What makes a good animal taxon photo?

When I choose a taxon photo for an animal, I aim for photos I think will be most useful to the community. In order of priority, this means I look for something that:

  • shows the whole animal
  • highlights diagnostic features, especially for animals often confused
  • is in focus
  • is high resolution
  • is close up (i.e. animal fills most of frame)
  • looks good when cropped in various places on iNat
  • shows the most typical version of that animal (e.g. not a color variant)
  • is “pretty” (e.g. something you would enter in a photo contest)

Do you look for characteristics other than these? Do you prioritize them differently? Would it be useful to have a policy or statement outlining what to select for in taxon photos?


1.) I agree with all of those criteria, @jwidness and I have made several posts on the Forum discussing this.

2.) Does this post have anything to do with sudden changes made to the default Taxon Photos of some of the most frequently-observed mammals on iNaturalist (e.g. Red Fox, Raccoon, Wapiti, White-tailed Deer, Nutria, Woodchuck, Bobcat, etc.)?

EDIT: Here is a previous post on the iNatForum.

EDIT 2: Removed link to White-tailed Deer Flag.

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All good points but I would also want to include color variants as well whenever possible.

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I believe @jwidness is referring to the single default taxon photo, and I agree that photo should show the most typical version of the animal. Although I agree color variants and photos of other life stages should be in the chosen set of standard taxon photos for a taxon.

I don’t edit too many taxon photos, but would it make sense to display the policy here?

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Putting it there would be fine, or maybe even at the top under the “Drag photos here from the left…” bit. However, the people who edit the taxon photos already know that the default photo at the top left will show first and be used across the site. That’s their intention. I think the actual note should be a little more specific.

The idea is to put the specific policy in that area, I was just asking if that area would be a good place for it.

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For some species, I’d also include (as additional taxon photos; but not necessarily the default taxon photo):

• where there is sexual dimorphism, making sure both genders are represented
• life stages, where they are more than just a size difference (eg. Caterpillar as well as adult for lepidoptera taxon photos, juveniles vs adults for birds, eggs where they are distinctive for the animal, etc)


I was actually just thinking the other day that it would be nice to have an option where you could only see images of adults or larvae, especially for things like leps where the life stages look completely different. Something like on BugGuide where for Lepidoptera there is an option to show images of either caterpillars, adults, or both. Might be helpful if you were trying to see what species of leps have been photographed in a particular area, but you only have a caterpillar and the default taxon photo for all species is an adult.
Maybe for groups like that, have an option for an Adult taxon photo and a Larva taxon photo, and then have a feature you can toggle off/on depending on which you want to view.


It’s possible in the photo browser on the web, eg https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/68263-Papilio-multicaudata/browse_photos?term_id=1&term_value_id=6

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Oh cool, didn’t know about that, thanks!

I guess I was thinking more along the lines of being able to see adults vs larvae across species, like if one did a search for notodontids in NY and got this list of species but could toggle larva vs adult:

Did I miss a way to do this?

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You keep changing the photos? Why would you keep choosing photos that don’t show the whole animal, and in particular, why would you choose photos that leave out key characteristics? And I think it’s perhaps even more concerning that you think you alone should be allowed to select taxon photos.