A plea to 1:1 your photos!

This has probably been said before, but in my opinion it can’t be said too many times.

As a frequent identifier (mainly of plants) I want to help others ID their photos, but too often the photo is not 1:1 aspect ratio and it’s hard to see relevant subject. Not only does using 1:1 aspect ratio help human identifiers, but the CV is more likely to get the correct taxon when the organism of interest fills most of the screen. This is especially important for smaller organisms where the ID characters may be small and subtle, making an wide aspect ratio photos (e.g. 16:9) almost impossible to ID.

If you have multiple photos perhaps leave one with original aspect ratio to show the habitat/scale, but the first photo should always have a 1:1 aspect ratio so that the focal organism fill as much of the frame as possible.

This is especially important as the number of contributors seems to outpace the number of identifiers, so anything that speeds of the ID process makes it more likely that your photo will be identified.This has probably been said before, but in my opinion it can’t be said too many times.


Above taken from A plea to crop your photos! and modified to protect the innocent make a new topic. Hoping this sparks some discussion about:

  • iNaturalist showing thumbnails as 1:1 vs. photos being 4:3, 16:9, etc.
  • Is it okay to mix landscape and portrait within observations?
  • Is landscape orientation preferred over portrait?
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Recently I’ve taken to cropping all my photos into 1:1, unless the subject doesn’t fit in that aspect ratio. I’ve been doing it for a similar reason you’ve put here, and 1:1 photos fit together nicely in a collage.

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Me too. Cropping to a square suits my aesthetic sense, ready for the next blog collage, and works well for iNat. Win x3.

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I’m also on the square train (which doesn’t move well). Caterpillars, skinny wasps, tall plants get 4:3 or 3:2 and most of the rest is 1:1. Genus Protorthodes by Elliott Gordon · iNaturalist

I look back on my old observations with disappointment Juniper from Elena Gallegos Grant by Elliott Gordon · iNaturalist

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The aspect ratio does not assure that the organism of interest fills most of the screen.

“but too often the photo is not 1:1 aspect ratio and it’s hard to see relevant subject.”
There are many factors other than aspect ratio which might make it hard to see relevant subject matter.

As wolfram06 stated “unless the subject doesn’t fit in that aspect ratio”

Aspect ratio is only one of many things that determine how easy it is to make an ID from a photo.

I use 1:1 often, but I wouldn’t recommend it exclusively. Sometimes 1.2:1 is more effective so cropping gives you more control over the ratio.
I do agree that many photos would be more effective if they were cropped.

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Regardless of the content of the arguments being presented here, this is the kind of advice/opinion/request that has 0% chance of being uniformly adopted on a community science platform.

It requires an extra step, and is not clearly of use.

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  • My goal for photos I upload to iNat observations is to aid identification.
  • I crop my photos to maximize the subject, whether that is the entire organism, or a detail. It’s the exception that a photo, as shot, accomplishes this without cropping.
  • I rarely use 1:1. It almost never suits the primary goal of aiding identification for my observations, which are mostly insects and plants.
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I adjust aspect ratio based on the subject I’m trying to best capture. Occasionally it’s a wide and narrow ratio, such as for a lizard where I want to include a long tail. Most of the time it’s the default ratio. I guess I’m not clear what’s magical about 1:1.

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I agree with this 100%. I’m not sure why 1:1 might be critical? Having it not be 1:1 seems to mess up the Explore thumbnails but that’s about all I can think of.

It seems on the identify screen the aspect ratio isn’t a square (see example below) and even so, there is the ability to zoom. I would say the most critical aspect is probably to make photos highlight the identifying features as best as possible, if known. I just use a freeform cropping tool to make rectangles that best suit displaying the identifying features, so my aspect ratios are always wonky and it seems to be fine.


(editing to update screenshot with polygons; square in dark green while entire area allocated for photos in lime. It’s close so I could be wrong but appears to not be perfectly square (?))

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I can see how cropping to 1x1 is convenient to allow photos to automatically display the most important portion of the photo when looking at many observations in grid view (without cropping half of a flower for example). But more often than not I have to click on the observation anyways to be sure it is what I think it is and iNaturalist manages the varying aspect rations quite well in the full observation view. To be honest, it has never crossed my mind that 1x1 aspect ratio to be important when identifying observations (mostly plants and fungi). 16:9 and all other aspect rations have always worked just fine for me. I can’t really imagine the point where a 1x1 aspect would be best except in the case above?

To me, the quality of the photo (focus, clarity, depth of field, which parts of the organisms are shown, exposure, size of photo, ect) has always been of much greater importance to making an ID. As a person that photographs plants (mostly with a DSLR) not just for iNaturalist, I compose my photos to convey as much information as possible (for ID and otherwise), which may include a crop, and usually I try to give them some aesthetic appeal. More often then not this is not a 1x1 aspect ratio. I cannot see myself cropping all the photos I post to 1x1, it would be a huge undertaking and would be discouraging.

Therefore, instead of cropping to 1x1, I would much rather the iNat community focus energy on asking for higher quality photos with all the necessary parts of the organism for ID which to me seem like are the main reason why so many observations are left unidentifiable.

[Edit]: @vreinkymov, I guess I am a bit confused about what you mean now that I’ve looked at your observations. All your recent photos are not in 1x1 but rather in a normal landscape or portrait aspect ration. Are we misunderstanding what you mean with 1x1? https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=any&user_id=vreinkymov&verifiable=any

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My aesthetical sense hates square in most cases… however, since quite some time I am squaring my entries here as well, as I realized that this seems to be the best option if the photo needs to be used as taxon-pic. I am not on this plattform to please my sense of aesthetics… I have other places to go for that (and then in most cases not squared)

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If the organism in question is centered, then I can’t see how it actually matters as the 1:1 thumbnail autocenters. And most people center the subject in the shot for ID purposes. So, It will show in the thumbnail fine. And 1:1 rarely is a good ratio for the organism itself, so when scrolling through not using thumbnail screen to ID, it can and does show the full image better.

not really true, if the organism is centered, it’s typically fine. I have a few as taxon pics and the original is not square but the entire organism shows perfectly well.

THIS and everything they said.

(Also…i’m not going to edit my entire workflow for iNat…I use my photos myself and have no desire for 1:1 in my print or books I make for myself, I’m not making Special Only for iNat versions and doubling my workflow time, and taking up all that extra file space on my computer & backup drives.)

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As I try to crop as best as I can, if the photo is not squared tha taxon pic usually cuts of parts of the organism… doesn´t happen if squared. If there is anyways a lot of space around the organism it of course might not play a big role

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As many things in life, it´s not a matter of “either… or”. One can do both :-)

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You’re right! Most of mine are 4:3. As stated at the bottom of my post, I was hoping to spark some discussion about aspect ratio and wanted to see what people thought. I’m inclined to start using 1:1 for the cover photo though, based on responses so far.

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Thanks for the clarification!

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I crop by hand - just eyeball a box around the organism and crop. No time to measure out an exact aspect ratio, esp when I have hundreds of photos to crop.

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Uniformly adopted? Of course not.

But, many of us do this already. Because we see and know the value of that extra step. Either the observer puts in the time, and makes the effort. Or they expect the identifier to do it for them.

If the picture is portrait mode, quite often the most useful bit is covered by the banner of other photos on taxon page.

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I don’t agree aspect ratio is something we should focus on, there’re other obvious factors as % of object on photo that can matter for identification, ar is just a choice to make by observer on what they like more, but expecting e.g. DSLR photos to be cropped for square is too much imo (even if it is used for some photos; though mostly have object pretty small because it is an aesthetic choice). As an ider, I don’t care how big is an object, if needed signs are seen, that’s enough.

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I commend your plea! I’ve recently started cropping to 1:1 and not only is it helpful for identifiers, but it also makes your own album of iNaturalist photos much more pleasing to the eye.

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