Efficient ways to upload bulk observations

Note: If you want to get into the gist of the question, scroll down to the bold. Though the context might be handy.

I haven’t found it hard to upload my iNaturalist observations. I use my Android phone camera to take photos (with both GPS and time data). Google Photos automatically backs up those photos, which I then download as a zipped file, extract, and then drag onto the website uploader.

However, I’ve been introducing other people to iNat as well, and I’ve noticed that what works for me might not necessarily be the best for others. One friend says it takes 30 minutes to extract the files.

Of course, if they’re just uploading smaller amounts of observations they could use the app on their phone. But if they scale up their observations from there (maybe even more than 5 observations), they’d hit problems since as far as I know, the app only lets you only upload one observation at a time.

While digging around the forum suggests that the quality of internet connection, upload speed, and image size may be factors affecting this, I’m concerned that improving internet connection quality or upload speed requires upgrading hardware like wifi routers or computers, which might not be an accessible option for everyone (though I could be wrong).

So I’m trying to gauge other ways to get photos from a phone onto iNaturalist.

I suspect the best method is getting them accessible on a PC where they can just be dragged and dropped in. The technicalities of getting them there are where problems probably occur.
In particular, I think there’s a way to access mobile phone files on a PC, but I haven’t looked that much into it.

Right now my focus is on taking photos from mobile devices, using Apple or Android, and how to get them from the camera to the upload box, without losing image metadata. Something that can be easily explained (or has been easily explained) and implemented by newer users.
Bulk = 10 to 60+ observations

I don’t mind getting pointed to other discussions on ways to improve upload speed or other technical things, though that has been discussed before—and is a beast of a topic by itself.
Links to useful and relevant sites/videos/tutorials are appreciated

Threads I have found useful so far:

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It if were just 10 observations from preexisting photos, I’d probably use the app to create the observations one by one. But for 60:

Definitely depends on the phone and system or file sharing apps. For Android it’s pretty simple to connect to a PC with a USB cable, allow file transfer, and drag/drop photos. They’re usually stored within a folder called DCIM.


It has been easiest for me to connect my iPhone to my PC and transfer the photos from within the DCIM folder onto my PC’s hard drive. From there, I can quickly drag them all to iNat’s uploader, with all relevant metadata intact. I’ve done this with up to 300 photos (~200 observations) at once, and sometimes the larger volumes do slow things down a bit, but it’s still way faster than doing them individually.

I have an iPhone, but the transfer to PC works fine. I imagine it should work well with Androids as well. I would also think that this would be quicker than downloading from the cloud!


Okay, 10 observations is probably manageable for the app—wasn’t exactly sure where to call the cutoff since I barely use the app to make observations :sweat_smile:

Where would it get tedious, maybe around 20 or 30? I’m not sure, but it’d definitely start to get tedious at some point.

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Personally if I’m using the app I’m almost always taking photos from within the app in realtime rather than importing old photos. So yeah I think after maybe 10 or 15 or so I’d probably start to get annoyed at all the tap tap tapping. But other people probably do this as their primary way of using iNaturalist so they’re just used to it.

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As bouteloua and conboy said, using a cable/charging cord to connect the phone to a PC isn’t difficult and is definitely the most efficient way to transfer large numbers of photos. Even 200 or so should only take a minute or two. Personally I don’t do any kind of cloud storage of my photos, so I transfer them over cables all the time, to back them up on my computers and an external hard drive. If I transfer excessively large numbers of photos, I’m talking like 10 years’ worth of photos, it does start to take a while, maybe 20 min, but I assume your friends aren’t doing quite that many!

Since your friend’s photos are already geotagged (the location is saved in the photo file), the uploading to iNat step could end up being the limiting factor. If the internet connection is slow, it could take a long time. If the computer isn’t very new/good, it could freeze or crash the browser. Or they could make a mistake and delete all the photos they just uploaded without posting them first. So for those reasons I recommend doing batches of 20-30 photos at a time, or however large a number seems to go smoothly without too much risk of failure–definitely less than 50 at a time! Adding IDs could take a lot of time as well, depending on how into it they’re going to get.

It’s great the photos are already geotagged. Me, I’m typically using a camera that doesn’t geotag and then I have to spend effort getting them tagged before uploading.


I can double cable advice, it doesn’t take any time to download photos and there’s no need to do so many steppes with zip files and apps, just plug in, create a folder for a day, copy+paste.
As for numbers of photos at time, I usually go from 60 to 100, just get them in uploader and do something on another page you have opened for a couple of minutes (or spend that time getting photos together, but you shouldn’t try to open them right away when uploading starts as map takes more time and it will slow your computer significantly and you don’t want this).

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I’ve done up to 100 at a time. I’m always worried chrome will crash, but so far it has not

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I’m using Firefox and the iNat uploader crashes it often. Thus my caution.

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Thanks for all the responses y’all! I found them all very useful.

I’ve just tried the USB file transfer method for myself, and while it took a while to load up the photos (ALL the iNat photos I’ve ever taken are stored in one folder of an SD card :grin:), I could definitely see this as a better option. Although I do like being able to crop and edit my photos in Google Photos (even if I don’t do so very often)…

My only concern would be whether the process will remain straightforward whether using different devices/PC hardware. I’m pretty sure it should, but I’ve never tried myself, so I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. Also, it might take a bit of searching to find where photos are stored as well, at least for people who aren’t familiar with that.

I’ll probably be looking for useful webpages/videos that’ll help explain the process. I used the Android Help page to start off, so that’s one. If any of you do happen to know of stellar guides/video tutorials be sure to tell me.

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How exactly you transferred them? You create a folder, copy what you want and paste it there, then this folder can be pinned to the quick panel, so you don’t need to search for it.

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Whoops, looks like I wasn’t very clear on that!

I meant finding where the DCIM folder (or wherever the photos are stored) is on the phone. I know where mine is since I’ve done some tinkering with it before, but other people using other devices might not be familiar with how to access their photos from their phone’s file system.
Particularly with Apple devices, because of the iCloud optimization and other complicated things that I as an Android user don’t understand :sweat_smile:

But I do keep all my iNat photos in a folder that’s pinned/bookmarked to the quick panel. Definitely makes it a lot faster to access them.

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