I made a previous post about how people choose observations:
And there have been several posts about similar topics.
The thing is, of course, that there are an almost unlimited amount of things to observe in the natural world, but a limited amount of time and effort to do so. And inaturalist has no limits on what we can post. There is nothing stopping someone from going to a park and photographing each blade of grass.
But in practice, we do focus on certain things. I have been thinking about what makes me decide to make an observation. I have decided there are about four criteria that I choose from.
Location. As the saying goes, “Location, location, location”. For me, new places are always interesting. So when I am in a place that is new to me, and especially in a place that is not well-visited, and not well-represented on here, I will record just about as much as I can, until my battery runs out. When I visit a new place, I try to get a complete record of what is going on there, including plants like dandelions or wild carrot, that are incredibly common.
Species: if a species is new to me, or if it is something that is rare in general, I want to record it. This one is pretty obvious, I think everyone here is going to have their cameras out for a bald eagle. Also, species that I find aesthetic or pleasant tend to get picked: the Great Egret is not a rare bird, but I take a picture of one every time I see one.
Behavior: sometimes I see an animal doing something new or interesting, and want to record it. Predation, mobbing behavior,feeding, mating, or being outside of its natural environment (including being in a human structure) are all things that seem interesting to me. Plants don’t have “behavior”, but I do record plants that are growing in unusual places, such as on ledges or structures.
Quality: sometimes I get a chance to take a very good picture, and will take it, even if it is common. For example, in my area, Western Scrub Jays are very common birds, so I don’t normally try to record them, but sometimes I will see one only a few feet away, and I will record it because I can get good details.
So, for example, if I see some birds mobbing a predatory bird, I will take a picture, even if it is of low quality and they are familiar species, because the behavior is interesting. If I go to a new area, I will take pictures of everything, because I want to document it. If I see a new or interesting species, like a hummingbird, I will photograph it even if it is a blurry photo. All of my observations will try to have one of those four criteria, and hopefully two, but if it is significant in one, I can forgive it being insignificant in others.
So does that make sense? Do other users have similar criteria to decide what to photograph? Maybe not so explicit, but do you kind of do a trade-off in your head to decide what is important?