Blurry or distant observations

I’m identifying observations and I come across some where the person takes the picture from a car and the organism is so distant that its just a useless observation. I just ignored one where the road was most of the picture and the tree was so faraway it could be anything. The same goes with ones that are so blurry you can’t tell what it is. I wish we could just delete them. They just muddle up all the good observations. What do people suggest doing with AWFUL observations.


I think you’re doing the right thing! Some folks also add a third step:

  1. See low quality observation.
  2. Get (mildly) annoyed and ignore.
  3. Mark as “cannot be improved”.

I usually stop at step 2. If the observation is so low effort, I doubt it’s worth (seriously) reviewing. Granted, maybe these are from new users who have watched too many crime-dramas and expect us to be able to “Enhance! Enhance! Enhance…”


I usually mark these “reviewed” so I don’t have to see them again in my regular ID flow.


I mark them reviewed but i often id them as dicots if it applies and say too blurry to ID. but really I think they should be deleted. so its best just to ignore the crap.

1 Like

if the observation is identifiable, i actually don’t mind distant or even blurry observations. sometimes blurry or distant is all you can get, and it’s nice to be able to have similar reference photos to compare against.

one of the more useful guides i’ve come across is Ducks at a Distance, and i’ve specifically sought out photos of distant organisms in iNat to help identify some of my own distant birds, dragonflies, and other organisms.


I’m sorry, but your description is nothing about “awful” observation, if obsect is present and idable, it’s not an awful observation, it’s a good one, if it’s not idable for you, skip it, add particular observer to you filters, etc. But iNat is not a photo competition. And it’s not up to you to decide if someone else photos should be deleted, you can add a comment with tips on how to make photos better for identification, if you think that person did those without knowledge.


I think skipping is the best option. I was just wondering if they could be flagged to be ignored.


It depends on what your idea of the purpose of iNaturalist is. It is not necessarily about world-class photos and perfect data collection, as Marina said.

iNaturalist can be that, yes, but it is many more things that make it great, including citizen science and community education. There are people of basically all ages that use this site/app, to connect with their neighbours or learn more about their favourite species. Maybe they use it as a repository of their own experiences, or a place to keep track of their progress in skills like photography or taxonomy.

One of the most rewarding parts of this app for individuals, in my experience, is to learn and grow, to see via your own Observations how much you’ve improved over time. Worrying about gatekeeping whose observations are “good enough”, rather than taking the time to further education where it is appropriate, feels counter to the purpose and feel of iNaturalist as a whole. If the observations don’t meet your standards, nobody is asking you to ID them. In any case, what means nothing to you may be meaningful to someone else.


yeah, this tone here is really unnecessary. People aren’t obligated to take pretty photos, and just because you can’t identify them doesn’t mean others can’t. Some species are easy to ID from blurry photos if you know them. If you can’t identify it, mark reviewed and move on. If it’s one person in particular you can use filters to exclude their observations when you do IDs.


It’s important to keep in mind that what is unidentifiable for one person may not be for another person, even with low quality photos.

Knowing the area, understanding how a species moves, recognizing some key feature that’s not well known by others, etc all can lead to one person being able to instantly identify a species from what someone else would consider an unidentifiable blurry speck.

If the observations bother you, then move on and don’t spend your time on them, but don’t necessarily assume that your ability to identify from said observation is representative of the ability of others to identify a species (or genus) from the same observation.


I missed a bit of nuance that others have pointed out: for animals, especially birds, there are some very talented identifiers, who seem like they have the ability to “Enhance! Enhance! Enhance…”, some good examples in topic: Poor quality photo observations from the past have received Research Grade

For plants, where the organism isn’t moving away from the observer, maybe there’s a higher expectation of clean, motion-free photos, and therefore more annoyance on the part of identifiers, me included?


It’s wonderful what our brains are capable of! For example, I posted an incredibly terrible photo of a far away flock of turkeys taken from a moving car, and someone confirmed my ID within an hour.

I spotted them when they were just specks on a snowy field, and despite the terrible photos, through zooming/cropping, the body shapes and relative size were clearly identifiable. Sure it’s not going to be featured as ‘ID of the day’ anywhere, but it is documentation of rough numbers, date and time of species sighting, something that is useful to me at the very least.


I think blurry images can have tremendous value. I intend to make awfull, tree observations during a 350 km journey by bus at 100-120 km/h along the eastern side of Botswana to Gaborone, along our main highway. I suspect there will only be 8 or less common species of large tree along the roadside. Though blurry, by looking at height, height/width ratio, leaf density, shape and shade of green of my images, I hope I will be able to train myself to provide fairly accurate IDs. I can also include soil/sand colour. Height of ground above or below the road surface, to get an idea of drainage. Hopefully I could get some interesting data from hundreds ( or thousands) of fuzzy images of a 700 km round trip. At least I could get a ratio of living to dead trees from an iNat survey like this. I dont have a car and am too old to drive safely or walk so far. I hope my terrible,nasty images wont be expelled from iNat ! Others may not like them, but they will be treasure for me.

As a bonus I hope I shall get a load of blurry images of communal bird’s nests.
I might be able to find out if these birds have a favoured tree species.

With aging, failing eyesight, every thing is blurred anyway !
Get used to fuzzy images ! Good practice for old age !


In some areas you can tell the plant species simply from the color, texture, and location on the terrain, without ever seeing any more detail than that.

@charlie - has some experience with this.

Also, in some areas there is only one option, for example, where I currently work there are a few species of palm tree, several in the same genus, but I can tell the species apart even from a satellite photo of the area because one species is only found on steep slopes and the tops of hills, and the other is only found down in wetter lowland areas. In the satellite image they look the same, and unless you now the area you’d have no way of getting them even to genus (possibly not even to the right larger division of plants as at the rez we are talking the difference between tree ferns, large cycads, and palm trees via a top-down view is minimal. In this case it’s all about knowing what’s in the area and how they live.


If the picture is bad, but organism is far and small but recognisible, it is a good observation.


mm you can use Data Quality - good as it can be - to tip it to Casual - and that clears it from the ‘wild’ ID queue. But I won’t do that, as I am continually impressed by how many competent people can ID what I see as a blur.

Instead of click click - blurry green - probably dicot … mark as reviewed (been there, done that, next), and devote your time to what you enjoy IDing. I have a folder of bookmarked URLs for awaiting IDs. Grateful for swathes that I can sweep aside!

You can also work from Needs ID and filter for your preferred taxon. Obs remain trapped there too, until someone chooses to rescue them.


I would love to have flowers or fruit. Just leaves is hard, unless you have local knowledge. But often that blurry picture of green stuff … turns into a lizard or a bug or …

1 Like

I just move my face closer and further from my monitor and squint my eyes while rubbing my chin


I intend to make awfull, tree observations during a 350 km journey by bus at 100-120 km/h along the eastern side of Botswana to Gaborone, along our main highway.

Including the countless donkeys and cows standing randomly on the side of the road :wink:




are all comments that I would flag as inappropriate if made on the site. Please keep in mind that the site is for people to connect with nature, and everybody has a different process. Some people are at the beginning of their process and are learning. Comments like this absolutely discourage them from using the site and from learning, which is the opposite of what the mission of the site is.

My advise is to ignore observation you don’t like. Mute users who produce mass amounts of them. Avoid them. Use the DQA to bump them to casual or to indicate they can’t move forward. Mark as reviewed. There’s tools available to help in situations like this luckily so there’s a relatively clear solution.