Less Obvious Species in a Photo

How obvious do species have to be in an observation? I’m aware that when there are multiple species in a single photo, you’re recommended to point out which one the observation is for. For example, in the photo below, I could say “ID for the white flowers” to have the clovers be identified. But what about the Ribwort plantain in the background? Or the out-of-focus dandelion above the leftmost house sparrow?

Is it recommended to crop the photos in cases like this?

they don’t have to be obvious, just present. it can sometimes be helpful to crop but it’s not required.


If you’re interested in seeing more instances of when multiple organisms happen to get caught in the same photo, this forum post has a lot of examples


In a tongue-in-cheek way, this situation is what this project is for:


There is no requirement, but … I believe in helping other users and leaving notes or marking the photo (arrow, circle) in cases where there are multiple organisms in the photo and the one you are interested in is not the obvious focus of the observation. This is particularly true if there are multiple species that are all in the same family or order and might be confused by a less knowledgeable user.

This reduces the likelihood of misunderstandings if someone going through and quickly IDing observations overlooks or misinterprets the organism you are interested in. The other day there was an observation that the observer had ID’d as a bumblebee; I looked at it and saw the drone fly sitting on the flower – I am so used to people confusing bees and bee mimics that I assumed that was what was intended and didn’t notice there was also a bumblebee in a more shadowy part of the photo. We sorted it out, but a note might have saved both me and the observer a bit of time.

I also find it helpful when browsing observations of taxa I am not intimately familiar with. For example, in cases of mixed groups of birds an observer might enter an ID for one of the birds and IDers look at the observation, determine that the species in question is present, and confirm the ID – all without any discussion of which bird was meant. But I’m not a birder, and might look at such an observation and come away no wiser than before if the species in the photo are generally similar in appearance.


It is good to crop the photo to show what you are interested in. The Android app has the cropping functionality included, but to preserve resolution it is sometimes better to crop it before. This is true for small objects in photos in general, because iNaturalist will downscale your photo to 2000 resolution.

You can always upload both, the cropped photo and the full photo, I did that several times myself.

Several times, I also used the very same photo for two observations of two different taxons. iNaturalist even has the duplicate functionality for that, you do not have to upload the photo again. I am not sure if it saves some server space or not.


However, the dandelion is surely unidentifiable. It looks like it is indeed the most common Taraxacum genus but it could also be Leontodon, Scorzoneroides, Hypochaeris, Crepis,… And if Taraxacum, then one cannot say whether it is the common section Taraxacum (=Taraxacum officinale) or some other section.


If you were doing the identifying, would you like to ID the Plantago lanceolata from that photo? If not, I recommend changes – cropping the photo, taking and posting a different photo – unless there’s some reason you really want to use just a copy of this one. Oh, it’s fun to get 6 posts (4 birds and 2 plants) from a single photo and it’s never actually wrong, but please don’t do this very often.


One thing to note is that some identifiers will insist on only identifying the “most obvious” species. I know this isn’t how it is supposed to be if the observer clearly identifies the target. However, I’ve run into this where I had observed several species of plants and noted in the description which one I was ID’ing but ended up with duplicate observations all ID’d to the same thing because some identifier out there was determined to make them all for the species that was front and center in the picture. I had to add a very cropped down version as the first picture and bring in a few more ID’ers to shift the ID on the duplicate back to where I wanted it.


See this thread. Lots of cool stuff.


Note: When I find other things in a photo I took, I either crop it or use a photo editor to circle the other thing(s), and upload another, separate observation. I also add a notes/comments when I feel it is necessary.


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