Blurry or distant observations

I recommend not marking as “ID cannot be improved” unless you are 100% positive it cannot be identified. I do not claim to be an expert on birds, but every once in a while I look through “ID cannot be improved” bird observations and I find I can ID many of them, even many blurry/distant ones. Just because it’s too blurry or distant for you to identify doesn’t mean it is too blurry or distant to be identified at all.


Is the one I thought about.


I agree that if the photo is ID able it is good enough. Sometimes light, weather conditions or as in my case not a very good camera can make the picture not the best.

1 Like

I would suggest just ignoring them and moving on. Many people know the picture isn’t that good but it may be the only picture they got of the observation and they want to annotate it for their life list. If you see any of my “awful” pictures, go ahead and just skip them, I’m ok with that. Constructive criticism can be appreciated by many but not everyone takes it well. And some just don’t have the camera to get great pictures and discouraging them is a bad idea.


An example: See these pines?,-72.3764889,3a,42.7y,280.27h,97.62t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1sOJgH5Io5Pj9IvyKc947mKw!2e0!!7i16384!8i8192

I can say with 100% certainty they are Eastern white pine- Pinus strobus, even without zooming in. This species has a very distinctive growth form and nothing else like it grows here.

I love exploring nature including harsh terrain many people can’t navigate. I thrash into wetlands no human has been in for decades. AND i take photos from a moving vehicle (not while driving). Why? Because it’s good data, it makes the drive more fun, it almost always can get an ID, and because it isn’t against the rules. For those who don’t like data on common observations, consider the chestnut blight or dutch elm disease in eastern North America. We know chestnut and elm were very abundant before those diseases, but we don’t have good detail on how those species fit into the ecology of forests. Before the diseases they were so common not much data was collected on their distribution. If the white pine flu or whatever appears and they all die, my hundreds of observations will help understand its past ecology plus where to plant new resistant individuals we hopefully find.a

If you only want perfect photos, iNat probably isn’t for you. Wikipedia and Flickr are places to get photos that aren’t blurry. And it’s explicitly against the rules to harass people over photo ‘quality’ on iNat, too.


I woulidn’t say that on an observation but i sometimes offer suggestions. But its probably a waste of my time.

Excellent advise. This is what I was looking for.I agree negative comments are counterproductive. But I will say to get closeups of the leaves. But I fear any suggestions are seen as insults. Here is an observation that I just didn’t know what to do with. [link removed per forum guidelines]


That is a fine observation with idable plants for local users, what made you disagree it as “Plantae”? It’s a clear photo of dicots at least. And I’m sure @bouteloua knows her plants.


Frankly - it is rude to disagree back to Plants.

I would trust @bouteloua - she has 267 IDs on the leaderboard and is a working botanist.

That first ID to plants was given with goodwill, and that person is now on sabbatical.
Identifiers will have to battle against TWO planty IDs. One was already enough, thanks.

When I have asked new people to take more photos of plants - pretty flower, where’s the leaves? And the wide view? I do ask nicely, and they usually respond in kind.


Here’s a couple of my “awful” observations with a clear ID, too.

It gets especially difficult to get a clear picture when it’s a far away, fast-moving animal. I think we’d be missing out on a lot of observations from particular animals without blurry or far-away photos.


this looks like something i’d easily be able to find at least one species I could ID in, if it were in my area of expertise, but i don’t know Nebraska well. Is there a reason you explicitly disagreed with a Hackberry ID? I don’t know that area well enough to know for sure but the tree does look good for hackberry.

This photo isn’t even blurry.


The issue here is not distance or blurry to me. It’s what specific plant they were going for. Usually I will ask if I am unsure.

1 Like

Yes. My OCD with tidiness or pretty photos gets me too. But on iNat, there’s little we can do, especially on the database. That’s why (now I have confessed), I may never be given admin privileges :(

No one is perfect! Field conditions make I myself sometimes get unsatisfactory photos if wildlife. But as long as they could be IDd, it’s good enough.

That reminds me about the blurry raptor-in-flight photo I’m yet to share. Make sure to look. Let me go edit :)

1 Like

iNaturalist is an observation platform, not a photo gallery. So whether we like it or not, some observations will have photos that make you want to kick down someone’s door and yell “get a camera!”. But as others have said, as long as they are IDable, there’s not much to complain about, because they inherently have value. Even if they do not, most people are not intending to be malicious with poor quality photos, and it’s nice to celebrate that as many people are invested enough to the point they do post nature at all.


Ok, I think a lot of people are missing an important point here. While I agree that the vast majority of observations with poor-quality photos are identifiable, some are not. These records are no better than an observation without a photo (a casual observation). I submit the following observation as an example: [link removed per forum guidelines]. If you want to view it this way, there’s a spectrum of quality and, at some point, an observation is so far into the range of “casual” that it should not be treated otherwise.

The reason I say this is that the observations have the potential to become research grade (and be uploaded to GBIF as an occurrence record used in scientific studies). In my opinion, such observations should not be allowed to become research grade under any circumstances. Honestly, there are even some observations that I can ID to species that I don’t think should be considered research grade. This is why some observations should be marked as “cannot be improved”. If the plants are casual grade, I don’t care what you call them. There is nothing wrong with submitting a casual grade observation.

Also, if you are thinking of chiming in to tell me that “some identifiers can ID particularly bad images”, first, tell me with a straight face and no hesitation that you or someone you know can ID the linked image to species and let me challenge you. Second, I challenge you to find another poor-quality Euphorbia observation that you can ID to species that I can’t. Third, look through some of my identifications and see if I haven’t IDed plants that don’t have poor-quality photos. I am fully aware of my arrogance here, but it is the clearest way I know to make this point. I simply want people to realize that there is a line that should be drawn under some circumstances and that it is irresponsible to pretend that the line doesn’t exist.

[As a small aside, in the example observation, I both tried to make it casual and tried to bump it back to plants, but the observer chose to thwart both efforts.]


You first need to look at observation that OP called “awful crap”, if observer doesn’t want to get observations to casual, that is their right. There’re bad photos and nobody in this thread denied it, it doesn’t mean we should call them names or massively start post links to them, which is against the forum guidelines.


That’s fair. I just get a little frustrated by the idea that no observations should be marked casual on the idea that someone might be able to ID it in the future.

1 Like

There certainly are some observations that cannot be identified. They may not be distant or blurry ones, either! If you look through photos of grasses or grass-like plants you see lots of in-focus, close photos in observations that just do not include the traits needed for identification.

I’d like to banish many observations to some limbo classification. The trouble is, we identifiers have only a limited ability to judge what’s identifiable. I certainly can’t judge what few Euphorbia observations are beyond the ability of @nathantaylor to identify, for example. And sometimes what isn’t identifiable by most of us might be identifiable to someone with local knowledge (e.g. those fuzzy sticks at the Oregon coast can only be the willow Salix hookeriana). So I hesitate.

Maybe we should institute some kind of statute of limitations for observations? After being posted for five years, say, without an identification, observations become “casual.” Or a voting system? After 4 observers mark the observation as unidentifiable it becomes “casual”?


I understand it might be frustrating, but I think the discourse that happened as part of the observation is fine and within the scope of how the website is intended to operate;

  • Observer posts photo of organism that they know the species of (they likely saw/IDed it in person)
  • Expert within that taxon is not able to confirm, marks to lowest taxonomic rank they can confirm and disagrees with proposed taxon (marking no to “Is the evidence provided enough to confirm this is x?”)
  • Observer wants to maintain their identification (for their own records or otherwise) so they opt out of community taxon, moving it to casual

I want there to be accurate data submitted to GBIF as much as you do, but we need to be cognizant of the fact that this science is not the ‘primary’ mission of the website but rather a side benefit, with the primary goal to be to connect people with nature. So long as everyone follows the rules of the site an observation that is not identifiable should never reach ‘Research Grade’, and the worst-case scenario would be that it perpetually remains as ‘Needs ID’.


If it bothers you (it often does me too, but I tend to let stuff slide and move on with my life ‘cause it isnt’ worth the angst!) one thing I did as I went through all non-RG for my state is if there were particularly poor quality photos, I would leave a note that I could not make out what the photo was intended to be of, asked them to comment with further information and/or additional photos to be uploaded. I figure someone who is that taxon’s specialist can then see it in the future, and if the person has not replied AND they cannot - as a specialist - make something out, they would hopefully feel better about moving it to casual (‘cannot be improved’). Gives the OP a chance to add information, and allows things to move along however best fit. I’d say about half the time the OP would reply and either have more info (which may or may not help me, but likely will others) or they’d say ‘yeah i have no clue’ and be fine clicking ‘good as it gets’. Other half it’s probably dead accounts from students who uploaded a few observations in quest for a grade without much care taken - but at least future specialist ID’ers will have the info to go on to make a call later.

On new and/or active accounts, I usually get a lot of positive interaction!
The older the observation the more likely it is to go un-replied.