Useful things to photograph/document

Sometimes there are species that are easier to identify thanks to small details in pictures or even things that can’t be photographed (such as smell or sound). Sometimes they can be hard to miss if people aren’t familiar with them.

For the species you tend to specialise in IDing, what are things you wish people would include more often? What can people do to make things easier for you?

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There’re many topics covering that question, so you can look up taxa you’re interested in and will find something:


For a lot of spiders, the eye field is a major clue to at least get it to family level. And for many a ventral shot, please. Oh and legs. And dorsal. And palps. Oh and…


For plants:

  1. No Flowers: Really hard to identify some plants by just the leaves, these ones end up as just ‘Plant’ most of the time.
  2. Just One Flower: A photo of the flower without seeing how it connects to the stem or without any photos of the whole plant or leaves at the bottom.

Link to another topic with example of second point.

Edit: There are people who can and do a good job identifying plants without flowers, but it takes lots of exposure and familiarity to develop that skill.


More photos from different angles is always better than a single photo, which might not capture some important characteristic. True for almost any organism.


For plants it’s very well desrcibed here, I would say most plants are idable by leaves, problem is mostly with who id them and how many people do that.


Yes, for spiders (if they can be identified by pictures at all) a clear ventral (including eye region) + dorsal (including epgynal region) shot increases your chances of getting it IDed.

In most cases that is the best you can do… sometimes crisps shots of legs can be helpful as well as the distinguishing feature for some species are number or orientation for certain hairs or spines… but often it is too difiicult to tell with a nature shot anyways, so I won´t bother too much about that


This makes me feel better about posting a single spider from 19 different camera angles. I feel a little silly doing so, but I figure I’ll get better at narrowing down which images are important and which aren’t in time.


My group hikes in fynbos every week. We stick to plants when they are in flower.
Only leaves … not this week, thanks. Ours is called fynbos from Dutch, fine leaved shrubs. MANY fine leaved shrubs. 8 hundred ericas for example.

Some plants have unmistakable leaves.

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Plants that I see ALL the time and am familiar with how they look at different stages I can usually figure out without flowers. Most other ones that I could recognize with flowers, I have no clue when they are too young/small for flowers (I can figure some of those from just seed/fruit).


That’s true. I’m definitely more of a beginner when it comes to ID. It’s been my experience that something with a flower on it is more likely to be identified than something without. When I identify, I’m more hesitant without a flower because it means the observation has fewer distinctive features. Not sure if other identifiers are more ambitious and more likely to offer IDs in these cases.


Cotyledon leaves are the worst to figure out!

Edit: Specifically referring to the two leaves of dicot plants (most non-grasses), which sprout first and look nothing like normal plant leaves.

For fishes, it often varies wildly based on the species in question: what’s critical in one species is irrelevant in another. There are some basic rules of thumb, though:

-One of the more common ID characters in fishes is fin placement/position relative to other fins, and also being able to see telltale markings on the fins themselves. Make sure you can see where each fin begins and ends, gently extending them slightly if they sit flat. Very important for some species (differentiating some Atlantic sharks, and IDing goldeye vs. mooneye, are good examples)

-On the topic of fins, for some reason the dorsal and anal fins tend to be most important for ID, much more so than the other fins.

-For ray-finned fishes, best ID often needs an exact fin-ray count, often only seen if fins extended manually or if photographed in water, such as underwater or in a photo tank. Sand shiner vs. mimic shiner are most easily differentiated by anal-fin ray count of 7 vs. 8, which can be difficult on a tiny, panicked minnow in less-than-perfect light.

-For fish with scales, scale counts of the lateral line down the side of the fish can be crucial. Make sure when holding the fish, you avoid covering these side scales as much as possible if scales are an ID characteristic.

-Some fishes ID based around the head/mouth, such as mouth length relative to eye, the color of chin whiskers (bullheads), or mouth shape (redhorses).

-Sunfish (which I see/ID often on iNat) are best distinguished by the colored opercular flap behind the head, along with side patterning/coloration and pectoral fin shape.

-Overall, at least one good, unobstructed side view is crucial. Angles tend to distort the fish’s proportions and make it harder to ID. Best to take one of these photos with the fish laying flat or in a photo-tank.


For WA native orchids 3 important defining parts are the leaf stem and labbelum. The problem is that most observations are missing clear photos of at least one of these.

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For parasitoid wasps, just every possible detail :p

Really though, just get the best shot of wing venation (fore-wing, hind-wing a bonus) possible (hard when using a flash for macro with the reflectivity of the wings) and then hopefully a profile and head-on shot. Keying them so often relies on details (of a huge variety) not visible outside of high quality macro shots you just have to hope for the best.

Some wasps are readily identifiable by colouration/shape, so first just grab a photo at distance because chances are the wasp will fly away before you get close enough for detail anyway!


Pity spiders are often not very cooperative. I often get asked if I have a good ventral shot…sigh.
But I am happy if I can at least get down to genus level!


Felix, spot on but I would add to that, different angles ie side view, top, behind and the whole flower as well as a scale.

I’ve learnt to photograph as many different features from as many different angles as possible, particularly with organisms that I know little or nothing about. Obviously it’s not always possible.

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About the best response!

Leaves on flowering plants. The flowers are not always enough.