Do you groom your photos?

I was asked by a friend how I get so many “clean” photos, without a lot of distracting sticks and what-not.
My answer is easy. I groom. I pluck away the old sticks and leaves, brush away distractions when I can. I haven’t carried a small soft brush or gentle spray bottle of water in a dozen years, but I used to.
Do you?


Personally, I prefer to capture nature spontaneously rather than preparing the scene before taking a photo. I think the spontaneity of the scene is what gives the photo its unique and authentic character. Preparing the scene can sometimes alter the naturalness of the moment and lose its spontaneity, which can also affect the quality of the photo.

I find that the best way to take a natural photo is to be patient and attentive to what is happening around me, to look for moments when animals or plants are behaving naturally without human intervention. Sometimes this may take a little longer to get the perfect shot, but it’s worth it to capture the natural beauty as it truly is.

Of course, there are situations where preparing the scene may be necessary, such as when photographing rare plants or avoiding disturbing sensitive animals. However, overall, I prefer the spontaneity and naturalness of capturing scenes on the fly, as they reflect the authentic beauty of nature.

Similarly, I understand that everyone may have a different approach to nature photography, and what works for me may not necessarily work for others. Everyone should find the method that suits them best, whether it’s preparing the scene or capturing spontaneous moments.

Ultimately, nature photography is a matter of personal choice and appreciation of the beauty of nature. Whatever approach is chosen, it’s important to respect nature and ensure that our actions do not harm the environment.


For plant photos, I do try to clear away any sticks, grass stems, etc. that interfere with getting a “clean” image.


Me too. But particularly because it confuses my camera’s focus.
No, not the twig! That leaf margin detail, thank you.
For clarity, not ‘grooming’


I don’t take photos for quality, I take them for ID-ability; anything beautiful that may result is a happy accident.


I will clean up the scene if the situation allows and it will help for clarity. I’ll move detritus out of the way. I’ll also put it back so nothing is more exposed than when I found it. I don’t do it often though. I’d like to say I like the spontaneity but really I’m just too lazy to take the time.

I also target insects quite a bit and they don’t respond well to the attention. Shoot fast, hope for the best.


I totally agree with you. I never prepare the scene because I think it’s important to let nature be as it is.
For example, last weekend I found a dead bee (unfortunately) in my backyard and there were some flowers behind it and I thought that I could remove them but in the end I said: No, those flowers must be there, why would I remove them?

1 Like

I usually take a fully in situ image, and then if I want something clearer, I start moving twigs aside or whatever, to get the needed details. Especially since I take a lot of mushroom photos, I have to disturb it.

I will say I thought you meant like…grooming an animal before taking a photo of it and was wondering how you get a wild animal to let you brush it first. HA!


Wow, reading through the replies I can say to all of them “me too!”

It depends on the purpose of the photos of a given subject. Light and weather also influence how perfect the shot is going to be and it’s great when it turns out near perfect. And yes, I groom the site when needed to so that nothing interferes with the autofocus and no, everything around the subject stays natural. I also “groom” the images before loading onto iNat so that the photos are at their best as clarity aids identification and usefulness for other users.


There’s at least one plant I regret documenting because I did not “groom” the scene: I took a quick couple of images of a roadside flower, only to find out after I got home and looked at the images on my computer that there was some ugly roadside trash that I had overlooked on the ground directly behind the plant. That observation did not get uploaded.


Sometimes yes, more often no. It’s not unusual to get home and swear a little at a distracting stick or leaf, that I didn’t notice in the field. Truth is, I don’t like to take the time. I am getting better at noticing distracting background features and moving a little bit to avoid them. Not very good, but better.

Ha! I’d love to groom them!
Not specifically for photography, just to be that close.

It all depends on the purpose of the photo I’m taking. If I want a photo of the habitat surrounding the life form I’m photographing, then obviously it’s best to cause as little disturbance as possible. If on the other hand my aim is to photograph the organism itself for the purposes of an ID, then I’ll do whatever “grooming” is necessary, but always making sure I’m aware of any possible damage and/or disturbance I might be causing to either the organism itself or other life forms in the vicinity. As with so many things, particularly when nature is involved, the keywords for me are “sensitivity” and “respect”.


And some earlier discussions

1 Like

I created an activity for elementary students about understanding animal behavior using iNaturalist photos of herons (with permission, of course). We look at photos of herons eating, loafing, flying, hunting, nest building, raising young and the last one is of heron in its habitat with plastic trash in the background. I use this photo to point out to students that our responsibility to animals is to take care of their habitat by disposing of trash properly.

All this to say, you never know when an observation with trash might be useful to someone else.


It depends on the scene. I like to take natural habitat shots along with close-ups of a plant’s features. The second type might require some cleaning up near the plant to get a clear shot. In our photographers’ group we refer to it as “gardening” rather than “grooming” though. I always try to replace whatever I remove though to leave the scene once I’m done exactly as I found it when I started.


This looks like a good situation for a poll!

Do you groom your photos?

  • Never or rarely
  • Sometimes
  • Usually
  • Always

0 voters

In this poll, do you mean “groom the scene before taking a photo”?

Yes, I’m using the OP’s definition.

@anneclewis, I used the phrase “ugly roadside trash” to be discrete. I will save this pleasant community of iNat Forum readers from a more precise description of what someone left on that particular roadside. :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

1 Like