Photography Tools

Of course, any photographer will tell you that there is more to capturing a good image than just the gear they use. On this page I will detail some of the other photography-related tools and resources that I use. These may include websites I visit during the planning stages of a shoot, services that I utilise for hosting my photography website (i.e.: This one! 🙂 ), or educational resources for online photography courses.

Disclosure:  Please note that some of the links on the page below are affiliate links. This means that if you click on one of these items and decide to make a purchase, I will earn a small commission; however this will not incur an additional cost to you. Please understand that products on this page are those that I personally use and have found useful in my own photography – they are not here because of the small commissions that I may earn should you make a purchase.

Planning

Stellarium:

This is a free piece of software that I use to help with planning my astronomical imaging. It’s basically a planetarium program for your desktop, and it allows you to see where in the sky certain objects will be at any given time – and plan shots accordingly. I use it it combination with other tools like Google Maps to plan sunrise/sunset shots, or to find the best time to photograph events like conjunctions. I’ve even set it up to give me a few viewing options that mimic the field-of-view of my more commonly used telescope/lens/camera combinations which helps shot planning. There’s even a version for mobile devices.

  • CalSky:

    The online Sky Calendar – delivered to your inbox! Every day, this website sends me emails to alert me to upcoming astronomical events that I have chosen to keep track of. Some examples of these include bright of the International Space Station, Iridium flares, Jovian lunar shadow transits, or even satellite transits of the Sun, Moon or planets. Another site that performs a similar function is Heavens-above.

  • SkippySky:

    I use this website (in combination with others like the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and AccuWeather) for astronomy-relevant weather and cloud forecasts. Data is not available for all parts of the world, but for the areas covered (Australia, Europe and North America), there are some really useful forecasts available for variables such as transparency, seeing, and dew risk which are of particular use for astrophotography.

  • ISS Detector:

    If you’ve ever tried to photograph an Iridium Flare or a pass of the ISS with anything other than a wide angle lens, you’ll know that it can be tricky to frame the shot – especially if you are setting up at dusk before many stars are visible. To help with this, I use ISS Detector app for Android. It has the equivalent of a compass and bubble level (plus other features like a countdown timer) that I find really useful in setting up and taking these kinds of shots.

  • ISS Transit Prediction:

    This Android app does exactly as the name suggests – it predicts transits of the Sun, Moon or planets by the ISS for a specified location. So, as I look at it now, the app is telling me that there will be two solar transits and one lunar transit (with the ISS in shadow) within 160km of my location during the next 11 days. Furthermore, I can see a map representation of  the transit centerline and width, a distance to the nearest point on the centerline, and other really handy data. This app was an indispensable aid when it came to planning the Lunar ISS transit that I recently photographed.

Imaging

  • FireCapture:

    This is the software that I usually use for capturing video of the Sun, Moon and planets with the ZWO ASI120mm-s planetary camera. The software is available for free download, is easy to learn, and has been nothing but stable in my experience. It is also compatible with a fairly wide range of astronomy cameras.

Editing

Adobe Creative Cloud – Photography Plan:

Until recently, I’ve always considered Adobe products to be overpriced here in Australia compared with elsewhere in the world. That changed, though, when I came across the Photographer edition of Creative Cloud. Lightroom makes image organisation and keywording a painless process and simple or bulk photo editing is a breeze. Plus, there’s always Photoshop for more complex jobs like blending or stitching multiple images. For $9.99 per month, it’s fantastic value, too.

Try Adobe CC - Photographer Plan

Hosting

Bluehost:

All of my websites have been hosted with Bluehost. During many years of use, I have never had an issue with them. The few questions that I’ve had were quickly responded to by support staff, and their prices have always remained among the lowest around. These days, you can have a WordPress install up and running in minutes, with just a few clicks. Plus, top-tier blogging sites use and recommend them – so they must be doing something right.

Try BlueHost

WordPress:

Installations of WordPress power a huge portion of websites existing today. And why wouldn’t they? It’s fairly easy to learn, is almost infinitely customizable by adding a huge array of plugins, and with hosting sites like Bluehost, installation takes a few clicks and is finished in less than 5 minutes!

Education

Lynda:

A list of online education resources just wouldn’t be complete without Lynda.com. It’s one of the largest and most well-known places to take an online class on the internet, and their content covers just about any subject that you can think of. While entire courses can be a little expensive, a close look around the site will often turn up the occasional free “trial” video to give you a taste of the full course. I’ve quite liked the teaching style of the instructors they’ve used in some of their photography classes, too – very professional.