How do you photograph?


I’m curious, what do you use to take your photos for iNaturalist? Your mobile? A professional camera? A little pocket camera? Something else?

I’m relatively new to iNaturalist and have been using my phone (Huawei P8) to take my photos. For the most part I’m happy using it, but I’ve been considering buying a proper camera, as long distance or macro shots turn out quite unclear. In turn, they are a) less pretty and b) less clear for identification purposes. So I’m pondering whether a camera would be worthwhile. But mostly, it’s gotten me curious what other users are using!

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I use my phone when I’m at work or just casually looking around. Usually I’m using my Nikon D500 with one of three lenses: 150-600mm for wildlife and distance shots, 90mm macro for small plants and insects, or 16-80mm for everything else.

I tend to focus on Macro shots. There is a lense for some iphone models that allows for very good macro shots, but usually I just use a small nikon camera I got from my uncle. If it doesn’t need macro, like for a large bird or a tree, I would just use my iphone 6.
If you look at some of my obs you will see how it turns out.
I wish you luck in your Inat journey.

If you’re looking for macro shots + relatively cheap camera, you cannot go past the Olympus TG-5 Tough. $500, fits in your pocket, shockproof and waterproof down to 15m.
The best part, however, is that it has a microscope mode (can take photos down to 1cm focal length), as well as focus stacking mode for even better clarity/field of depth. Best investment I’ve made.


Depends on your goal. I exclusively use smartphones (home and work one) but I’m primarily interested in plants and am more interested in the photo voucher/verification aspect than aesthetics. If you’re interested in birds or highly mobile insects you will get a lot more via a nicer camera.

Awesome, thank you! I will have to look at saving up for one. Under water shots would be amazing to have.

Thank you for the insights so far! It’s interesting to see what everyone is using. :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

When I’m just walking around normally, I’ll use my phone if I spot a plant that looks interesting or an insect that’s holding still long enough to get a picture. But birds and animals tend to run or fly away before I can get close enough. I’ve started carrying around my old compact camera again when I can, a Canon PowerShot SX710 HS, because of the 30x zoom. It makes a huge difference.

I use my iPhone X almost exclusively, and it has a really good camera which works well for almost everything you can think of. I make observations using the iNat app. I carry a very cheap clip-on lens, which I sometimes use for macro shots of lichens etc.

(I must say one thing though, most of my attempted bird photos are not good, unless the bird is quite large, or is not easily spooked around people.)

I also do own a RG-5 which is great for macro work, but using the iNat app on the iPhone enables me to get lots and lots of good observations, often a couple hundred in just two or three hours, without a lot of fuss or work in terms of uploading and so on.

I also like that I don’t need to take a lot of photography equipment out with me.

Basically with photo observations, you need to choose between quantity and quality. I find that the camera in the iPhone X (which has several great features including some optical zoom and some digital zoom) gives me fairly excellent quality by cell phone standards, and enables me to rack up as many observations as I like in a short time and upload them with no sweat.

One drawback is that the iPhone stops working temporarily if you are holding it in your hand outdoors for hours in extreme cold or extreme heat. In the worst part of winter I sometimes have to stuff it inside my clothes, close to my body, to get it warm enough to work again.


Super zoom bridge cameras (like the sx60hs or p900) I think are the best all around for carrying to document everything. Cheap with decent quality and a focal range for just about anything you come across. I still carry my sx50hs with even though I’ve upgraded to a DSLR. The convenience of having all that range (1200mm equivalent on a full frame dslr!) in a small package (lighter than a lot of DSLR bodies without a lens attached) is just too nice to leave behind. You can go from near macro, to shooting a bird way up in a tree. Image quality is also very good, not award winning by any means, but for documenting sightings its typically more than enough except when your lighting becomes limited.

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Im using an Olympus OMD E-M1 Mark 1 with a 60mm macro lens. Its an awesome combination for insects and even some flora. Very light and the size is perfect.

I own a decent camera, which I’m afraid to use–I don’t want to break a good camera. Clearly I need to get over that issue. I use my iPhone 8 for most pictures. In fact, I rather enjoy sneaking up on things like butterflies–it’s a challenge, and I really like seeing if I can get a decent shot. (I think of it as stealth mode. :wink:) Plus, and this probably sounds strange (but what the heck), part of the reason I love iNat and chasing down critters is because I find observing and then having to concentrate to take a picture completely relaxing. I don’t worry about problems when I’m trying to get my iPhone in position to take a picture.


Sony DSC HX400V with diopter for macro: GPS, decent broad range (incl 50x optical zoom) and a reasonable entry level bridge camera, but if I was to be looking for one now I would probably go the Olympus TG-5

Being an engineer, most of what I do is mess around with gear. My current setup for most photographs is a Sony A7III camera with a Sony FE 90mm macro lens, a Godox V860IIS flash and a DIY flash diffuser. This is an excellent setup when I am within about three feet of something small. The flash and diffuser can keep up with just about anything out there for insect, lichen, mosses or other small creatures. For other shots it is a compromise, for whole plant photos I need to step back a bit (and it is typically overkill). For bird photos I usually just get a few grainy pixels (which usually seems like enough to get to species).

Some of my photos I also do on specimens, I orignially started with a Stackshot macro stage, but have since mostly moved to a Labophot microscope which I have modified to allow me to put the camera on continuous photos using a silent shutter while I move the focus through the image.

On occasion I have also tried camera traps and underwater photography. That has yet to stick though.

It varies. I’m a firm believer in the “the best camera is the one you have with you” philosophy. Just wandering around I always have my smartphone in my pocket and I often have a small monocular in my bag which I can use as a not-very-good, but high power zoom lens. For observation specific photos I’ll often just use that, but I also take a lot of more serious photos for my own purposes.

I have a Nikon D600 with a variety of lenses up to a 400mm f4, as well as a Sony a7III, a Sony a6500, and Sony 5100, all of which can interchange lenses. The 6500 is a new purchase and essentially replaces the 5100 most of the time, but both of those are small cameras that can fit in a jacket pocket with a small lens and easily in a smaller bag with a larger lens. I use all 4 cameras often for more “photographic” purposes (especially the D600 and the A7III), but if the subject material is suitable for an observation I’ll use those images on iNat as well.


I use my phone if nothing else is available but I get much better pictures with a real camera. My current camera is the Olympus Pen F with a 60 mm macro lens.

I’m using a Sony dsc hx400v for most of my records. It’s good for insect photography and acceptable for birds. I tried other slightly cheaper superzooms but they were useless for bird photography.
I am considering buying an actual DSLR for flying Dragonflies and birds but the burden of carrying that around is putting me off, as is the 2000 Euro price tag for a proper lens and camera.
An honest impression of what my camera can do is this overview of (cropped) photo-aided records (most with dsc hx400v at least from 2016 onwards)

Funny thing is that since I started thinking of upgrading my gear earlier this year, I started to study my superzoom more and in general produce slightly better photos…hooray for learning about the workings of your camera (which i’m often too laisy to study)

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@housecrows I use the same gear, and I opt to disable the digital zoom… I use the LCD but leave the camera on with the LCD off until I’m ready for shot, and then I don’t have the startup time to contend with if I come across a surprise opportunity. The LCD turns on quickly, but the LCD panel seems to drain the battery too fast if left on permanently… curious to hear your thoughts/ideas

iPhone 4 with an olloclip. I think of it more as a field microscope than a camera and most of the time I get blur with small moving insects and the colour/contrast is awful. But with many shots I can see what my eyes can’t which means it’s sometimes enough for me to to identify as far as species. Occasionally the image is good enough to post to sites like this.

I use a Nikon D7200 with Nikon lenses. My most used lens is a 105mm macro lens. I also use a 50mm mainly when I want to hand-hold. I also have an 80mm and 18-140 zoom lens. I also use a Manfrotto 190XPRO3 tripod which is great for working very close to the ground. I use a Garmin Dakota 20 for positioning.

If I don’t have my camera with me I use my iPhone 5s.