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

Really good photography of organisms takes time, patience, persistence, repetition, skill, the right gear, and an amount of luck. Any one of us may have a shortage of any or all of these. I don’t mind advice from better photographers on how I could have improved a photo for either ID purposes or aesthetics. I don’t have to take that advice and might not have the resources needed to use that advice in the future. If the hobby stops being fun, even if just for a while, take a break from it. We’re not in a race here.

Added note: Also, when it’s 100 degrees or so outside on a clear day, I’m gonna take shortcuts in my photo’ing. That’s assuming I get outside at all.


Honestly it makes zero difference to me the plant identifer whether you call your subject “Plantae” or a species. Sure you might get the attention of a more focused expert if you can be more specific, especially for insects, but there’s nothing shameful about higher level IDs.

Personally, I don’t even care if you select an incorrect computer vision suggestion as long as you got into the right iconic taxa and didn’t leave it “unknown.” Plenty of other identifiers feel differently about the computer vision suggestions, but myself, I’m not bothered.


I actually appreciate if identifiers let me know, which features I should take extra care for next time - especially if they maybe noticed I am missing them most of the time. I can still decide whether I want to bother (e.g. tunring the snail) next time of feel that is too much intervention. But at least now I have an informed choice. It of course always depends on the tone in which a comment is made, but mostly I would try to just take them as how they are most likely meant - a helpful advice.


I’ve posted many less than perfect pictures. Too bad, I’ve weighed not posting at all with less than ideal pictures & decided that as long as the thing being photographed is identifiable I’m going to post.

Everyone should remember we just try to do the best we can with the equipment we have with the time we have. It all depends on the situation.

If I’m in a rush carrying only my cell phone and I don’t have time to take careful pictures then I might not get high quality pictures especially of animals. (Plants are easier…they don’t run away.)

If I’m on a casual hike and I’m carrying my SLR with telephoto lens then I might actually get good pictures of the animals.

Regarding the comments on cropping pictures, one thing iNaturalist could do would be to provide better zoom capabilities on the photos. Once or twice I’ve downloaded someone’s photo to my computer in order to zoom in on an organism to help with an identification.

I think it is ok for identifiers to give advice on how to take the next picture; just don’t do it in a way that would make anyone feel bad about the work they already did. As long as the purpose is to educate people so they know what to look for next time.

Sometimes it does not take more time to get a good id-able photo. For example, a single photo of a California Poppy taken from the side taken from a foot away to show some of the leaves along with the flower can be good for an identification whereas a single close-up photo of the flower taken from above often cannot be identified (especially if you are in California where there are several similar species). On the other hand, many people will think that close-up photo is a better photo for their own picture collection.


You can open photo separately or open original file, there’s a big zoom range if you do that.

I will sometimes use the delay to my advantage. When I’m out hiking with younger, fitter people, I will sometimes draw their attention to some interesting small thing near the trail. They stop to look and I stop to catch my breath!

I added a feature request a year ago to prompt users to add more photos after they’ve selected a taxon. Prompts would be layman’s terms but specific to the higher taxon group. For instance, user selects the taxon ‘Pinus’ and a prompt for additional photos of “needles”, “cones” and “bark” is displayed. I’d be interested in getting additional feedback on the idea. https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/add-an-optional-photo-prompt-to-the-new-observation-screen-in-the-apps/13471


probably not saying anything here that hasn’t been said, but—
disseminating knowledge that allows for more precise and accurate ID’s and better observations is a great part of expert activity on iNat. the minutes it takes us to type out various methods to get better photos also adds up (at the other end of this spectrum, some users expect an explanation for every identification, which isn’t realistic). :P it’s up to you what to do with the information shared—if it’s not of use to you it may be useful to someone else who comes across your observation.

if something not present in an observation is needed for identification, I may make a note of it—this doesn’t mean I expect the user to go the extra mile and obtain an underside shot or a length or something. I guess one thing we could do as identifiers is be careful to word things in a way that explains why a more precise ID is not possible—not necessarily make requests for more information (unless it’s easily obtainable like “do you have any additional photos?” or “could you please add a general location?”). but also, I think an identifier can word the information however they want lol—the observer is under no obligation to do anything.


Good to keep in mind that most of these criticisms aren’t directed at you, the photographer, per se. They’re just explanations for why a finer ID can’t be made. But I can totally see why a friendly “oh we needed to see the underside of the leaf” × 30, can feel dispiriting in aggregate. It’s a good reminder that when identifying we are offering a hopefully helpful opinion, not grading an assignment. A little bit of language softening goes a long way, but it’s easy to forget when identifying hundreds of observations at a time.


this is always a good mindset to have which I strongly encourage—less-than-perfect observations are infinitely better than no photos at all.


I spend a lot of my iNat time IDing.
I post very few obs of my own. I prefer to make the effort, in the hope of getting an ID.

Maybe doing some IDing or Annotating of other people’s obs will help you value the time that takes on the other side?

We each choose to use iNat as it suits us.


I’ve ‘liked’ a lot of comments in this thread but yours is especially ‘well put’. :-)

I want to just add that, besides time, skill, equipment, etc… some of us are struggling with mobility and vision issues. I just can’t see well enough in the field to know if something I’ve photographed is truly in focus. I’ve can get close but many times I get home, put it on my large computer screen and discover that it is totally blurry. Additionally, an injury this winter made it really difficult for me to stoop or squat. It’s hard to get at some photos if one can’t stoop/squat. I am not going to wade out onto slippery rocks or perch on a slope (I don’t every want to fall on a slippery, unsure surface ever again for the rest of my life!). In those cases, I get what photos I can with the zoom and hope for the best.

Additionally, I will often flip a leaf over to get a photo of the underside. When I get home, I might realize that one of the things I photographed was Wild Parsnip and I am REALLY glad I didn’t ‘flip’ that leaf over. I think it’s a teeny bit dangerous to ask novices to handle plant material if they don’t have a basic knowledge of what is problematic or dangerous about touching.

I think it’s easy to assume knowledge, skill, experience, ability, etc. And when we do, we tend to assume that most people are like ourselves. So I liked your suggestion to just be mindful of our words so that we are always encouraging (Next time I hope you can get the underside of that leaf which will make it easier to identify) rather than discouraging (Not good enough). I think, overall, everyone identifying my observations have done a good job with this. I do appreciate the suggestions about what I needed to get a good identification (and often I get this info when I research the identification on my own). And I haven’t gotten any snarky dismissals from someone on my - at times - woefully inadequate photos! And, for the record, I often assume that some of those photos won’t get an id and will even state that in the description. I’m grateful for any higher level taxons I get - all knowledge is useful. And I never begrudge ‘no action’ on the ones that are hopeless.


I think you meant it wasn’t Wild Parsnip, cause it’s an edible not poisonous species. But even dangerous Apiaceae are safe to touch if you don’t cause tissue damage to it.

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From our state Dept of Natural Resources (copy/paste): Toxicity: Wild parsnip causes phytophotodermatitis-- when skin comes in contact with plant sap in the presence of sunlight, it can cause severe rashes, blisters, and discoloration of skin. Appropriate protective clothing including gloves, long sleeves, and long pants should be worn and direct contact with the plant should be avoided. If sap comes in contact with skin, avoid exposure to sunlight, immediately wash skin with soap and water, and seek medical attention.

Maybe ‘Wild Parsnip’ is a term used for multiple species. Around here, it’s Pastinaca sativa. Other plants that are on the ‘do not touch’ (or touch cautiously) list. https://www.fws.gov/midwest/news/PlantsToAvoid.html

There was the alarming story last week of an Ohio man who spent 40 days in the hospital on a ventilator after trying to clear Poison Hemlock from his land. He was clearly handling that way more than a casual naturalist would be but my general rule is, touch as little as possible, with a maintained comfort level around plants I’m familiar with.

I don’t, as a rule, eat anything I’m finding in the field although I did eat a mulberry a few days ago. :-)

Now I saw that part on English wiki (abcent in ours), again it’s caused by damage, I touch it like a lot and never had anything bad happen, I also love hanging out under Heracleum sosnowskyi and only once had a small brown spot on my hand (while my relative got full leg gruesome burn after he fell in it from his bike and he didn’t know about sunlight of course), they’re harmless if you don’t cut them. Oh, and Poison hemlock too, it’s some new info in this article for me, especially about carrot!
Alright, I found touching Cicuta virosa one, it’s now fully for me how I’m even alive, son’t rremember this happening. So, if you don’t have sensitive skin, flipping leaf is not a dangerous mission!

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This is kind of representative of the heart of the problem…just because nothing bad has ever happened to you, doesn’t mean it is safe for everyone. Reactions to plants and animals can vary greatly. With plants in the carrot family, they probably are safe to most people in most circumstances. Some people are going to be more sensitive to them than others. Often the danger comes from touching the face, especially the eyes, with sap on the hand. Even if it is a small risk, is it worth it to get a better observation of a plant?


Sure it worth it with all non-lethal plants, I mean, if you have to touch it to id, then what should stop you if you want to do it? In this particular case you have to find out if you’re getting that reaction or not, if you don’t why would you keep avoiding them? As you say, it’s sap, not leaf itself, it’s pretty easy not to cause injury to it, but if you do, then you put your hand in your pocket where it’s dark and go to the water to wash it. Anyway my first comment happened because I couldn’t find any info about danger of this particular species, it’s only in resources in English.

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I relate to this. I myself have no scientific background but am a wilderness park ranger with a ton of nature time yet without regular access to internet. I love taking plant, fungus, and insect photos but some people seem downright irritated at inaccurate IDs… I usually try to do just order but when I’m uploading 200+ photos during my biweekly internet access sometimes it’s just faster to click the inaturalist suggestion (I try to withdraw once an expert suggests a better ID). Plus with arthropods which happen to be my main fascination, unlike birds or mammals or even plants, probably only about a quarter of the observations I upload never get any kind of ID… I’ll get a genus level if I’m lucky.


That’s sad to hear, but understandable.
I noticed in mosses there was a project just for people who upload moss photos which are of high quality and sufficient detail, and identifiers who are only active within the group.
Perhaps there could be more dedicated projects in other taxa only for high quality obs which have potential to go further …a respite for expertise to prevent burn out. Then those who are comfortable with sorting the wheat from the chaff could help filter the better observations into that project.


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