Phone photo - Back of camera observations

Recently a user in my taxon/area has been uploading observations which are just ‘back-of-camera’ phone pictures of the picture on a camera. To add insult to injury, a lot of them are also sideways and up-side-down. My friend also noticed and said they probably won’t upload the real images as they sell their images. What can be done about these low quality observations on iNat?

I think they’re legitimate photos, even if not visually appealing. I see folks on eBird do the same as an efficient way to submit a photo record without having to download their camera (such as while in the field).


That said, it’s not that hard to properly orient a cellphone picture if you’re going to use that. It sounds like they’re doing a quick-and-dirty placeholder for their record, with better photos to come later.


If the species can be identified from the image, then it’s not really a data/observation quality problem. Observations need to be verifiable, they don’t have to be pretty or high-res.

Put another way, while it would be nicer to have a good, high-res image for an observation, I’d prefer to see awkward low-res (but still identifiable) images than no observation at all.


Many back-of-camera shots are to secure a location for each sighting and the observer uploads the real photos when they get home. Ideally they would turn off automatic upload and only upload just before they are ready to edit with the real photos, but it’s not a big deal.

As long as the species is identifiable, the observation is not “low quality”. Observations are to document the organism’s occurrence at a time and place.


I have come across some kind and helpful observers - who leave a note - will be uploading the real pictures later. Then I can skip past them, and I ID the next one instead.

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Have you asked them why they’re doing this? All we’re doing here is making assumptions.

I’m not a fan of folks doing this, but it is an easy way for people to get location data for hte photo, as most cameras (few and fewer nowadays) don’t have GPS units in them, so I understand why they’re doing it.


I’ve made a note of several of them and now directly asked them, waiting for a response.

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From what I see, those are fabricated datas: photo of a screen (screen of a camera or computer? but not the actual photo, so no real data on the photos about the date and hour of observation), all uploaded with almost the same date and hour for the observation, and at the same place…
Either the observer is very lucky to see so many birds and snakes, etc. in a few minutes, either those are all fabricated datas.

I’ve had to do this for a few of my recent observations because the memory card for my camera is broken, so I can’t actually take any new pictures, but I can use the camera to zoom in on things further away than my phone’d be able to: (Green heron) (American alligator)

yes, the photos are not as nice as they’d be otherwise, but the alternative is no photos at all. And considering this is the first observation (And sighting so far, of all the people I’ve asked about it) of an alligator in this particular lake, that’d be pretty sad!

I doubt this alone would have been so quick to get to Research Grade, lol:

[ID: A photograph of a white hand pointing out towards the middle of a lake that has trees growing on the opposite shore, with the water reflecting the sky and the trees. The hand is pointing at a small, blurry, light-colored shape of something floating on the surface of the water. It is just barely recognizable as a small alligator’s head. End ID.]


It sounds like you’re referring to some specific observations, but I don’t think any specific observations have been linked to here. Please don’t link to them on the forum, but I don’t think @hamsambly was referring to photos of cameras/screens that are false. What they’re referring to are legitimate observations (the person saw that organism in that time and place) but uploaded a photo of the back of the camera, rather than the photo file itself. If you think someone posted observations with false data, the first thing to do is ask them about the observations (remember, we assume others mean well) and if the data is indeed false, use the Data Quality Assessment.

Although there may be legimate reasons for using back-of-camera shots, I still really dislike seeing them when I’m identifying. Usually, I just skip them entirely, whether the actual subject is interesting or not. It’s not just a question of aesthetics. Somehow, the extra layer of indirection always makes me doubt the integrity of the data (unless the observer leaves a relevant comment - which is rare).


iNat is a observation platform, not a photography platform. I think it would be a huge mistake to restrict the kind of observations people can make based on “photo quality.” Especially if the person is a semi-professional photographer and selling the high-quality photos. There is absolutely no reason the HQ shots need to be uploaded to iNat if they are identifiable in a lower quality image.

So from my view, nothing needs to be done at all and I think restrictions could be counter to iNat as a productive data collection, hobby, and community. At best iNat should introduce some rudimentary editing tools on upload (crop, rotate) to fix rotation issues.


This is about photo quality - in the sense of zooming in for the needed details to get to an ID. Not about aesthetics or technical proficiency in a photography sense.

I’m with @bazwal - I will skip a ‘good enough for iNat’ photo.


Side question for @nonbinary-naturalist : to do those image descriptions, do you just use the blockquote function and write it?

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Yes, the block quote isn’t a requirement, I just think that makes it easier to distinguish it from the rest of the text. Just make sure to always start with "ID: or “begin image description” and end with “End ID” or “end of image description” or something like that, so they can tell when it ends or begins.

Think of it like dialogue in a book – if all quotation marks were removed, it’d get really confusing really fast lol.


It doesn’t seem sensible to me for a photographer to post a phone-photo of a camera screen just to reserve the hi-def original for possible publication. If you’re a photog then you have processing software and should know how to use it. Reduce the resolution, add a watermark, whatever, then post to iNat. I resize (and usually crop) everything I post only because it seems wasteful of server space to upload an 11 MB file if a 1 MB file has all the resolution necessary for ID.

So is this a workflow issue? My own workflow is primitive: handheld trail GPS, handwritten field notes, and then multiple camera shots which must be vetted and processed at home on the grandpa box. And upload using the website and not the app. Others do it differently, and I guess there must be some benefit to using a phone-photo of a camera screen and uploading from the field.

But as I hear from the rest of you, when I scroll through a bunch of observations I skip anything too blurry, too small, or too limited in view. I’m not competent to ID very much, but I sure won’t jump on a bad photo of a yarrow leaf and assume that it’s not fennel.


FWIW, iNat doesn’t store photos that are larger than 2048 x 2048 pixels. Photos larger than that are resized.


I think I reckon with this.

When you have a :fire: observation in RAW format in the field, and can’t wait to share but have to first edit.


I forget author and title - but there is a novel written without any quotation marks. Surprisingly after a few pages, your brain clicks into gear and inserts where needed.

Googling shows me a few that I have read
James Joyce - Ulysses (has 8 sentences)
Cormac McCarthy - The Road
(but neither is the one I remember)