iNat iPhone app not able to ID critters when photo is cropped by iPhone - help me please?

I didn’t have this problem until the last few months, and it doesn’t always happen. But now it happens often enough that it’s become a huge problem for me. I’m using IOS 16.3.1.

I almost always crop pictures I submit to iNat. I do this on my iPhone because I find it easier to submit than on my laptop. I’ve found that quite often when I submit photos that I’ve cropped using my iPhone Photos app (both with photos taken by my iPhone - I have it set to take in jpg format - and by my Canon Powershot SX70 HS), iNat is totally confused. It’ll see an obvious, clearly identifiable moth and suggest a damselfly or fungus or lizard. Just totally ridiculous suggestions that look nothing like the photo. But if I submit the same photo without cropping, iNat will almost always nail the ID perfectly.

What gives? Is there a setting on my iPhone I can change to make it play nice with iNat again?

I never have problems with the metadata, just with the iNat suggested IDs.


Please include screenshots of what you’re seeing - without that we’d just be guessing. It would also be helpful to know if you add location to the observation before getting suggestions. Location data is integral to the computer vision suggestions process.

I’ve seen this behavior as well, particularly with tightly cropped images.

It may be that the photos the CV system is trained on are mostly organisms in context rather than tightly cropped images. This would potentially lead the CV system to be confused by tightly cropped photos as the CV system may mistake the organism for the background and be looking at a subset of the image for the organism (eg. trying to identify a pattern on a moth’s wing instead of the moth itself, or mistaking the hair on a spider for fur on a mammal - the latter being an example I’ve seen happen).

Personally I never crop super tight as contextual information is really important, so this is not an issue I ever face, but I have seen others complaining about it, particularly on the r/iNaturalist subreddit.


You could also upload an example photo (GDrive, etc) that leads to the strange suggestion for other people to try- this can determine whether the issue is system-wide or something specific to a user.

I’ve had a similar issue recently when I try to get ID suggestions for an image that is either (a) without GPS data, and/or (b) a secondary image (e.g. a screen capture with the iPhone of something on my computer screen or an imported image from a different source). These may not be the situations you’re facing, but the result is the same–completely off-the-wall ID suggestions. My gut feel is that this is a result of some lack of, or failure to interpret certain metadata associated with the image…but then I have no idea about the inner workings of iNat’s CV.
Tony, I’ll try to remember to get screen captures the next time this happens.

@tiwane I’ll try to look for some screenshots I’ve taken of the bizarre suggestions in the past few months. Yes, I add location information before asking for ID suggestions. I also almost always turn off the “show nearby suggestions only” option, as moths often aren’t commonly submitted. I’ve added quite a few moth species that have never been submitted from my county before just because I seem to be one of the only ones looking for moths here.

@earthknight interesting suggestion. I just tried various crops on a bald eagle, and it does seem to make a difference. I do tend to crop pretty tight, but most of the time it’s not a problem to iNat. I’ll have to experiment more the next time it happens.

@cthawley my husband did test one of my photos, and he had the same trouble with iNat suggestions even though he’s never had that problem on his own photos.

@gcwarbler yes, I’ve been trying to figure out if it happens more with the photos I’ve imported from my “real” camera. It’s definitely happened with my iPhone photos too, though, and I always have the GPS location on for all those pictures. Sometimes I have my phone send location info directly to my Canon, so it’s imbedded in those photos as well, but not always. I’ll have to pay more attention to those details when I get the totally bizarre iNat suggestions.

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@earthknight the weird thing is that this just started happening a few months ago. I haven’t changed my habits for photo submission, and I’ve been submitting observations to iNat for years.

I’ll pay more attention to things everyone here has suggested, and take screen shots to show here when it happens again.

Thanks for all the suggestions!



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Indeed. That is exactly what’s been happening to me. Thank you!