in advance with a few clicks in the network, define a user name and a profile picture and you can create individual images or entire collections and interact with other users or be inspired.

Screenshot VSCO app: Overview of the community functionalities

Community Features – Left: Follow people, right: share own pictures with the community

Possibilities of VSCO X

While the free version of the VSCO App comes with a number of preset filters and tools for image processing, there is still “VSCO X”.

“VSCO X” is a membership which is subject to a fee and offers the user even more possibilities for image processing. In addition to over 100 classic VSCO presets, the paid service also offers Film X™ presets and other tools, as well as monthly app add-ons. These include, for example, the new “Frame” tool, which allows you to place creative frames around your shots. There is also an info area where selected photographers can give photography and app tips.

Conclusion

The VSCO App offers a variety of possibilities for image processing. Especially the numerous modern filters make the app a good alternative to other apps for image processing. But the different tools with which you can fine-tune brightness and image noise are also convincing. All in all, with this app for image processing you always have a kind of mini lightroom in your pocket with you, with which you can develop your very own picture language.

Photo with the photographer's domain as a watermark

Free tools for custom watermarks on your photos

To protect your photos from copyright infringements or to establish your own brand, you can work with watermarks. These marks, which become recognisable by the incidence of light, originate from paper processing to identify the producing paper mill. They were and still are used to prevent counterfeits and copies of banknotes, personal documents, and digital data. Since digital images are also reproduced and used without permission, you can add your individual watermark to your photos for protection and branding. If you regularly publish pictures on social networks such as Facebook and Instagram or run a blog, such watermarks also serve as a distinguishing feature for your followers. For this marketing effect you can use your name, your email, the domain of your website, or your logo. In this article, we’ll introduce you to free tools that make it easy to brand your photos.

Watermark freeware for Windows

TSR Watermark Image Software is a good option for Windows, for example. With this program, you can watermark several images at once and save them into any destination folder. You can also use this program to create your watermark yourself – for example using an image of your logo or writing your email adress or website URL. Font, alignment, size, and colour are adjustable, as are the degree of transparency, the position, and the angle of the watermark. You can export your photos in different formats (jpeg, png, tiff, bmp, gif) and sizes. TSR Watermark Image Software is relatively intuitive and easy to use. The free version already offers numerous functions, while special additional options such as 3D effects are only available in the paid upgrade.

Benutzeroberfläche von TSR Watermark Image Software

Free watermark tool for MacOS

With watermark PRO you can use a watermark to brand your photos on a MacOS.

You simply drag and drop your pictures into the program and you have various ways to create a watermark. Your options are, for example, text characters, logos and QR codes and even a map with GPS data. You can easily adjust the settings using the right column in the neatly arranged interface. Besides the usual photo formats you can also export your photos as PDF files. Up to five photos can be watermarked simultaneously per batch process. If you want to work with more photos, you can activate the batch function via an in-app purchase. This function allows you to edit an unlimited number of photos at once.

Benutzeroberfläche von watermark PRO

Creating watermarks on a smartphone: Apps for Android

For Android devices we recommend the apps Photo Watermark and Add Watermark free.

With the Photo Watermark app you can draw your signature directly on the display in addition to the usual options such as text, images, and timestamps. Size, transparency, position, and colour can also be set here. You can apply your created watermark individually or place it over the image as a film. With Add Watermark free you can also add your own fonts. Batch processing to brand several images at once is only available in the full version, which requires payment. With the upgrade you can also save your branded photos in any format and size. Both Add Watermark free and Photo Watermark allow you to save files in JPG format or embed your images directly into social networks.

Fliesschicht-Einstellung der App Foto-Wasserzeichen

Watermark app for iOS

Whether text, signature or QR code – even with iWatermark lite you can protect and personalise your photos with a watermark in many different ways. Many examples are available in text and graphic form as well as various settings such as font, colour, size, and transparency. With the free version you are able to use all functions, but the text “Created by iWatermark” is added to every photo. By upgrading to the full version for a modest price you can easily avoid this. iWatermark is also available for MacOS, Windows, and Android.

Conclusion

The mostly easy to use, straightforward programs and apps lead to the desired result with a few clicks – protection against unauthorised distribution and increasing the recognition value of your photos. To mark several photos at once, you usually need to pay for an upgrade.

Note: With most free versions, you may only use the watermarks for private purposes. If you want to use the apps and programs for commercial purposes, you can work with the paid version.

Two photos on top of each other - birds and dog

For smartphone photos with special effects: The most unusual photo apps for Android and iOS

Thanks to the latest technology, high-quality cameras and social networks such as Facebook, Instagram and Co., taking good photos has become one of the most important tasks of the smartphone. But even the best pictures can be made even more exciting with a filter or a few small edits here and there – preferably quickly and easily directly on the smartphone. A glance at the probably most popular photo platform “Instagram” shows that the most spectacular effects and edits are used to attract attention with one’s own photos.

We have set out on a search for free apps with which you can effectively stage your snapshots.

Little planets with “RollWorld”

With this free app for iOS, the wow effect for your photos is guaranteed. “RollWorld” transforms images into small circular planets, so-called “Tiny Worlds”. For the best effect, it is best to use landscape panoramas or skylines where the horizon clearly separates sky and earth.

Die Ausgangsbilder: Ein Panorama einer Seebrücke und ein Wasserfall

Screenshot RollWorld App with landscape or panorama picture

Left: The result: “RollWorld” app with landscape image in 3:2 format | Right: “RollWorld” app with panorama image

“RollWorld” can be used as a direct camera function which conjures up the tiny-world effect on the display before triggering. However, the best way to use the app is to apply it to photos that have already been taken. For example, you can upload panorama images to the app and rotate them into a small world with various setting options. In addition to panoramas, all other images can of course also be creatively edited with the photo app and turned upside down in order to create crazy and abstract masterpieces.

For Android users, “Little Planet” is the counterpart – also free of charge.

«RollWorld» in the App Store

«Little Planet» in the Playstore

Impressive morphing effects with “Photo Lab”

Photo from two images and morph effect tiger and human

Left: Photo from two pictures | Right: Morph effect tiger and human being

The versatile app “Photo Lab” is available for Android as well as iOS for free and offers a huge range of features. With numerous filters you can turn your photos into paintings or combine them with an unusual background. For example, an old book in the picture shows your image on one of its pages or it seems as if it would be reflected in a champagne glass. But the absolute highlight of “Photo Lab” are the impressive montages, which can be created automatically from a photo and a template. Simply select a portrait or Selfie and let it merge with a tiger or the mystical silhouette of a forest. These so-called “morph effects” create unique pictures that stand out from the crowd. You can apply different styles such as pop art, graffiti and many more to these and various other photo montages, similar to filters.

«Photo Lab» in the App Store

«Photo Lab» in the Playstore

Extraordinary backgrounds with “Fabby”

Portrait with flower background and pop art style

Left: Portrait with flower background | Right: Portrait with colourful Popart background

With this app for iOS you can spice up photos with crazy backgrounds full of fantasy. The focus here is on Selfies or photos of people. The app automatically recognises them as foreground and inserts them into any background. The editing can be done afterwards, but also during the shooting you can activate the desired background and align yourself or the person to be photographed for the perfect position in the picture. In addition to the numerous ready-made backgrounds, you can also use your own photos. From the white winter landscape to colourful donuts on a pink background, there are no limits. If you want to bring some more life into your project, you can use the “Fabby” app to record small videos with bright backgrounds.

The free app “Fabby” is currently only available for iOS devices in the App Store.

«Fabby» in the App Store

Bright comics and colourful collages with “PicsArt”

Picture in mosaic look and portrait with fancy colour filter

Left: Picture in mosaic look | Right: Portrait with fancy colour filter

For all hobby photographers who like to experiment with colours, the photo app “PicsArt” is exactly the right tool. The free image editing program for Android and iOS provides not only countless filters with comprehensive settings, but also a whole repertoire of features. Extraordinary effects, colourful collages or comic-like decorations with speech bubbles and stickers – with “PicsArt” there are no limits to your creativity. To individually adjust the respective effects, you can manually adjust their intensity, colour tone and the like. If a certain area is to remain in its natural appearance, such as a person or their face in the centre of the image, this area can be freed from the set effect with an eraser function. For example, a person or object can be highlighted in colour against an otherwise black and white background, or it can appear as if it is moving in a painting. For those who like it less unusual, “PicsArt” also offers subtle filters and basic image editing tools such as red-eye correction, contrast adjustment and the like.

«PicsArt» in the App Store

«PicsArt» in the Playstore