"Just one minute" can really add up when taking photos

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I guess it is up to each individual to decide how to balance quality against quantity.

Re being short of time in the field: can’t you save your photos and upload them when you get home? Personally I would feel guilty about uploading dozens of unedited 3-megabyte photos when a tenth of that would be enough definition, and re-sizing 30 photos doesn’t take long.

I have largely given up identifying because it takes so long wading through all the low quality observations.


No one expects all your observations to be perfect photos and cropped just right. But by not cropping and not trying to get photos from more angles, many of your observations will never get the attention cropped observations will get. The experts scan though as quick as possible. Look at the number of identifications by top identifiers. The extra few seconds iNat users put in helps them significantly. This site would be pretty useless if the experts all got fed up and left because no one puts in any effort to make their “work” easier. They don’t get paid for this. I “waste” tons of my time trying to make my observations as high quality as possible so I get good identifications and add valuable visual as well as data information to iNat. Some day, I am going to have to cut back so I am not still on iNat at 2am.

Most experts that I know would prefer you not guess or use the AI to add overly specific IDs when you don’t have a clue. If you don’t know the species or genus, it makes sense not to research every observation, especially when you might upload 100 observations in a day. I know I can’t possibly do that. I have never had anyone complain that I should learn them. I try to learn as much as I can. I have had people suggest how to make my observations better for specific taxa. And I try to remember to do that as much as possible.


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I like this point and I like the personal analysis. My advice is not to be pressured by other iNaturalist users. They are doing their best to let you know what is needed to accomplish their best understanding of what they think your “goal” might be, but they don’t know what your goal is. How can they? If you follow their advice, you will likely achieve this goal, but it may not be YOUR goal. If you like the site and the app, you will likely find that there are certain taxa that you want to learn more about and you want all the advice you can get. Other taxa may seem uninteresting or be overwhelming.

My perfect example would be snails. Experts were practically BEGGING me to record photos of the aperture of snails that I was photographing. However, I didn’t know anything about snails and was only vaguely interested in learning more. Following their advice, I now know that I likely killed a very small number of hibernating snails by accident and that was certainly not my goal.

Another taxa that overwhelms me is insects. It’s something I’m interested in learning, but slowly, since I have more immediate interests. In many instances, I’m just looking for a family or genus level ID, or I’m just photographing something odd on the off-chance that it is identifiable, which it occasionally is. Same goes for plants that I may be curious about, even though it isn’t fruiting or flowering.

There’s nothing wrong with uploading something for the purposes of a higher-taxa identification. The only thing that really irks me is when a user, whether the OP or some other random user(s) attempt to ID something to species level that clearly isn’t identifiable to that level and/or isn’t even photographed with that intention.

So, feel free to use iNaturalist for the purposes that suit you, and don’t be afraid to explain to other users what your goals are regarding your uploads. That can help because a lot of times, well-meaning and enthusiastic experts are trying their best to try to help you do what THEY think you want to do from their perspective.


Depends on the subject. It takes a few seconds to turn a flower for a different angle. If you are photographing an insect that is cooperating, it also only takes a few seconds to turn it and take a different angle of that too. Now, if it’s something more active and mobile, the shots may well not be so easy. And sometimes the required shots are a bit complex. But as others have said, the awareness is the important part. Whether you want to go that distance is totally up to you, but just the knowledge of what could be useful helps me, and I’m sure helps people in general quite a bit.


To put it more precisely, you have two choices - either you do not pay attention to your photo quality and save your time, but do not get IDs, or you spend time uploading better quality photos and get IDs. As simple as that and you are very free to choose between. As old saying goes - you cannot eat cake and have it. If the photo is unIDable, identifiers just skip it. The few, who are not yet too fed up, will comment on it. Identifiers are too few compared to uploaders.


You get paid to post? How can I apply for that?


That really depends on what is observed. For easy European birds, there are so many identifiers that anything gets IDed within minutes, for hard obscure small invertebrates, there is sometimes noone.

Anyway, once someone commented on my observation “please upload a better photo next time”. What purpose does such comment serve except to make me fed up with the site? Do those people think I am uploading the worst photos of the animal I have on purpose? It was an insect, taken in the night, in one of the least visited national parks of Peru, 7 years ago, should I just pop back to take a better photo? I own about 90% of iNat observations from that location, because noone was ever there, would this person be happier if I did not upload them and this area stayed blank on the map?


They obviously didn’t think through before making that comment, so no worries there. Most people will know that some photos are hard to take - I’d ignore these salty guys and keep doing what you do.

Often I ignore the really bad photos as an identifier, but it really depends on if you can spot if there went any effort into taking pictures. If, like in your situation, you can see a lot of effort is done, but this is the best you can do with the time and materials you have, I’d never post a salty comment. But some people just snap a really blurry pic of a standing plant and just hope an ID comes up like on PlantNet. In those cases I suggest to put into a little more effort into taking the picture.

So I’d say: please don’t be fed up with iNat, keep contributing and ignore the keyboard warriors. I also think people should just skip the uploads they can’t do anything with. Sometimes there’s an expert who can ID a beast by a bad pic!


I was not having in mind birds. Birds for most of them are the easiest thing to ID and there are lots of IDers. And,actually, even the crappiest photo of an easily distinguishable bird is still identifiable. I was having in mind IDers for invertebrates,fungi and some more difficult groups of plants.If one does not upload a decent photo(s) of many of these, one cannot expect an ID. Sometimes, due to a photo quality the ID cannot go further than class or even phylum level. If the uploader is OK with that - then everything is fine. The worst cases are, of course,when the uploader provides genus or even species ID to their crappy image.
And yes, I agree that formula “get better picture next time” is annoying - the situations may vary. Much better is “picture quality does not allow further ID”.


I think everyone understands lack of time, there’s no pressure in those messages, just experts trying to get the best new records possible, sharing their knowledge, I don’t see a problem of recording everything possible in all situations you described, if you see a complex taxa you can just ignore it, but if you start recording, then do it as well as you can at the moment, otherwise you are actually spending your time on a couple of unidentifiable pics and experts’ time too. Of course it takes a lot of time to id and upload, that’s why most big observers I see are not uploading everything at the same day, it’s impossible.
For me much more annoying messages are those stating photo is bad, like, I can see and I see it without this statement, no value in it and no extra knowledge, nothing.


I feel the same. I think it’s especially an issue for plant identifiers, and that may be the reason that there are a lot of unidentified plant observations.


Sometimes the time is also contingent on what is going on around you. Yesterday I was trying to get a decent shot of a bumblebee, but got yelled at by a person to get my dog (off leash, mea culpa). Everyone fine, but only one shot of the bee. At least it’s a record.
As an aside, I take pride in being able to ID either beaten up or poorly photographed moth pictures. Some times there are certain features that a glimpse of can aid greatly in an id.

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Lots of things to balance:

  1. one’s own time–is it worth it to yourself to take photos to begin with
  2. one’s own time–is it worth it to yourself to attempt to take (and crop) the best possible photos that one can given their equipment/environment limitations
  3. other people’s time–to what extent should one be considerate of how much time it takes identifiers to wade through masses of lower quality photos (this includes researchers who have to examine every image to find the one’s that can be used for research–which benefits the organisms as well as contributes to scientific knowledge)
  4. cost of server space–to what extent should one be considerate of how much money it costs to store the photographs on the server (this would include consideration to those who donate their money to help maintain the service)

Not only does it takes one’s own time to post quality observations, it takes other people’s time (and money). You’re right, it really can add up! But the costs are not yours alone to bear.

I try to balance all of those considerations and I choose to not post my lesser quality images–especially of common things–that don’t really make a meaningful contribution to the greater good. And being very active in the #3 category (as well as the other three in the list), I do weigh other people’s time quite heavily in my decisions.


Interesting thoughts. I am one of a few people that identify a group of organisms that is very difficult to identify (wasps). I have noticed that there is an inverse relationship between the effort it takes to produce a quality observation and the effort to identify an observation. In other words: I spend a lot more time trying to identify low-quality observations than it takes me to identify high quality observations. I have to admit that I find this frustrating. If my goal is trying to identify as many observations as I can I spend more time on the observations of people who don’t consider it worth their time to produce quality observations than those who put in much effort. This means that I am rewarding those who invest less and care less.

On the other hand, the only reason why I am enjoying being on iNatiralist is because there are folks such as @jciv and @silversea_starsong who produce beautiful images that instill in me the wonder and admiration of nature. If I spend an hour looking only at grainy cell phone images of bugs that can hardly be identified to family level I feel dejected when I log out and wonder whether I should have done something more useful with this hour of my life.

So to all of you who are in rush to get as many observations as fast as you can: You owe a big thank you to those who go the extra mile. They are the reason why your observations are being identified to the best level possible.


matthias22, as someone who posts a fair number of wasp pix, thank you!

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I have found that, over the course of a few years, I have started to understand which pics I need to get for which taxa, in order to improve my chances of getting a good ID.

Not all of them of course, but some of them.

So I think you gradually pick it up as you go along.


took the words right out of my mouth!

That’s what I say if I say anything.

Of course as an identifer I do have opinions about photo quality, but they’re not significantly different from points other people have already made on this thread. Also I am a crap photographer myself, so I completely relate!

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