Planning for Shadows


Today’s Question: I need to find an app that will show me where shadows will be at any given time. A friend suggested Sun Locator, but it’s apparently not available on iPhone. It had a visual that showed the thrown shadow that moved as you moved the time. Is there one that you use?

Tim’s Quick Answer: One of the top apps that enables you to plan for shadows is The Photographer’s Ephemeris ( On the map you can see an indication of the direction and relative size of shadows, as you pan through the timeline.

More Detail: I use The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE) as a tool for planning to make use of the sun (or sunlight) and moon in my photography. Among the various features in TPE is an indicator of the direction and relative size of shadows.

You start by setting the position from which you intend to photograph, or for the subject you’ll be photographing. You can then set the date based on when you’ll be photographing, and pan through the timeline. As you pan from sunrise toward sunset, for example, you’ll see the indicator for shadows start to shrink as you move away from sunrise, and then grow again as you get closer to sunset.

The direction of the gray shadow lines indicates the direction the shadows will be cast, which obviously depends upon the relative direction to the sun as it arcs across the sky. The size of the lines gives you a sense of the relative size of the shadows you can expect.

Another tool I use (and for which I am currently producing a video training course) is PhotoPills, which includes a calculator you can use to determine the actual length of shadows based on the height of an object and of course the relative position of the sun.