Uploading photos after observation?

I’m not new to INaturalist and have been using my phone to upload photos at the time of observation, but I’m wondering how to mark your location and observation, but then upload photos from an actual camera later? For example phones don’t take great photos of birds, so I’d like to start the observation to mark the location and note what I saw, but then upload the camera photo a few hours later and complete the observation.
Thank you!

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If you have already made an observation, you can go to it on the website and select “Edit”, then add the camera photos.


You need to use website for that.


If you make one observation, then it is easy and you just go to the website on a computer that you connect your camera to (via usb or wifi, however it is that you get access to your photos), and you drop the extra photos on top of the ones in the observation view.

If you make many observations, then it can be trickier to line up the right camera photos to the right phone/app observations. It really helps if you sync the camera and phone time so that you can use that as a guide, and if you develop a “standard process”, such as always making the phone observation last so that you just need to look for the camera photos that are immediately prior to that time.

Another thing you can do is take with you a little whiteboard, about A5 in size is ideal, and a fine whiteboard marker. Then as you make the observations, jot down on the whiteboard any notes you have about it eg “also took some camera photos of this” could be one of the notes… or just “more on camera”, or literally just “camera”. Then before you move on to the next observation, you add a photo of the whiteboard to the observation (which you can delete later) and also take a photo with your camera, so both the phone photos and camera photos have that linking image that is consistant in form so becomes an easy spotter when reviewing observations and camera photos later on. You could rely on the actual photos from the observation itself, but I find that later that day or even days later, it is much harder to figure out if two pictures of a harrier are in fact of the same harrier! Especially if I saw many harriers that day!

The whiteboard is a great idea when you are making hundreds of observations in a day, even if all from the same device. It provides a clear visual break between observations in the camera roll, not unlike the clapper as a visual/audial marker in film making. I cheat sometimes by just taking a photo of the toe of my boot, which works as long as I aren’t making observations of critters that land on the toe of my boot!

[edit: I’ll just add, that on the computer it usually defaults to filename order in most filemanagers etc, and the above is a workflow that relies on sorting by date/time created. For many cameras, the photo filename either includes a data/time component or is numerically increasing, so they sort that way accidentally. If the photos aren’t in date/time order, just play with the filemanagers sorting until it is fitting the workflow]


I don’t use the iNaturalist app at all, usually. I track my location using a phone app specifically for that; it makes a GPX file, basically a line tracing my path on a map. Then after I’ve moved the photos off my camera to the computer, I use another program to sync the photos to the GPX track, based on the photo’s timestamp and where I was at that moment. This saves a geotag into the photo’s file, and so when I upload to www.inaturalist.org, the location data is automatically filled in.

This is the fastest method I’ve figured out, but it’s not without perils. Quite frequently something will go wrong with the process: I forget to start the location tracker, I forget to save/accidentally delete the location track, strange things happen with file programming, my camera date/time is set incorrectly and won’t match the track…very rarely the photo files will get corrupted while being geotagged, but that’s not horrible if you have the originals still on your camera card.


Others have already addressed the methods for uploading photos later on, but I’d like to suggest that exact locations are not strictly necessary, especially in the case of highly mobile animals like birds.

As long as you’re within 100-200 meters the observation should be fine. With plants and more sessile species within 100 meters should be fine.

It’s not like the aim is to record the exact location of every specific individual, it’s more of, “These species were documented near this area,”


One possible solution: if you take field notes, note observation times for each harrier. Then match it to the times in the photo metadata.

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I never strike the problem now, as I always end every observation photo set with a shot of my boot, and it’s become habit!


This is actually how I upload most of my observations - the ones of animals I take with my camera, and the ones I take on my phone are usually plants (because they stay where they are!).

Then when uploading, I simply set the location pin where I recall either the organism’s specific location or where I saw the observation (last time I went out to observe for iNaturalist I set my Location on my phone, thinking it would be sufficient - but it turns out there’s a separate geotag setting for phone photos, oops!).

You can make an observation on your phone in the iNat app without uploading a photo, just say what you saw. It’s automatically casual-grade because not verifiable. That way you have the exact time and place from your phone. Then when you get home you can go on the website and edit the observation by uploading photos.

I have generally been making one no-photo observation like this when I start observing in an area. If I’m following a path, I make a couple more of these observations along the path to make it easier to remember when and where I was. Then I just fill in other observations when I get home. So far it’s worked pretty well.


No-media observations are a waste of bandwidth. Nothing can be done with them.

A lot of can be done with them and they’re extremely useful for observers if they were added intentionally.


I have never wanted a “down-vote” option more than against that statement! You might find them useless, but there are others who find them to meet a need. I myself have media-less observations of taxa in certain valleys where I observed them while driving, and they are taxa that I know well, and in areas seldom visited by other iNatters. At the very least they can register as “seen nearby” for when the CV is altered, so they still offer as suggestions in the CV system…


I elaborated on this in another thread, in terms of my hypothetical Bigfoot observation. Without media, there is no way to know whether the observer really did observe it.

You can use your own observations.


which is why they are casual… but as far as a potential location to look for bigfoot, as good a place to start as any!

Many of the media supported observations are likewise speculative beyond what you can do with a camera without microscopic dissection…

If I see a kereru flying through the bush, and can hear it’s wingbeats, I don’t need a photo to support that identification. I can look at the person next to me, and we both say “kereru” at the same time, that’s good enough for me! And if I don’t yet have an observation of a kereru, why should I not add that to iNat for my lifelist, just because I don’t have a photo?

And if my pal shoots that kereru, and stews it up for dinner, we can both see it’s a kereru just fine. And it tastes like kereru… and smells like kereru… Do I need to put up aromatic profiles to prove it is a kereru? And if we are arrested and charged for the shooting of the kereru (illegal without permit), would an arrest warrant be sufficient evidence?

Nah, we’ll let that bird fly away, I’m happy with a media-less observation of it. They are quite sparse on the East Coast of New Zealand where I live, and having any data points on where they are found is potentially useful for us!

There is a 10 year project, of week long periods at the same time every year that has a massive public outreach for these kereru sightings. Many of them come in as media-less observations, with data around what they are seen eating, perching in, etc. More rigorous studies can be undertaken, and then comparing those results against the iNat/GreatKereruCount data we will get a very accurate indication of what is happening around the country. Not every single datapoint has to be completely accurate, statistical analysis will clean a lot of that up!


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