How do you photograph?

I tend to keep my camera on when i expect something to show up - like a ‘flighty’ darner - otherwise I have it switched off hanging around my neck together with my binocs.
I’m a hiking birdwatcher so i usually stroll or walk some 12-20km per birding day. A heavier camera would be a drag and keeping my dsc on the whole time, would drain the battery…especially since i’m a great fan of the gps function which i hope is runnng 96% of the time-in-use. A record without a precise location is somehow useless for me.

Smart thing to switch off the LCD!, I hardly ever use that anymore.


For most things, 11-year-old Olympus e510 DSLR with the original kit zoom-macro lens. Still hanging in there! Of course this means I have to geo-tag the images separately, which I do with Garmin eTrex Vista HCx waypoint data and RoboGeo software. When any or all of these finally keel over, the Olympus TG-5 is high on my list of potential successors.

In the rare cases that I use the phone app, it’s on a Samsung Galaxy 5.

Use the camera that you like using is my best advice. For some observations, it’s my phone camera. It’s nice because I can use the the iNat app and not have to load photos or figure out where I was later.

I have noticed that my volume of observations has gone up since getting my new camera, a Canon SX70. I specifically chose this model for the wide range of situations that it can get decent photos and its relatively small size. It seems to be working well. I also borrow my wife’s Olympus TG5 for extreme close ups and focus stacking.

Every now and then, I’ll run into another photographer in the field and think “I wish I had that gear right now”. But then I remember lugging my DSLR and think “but I don’t wish I had to carry it around.” Take the camera that you’ll use. Don’t get something that’s too much or gets in the way of getting outside.


I use my phone, but it’s an S9vwith a high performance (for phones) camera. However, for distance - say a bird in a tree - I would honestly prefer at least an add-on zoom lens.

What would be really cool, is an equipment “road map”, basically listing all gear there is, and from each setup what the “next step” would be. So if you are on a canon xyz99 and wanting to head more to the birding specialist setup, what would be the route to the perfect gear… and likewise for a sony pocket fantastic, what migration path do you take to get to the perfect in-field macro setup.

Impossible of course, as it would require a) concensus on what the perfect setup is for any situation, b) allow for budget variations and product availability (particularly 2nd hand etc), and c) have the ability to factor in new technology as it becomes available.

but sheesh… wouldn’t it be luvely? sigh…

I want a small light camera with adequate quality. For my plant photos I am happy with Canon G9 Powershot X. But it doesn’t zoom for lizards and birds. If the camera and I cooperate, I can catch the flowers despite the breeze.

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:) and that really is the limiting factor for most gear, I think…

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This is just my opinion. This only applies if you are not happy with using what you have (probably a smart phone). I concentrate on plants so this is directed at observing plants.

  1. Choose a lens. You will need a macro lens as many plant details are tiny.
  2. Choose a camera to go with the lens.
  3. Get a remote release for the camera.
  4. Get a tripod.
  5. Invest in yourself. Take a photography course or get someone to teach you.

For animals you will need a telephoto lens. For underwater photography you will need a waterproof housing.


The in-body image stabilization feature of Olympus and some other camera makers has freed me from these needs. Though I don’t do telephoto work, for which these still might be helpful.

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…that moment where you are looking at the spinning dancer in the gif and it suddenly GOES THE OTHER WAY!

It never occurred to me to approach camera selection from the lens end of the equation! Game changing…

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I use my phone. It’s a Moto X 2nd gen and about 5 years old, but I’m getting better at using. For instance I’ve managed to take pictures of insects on straws recently, using the zoom to force it to focus on a smaller object, where in the past I’d have to put my hand behind the object to avoid it focusing on the a distant background :P Occasionally I’ve been in the company of someone with a proper camera, which is helpful especially for bird observations :)

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Stabilisation is very good and typically allows hand-holding up to 2 stops slower (sometimes more). I am a plant person more than a birder, though and if you are doing serious macro work then turn the stabilisation off and use the traditional tools. When you are focused that close to the lens the depth of field is extremely narrow so you need to stop down your aperture. I regularly go to f50 when at 1:1 and the shutter speeds at that f-number are well below what any stabiliser can compensate for and that’s not even taking into account the exaggeration of movement at high magnification.


I use whatever camera I have with me from an iPhone via a compact to a “bridge” camera and a mirrorless with many lenses. They all have their strengths and weaknesses depending on the subject and situation. The iPhone is surprisingly good for plants and slow moving insects but pretty useless for birds and distant subjects. The best all round is a bridge camera … Sony RX10 for me. Any camera is better than none.

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The lens is just about the most important (and expensive!) aspect of photography.

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DSLR (Olympus in my case) with several lenses (I mostly observe bugs, birds, and plants) and Garmin GPS; use Lightroom to stamp geodata to my photos before uploading. If no GPS, use iPhone to take crappy picture with coordinates and use camera to take good picture. Suggestion: start with a decent budget camera, probably 2nd-hand, until you have a clear idea what you’re going to be shooting and what gear you need to do it. Cameras vastly better than a phone can be had for under $200.

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My 'Good" camera is a Lumix FZ1000. This is a great camera for field work. It has a 1" sensor (4X larger than a typical point and shoot) and a lens that goes from 25 - 400mm (35mm equivalent). no need to swap lens in the field and risk exposing your sensor to environmental risks. The downside is no geotag and it is not weather resistant. In reality 80% of my observations are made on my Samsung phone. It’s usually in my pocket, geotags, and takes good-enough photos as long as you are relatively close to the subject. I plan to pick up an Olympus TG-6 soon to use as my ready-access camera instead of the cell phone. It’s pocket-able, weatherproof, geotags, and has a versatile lens with modest zoom and even a microscope mode.

I almost forgot my third ‘camera’. I recently acquired a stereo zoom microscope equipped with a 5MP camera. It greatly expanded my ability to get a good look at insects and other small critters.


I just use the camera on my smartphone (currently Samsung S7) even though I have a better compact camera. As others have said: it’s with me all the time, photos are geotagged, easy to upload directly to iNat without having to go via a computer. Indeed, most photos I take are just to generate an observation for iNaturalist, I don’t care if they are pretty (just about whether or not they allow an ID) and most I delete afterwards. I am investing in learning how to use my phone’s camera better (e.g. the manual focus).

Having said this, I have recently acquired a new piece of “equipment” I am exceedingly pleased with. I mainly focus on snails and other small things, so the macro aspect is the most important to me. I have bought a cheap macro lens for my Samsung, which I mainly use at home to get close-ups of snail shells. A problem I had was with light - when too close, the camera blocks natural light and the flash is too harsh. So I invested in a 10€ selfie ring (e.g. It works like a charm (e.g.


For above water observations i generally use my phone. For my underwater photos, i used a Canon ixus 130, but that one died when the housing flooded during a dive in may. So now i got me a Olympus TG-5 with a housing for deeper waters. As for ligthing under water, i have to physically hold the flashlight myself as i don’t have a arm for it on the camera housing (and no economy to buy one at the moment)

For macro work, a remote release is still useful, even with image stabilization (I work with an Olympus, too).

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@anasacuta The selfie ring is genius! Had no idea such things existed. Thanks.

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