How to take good pictures of moss to help identifiers id it?

I love moss and notice lots of different kinds of it when I’m out. It’s hard to get a good identification on my observations, though. Anyone have suggestions on what to concentrate on when photographing moss that would help in others id-ing it?


The only advice I have gotten is to have good, clear photographs, and description of the environment as most would need microscopic views. I use my iPhone with a clip on closeup lens.
I, too, would like either more tips or confirmation of the above.


related threads:


Thank you for these links. Before I posted I did a search on the forum page for “moss” but obviously I have a lot to learn about searching here! I’ll definitely check these links out. Carol

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Is one type of clip on closeup lens better than others? I guess I need to buy one, because my photos so far aren’t very good and I like small things.

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There might be, but I’ve used really cheap ones and they seem fine. I lose these so easily that it’s never been worth it for me to get a high-end one. A friend of mine keeps it clipped to his hat brim, which works for him but has definitely failed me multiple times.


I have the Raynox macro lens for my camera and love it for stuff like this. I’m not aware of and haven’t tried others though.

I also have a microscope and have moss and liverwort observations that combine habitat shots, close-ups taken with the camera and macro lens, and microscopy of all sorts of structures from the leaves to spores. I went through several keys to figure out what to do microscopy on and ID it to species and wrote a description about all that noting that I was pretty confident about it. Many are still sitting at Needs ID without confirmation. Some have been favorited by others but no confirming IDs yet…

So don’t expect instant gratification and don’t be too disappointed if your efforts don’t result in IDs. It might take a while - adding to projects can help to increase the chance someone knowledgeable will see it. I understand some areas have more moss experts than others, so your experience may vary. If there is no other expert for your area on iNat, maybe try to become the expert by looking at books and keys for hints what structures to observe.

I think in many cases, the following info can help at least narrow it down to a family or genus: 1) Habitat and substrate the moss is growing on (e.g. rock, tree bark, clay), 2) a picture of an entire plant if possible to show growth habit, branching pattern, leaf arrangement etc. 3) close-ups of the leaves (e.g. do they have a midrib, toothed edges), and 4) any sporophytes or other reproductive structures you can find such as gemmae cups on liverworts.

Edited to add: Another trick I’ve learned from a bryologist is to take a spray bottle with water on your outings to get pictures of dry vs. wet plants as they can differ quite a bit.


I tend to buy cheaper ones. I’m on my third set because I keep losing them.

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Thanks for all the helpful replies about clip on closeup lenses.

Thank you very much for your detailed response! Lots of food for thought there!

Dr. David Wagner shared extensive tips about how to store and photo moss specimens. I’d like to make a journal post of them, but can’t figure out how to put the photos in my journal post. I can copy and paste them here, but it would take a lot of comments. Can you suggest how best to share this information?


I think with journal posts any images you want to include have to be stored elsewhere on the web so you can use an img src HTML tag. I’ve uploaded images to Flickr before putting them into my posts.

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