What's your image editing process from raw image to iNat

I have a workflow in Adobe Camera Raw that I like, but I’m curious what you all do to get images out of your camera and onto iNat? And specifically, which color profiles do you select for your jpg/png exports so that iNat’s presentation matches your personal color expectations?

I see no reason to bother with raw formats - and I have never seen it before, in 15 years with DSLRs, with the only exception of night sky shots. I just shoot in JPG, then I select and crop images in Picasa (it’s no longer supported, but works just fine and I still haven’t find anything remotely as good) and export them. As for color, I found the automatic color balance of the camera really good - obviously, it’s still a “choice” and it’s not a guaranteed faithful reproduction of the color, but nothing is, unless you shoot a calibration target next to the organism, which sounds tiresome.


I can’t spare the time to do much…but I think I do more processing than the vast majority (which don’t do anything). I shoot in JPG at 1:1 format (b/c it displays best in iNat), crop and rotate in the Windows Photos app, then upload.

My goal is to capture images that allow for identification, not to publish in a magazine.

[Note added later: was the title edited to focus on raw image processing? I didn’t notice that when I posted–that’s why my comment doesn’t address the title.]


Fair enough. I like raw photography because it captures all the highlights and shadows with minimal information loss. For color profile, I’m wondering about something slightly different from white balance (though also an interesting subject to talk about). Color profiles deal with the way colors are diplayed on different outputs. For example, sRGB, Adobe RGB, and Display P3 color profiles show markedly different images across different devices despite an image being saved using the exact same color balance technique. It’s a minor concern, but it’s something my obsessive mind considers with my images :rofl:

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Contrary to @opisska I shoot exclusively in RAW with my mirrorless and DSLR, as well as in my GoPro, (as do the professional photographers who come work with us and accompany reporters interviewing us about our conservation work). Results are vastly better with RAW and you have a far greater ability to make final adjustments, as well as to recover images that were shot in challenging lighting conditions.

The only time I’ll shoot JPG is when it’s on my phone.

I bring a selection into Photoshop and do the initial editing in Camera Raw, final editing in the main PS program, and occasionally use Topaz DeNoise when necessary. I keep adjustments as minimal as possible in order to get the most natural and true-to-life images I can that still look good. Usually I won’t load more than around 20 images at a time, and I’ll used the star and delete image options in Camera Raw to rank or get rid of files too.

The specific edits depend on the needs of each image.

I save the final image with the image number as the first thing, then a description of the contents, and a note if it’s been DeNoised or not. I may also include the date and my name in the file name depending on the specific end use (eg. in a folder I keep of images that we allow reporters, students, local politicians, etc to use).

I’ve experimented with Lightroom, Photo Mechanic, and a variety of other software, but I don’t like the limitations those have, so I stick with Camera Raw and Photoshop.

More than anything, the key is to have good file management. I’ve found that if you have goof file management the reasons why people gravitate toward Lightroom become irrelevant. I generally keep two external back-ups of my images, which include the EXIF files generated while editing.

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Thanks a lot! Do you ever play around with the color profiles for your exported images? Do you also reduce your images to maximum dimensions of 2048 pixels (on either dimension) with your export, or do you allow iNaturalist to do your image compression for you?

I put the SD card from the camera into my computer, upload the images into the photos app that comes with mac computers, edit them in that same app, then I take a screenshot of the photo, which creates a file, and I drag and drop that file into iNat

The downside to this approach is that it leaves no metadata with the photo

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I have attempted raw formats; they come out better, but I lose the images in all my attempts to format them. That’s definitely on my end, so don’t let that sway your choice. I shoot in the highest JPG quality on my Nikon D3400; the “JPG Fine”. It is around 6000x4000 pixels. I don’t touch them while moving them from the SD card to iNaturalist. Still, if there is a species farther away or multiple species in one shot, I will crop it using my browser’s built-in snip tool (I use Opera GX, it isn’t the best but it is useful for this purpose). Because I do not touch these photos, they keep the metadata. The screenshots, however, do not have the metadata, so I will put the original photo on the screenshot so I can then have the metadata.

This ended up being a lot of text, so sorry about that.


I’m using Photoshop etc via subscription.

On my DSLR I shoot in Raw+jpeg. My initial download and backup go into folders with the date taken and a word or so to remind me what/where. Date format is yymmdd - eg 240204. When I start to work on the folder, I change the camera’s IMG_ part of the number to the date code, so IMG_4567.cr3 becomes 240204-4567.cr3. Then I assign any keywords - usually just relating to place (my camera doesn’t have GPS) but I sometimes also put other keywords on if I think they might be useful later.

Then I start working through the photos. Delete the bad ones. Decide which ones are going to get uploaded anywhere - eg iNat. I use Adobe Bridge and open the Raw file in Camera Raw. I click and see if I like it - ie was it an improvement to the original? Then I straighten the horizon and do other preliminary adjustments for exposure, colour temperature, dehaze and sometimes clarity. Then open to Photoshop and continue any other editing. Usually crop, contrast, etc. Sometimes shadows/highlights. When I’m happy I resize according to where it’s going - for iNat 2000px on the long side - then do a final sharpen if necessary and with the same file name but with codes added to show that I have edited it.

I save as a jpeg if the photo is basic and the editing minimal, or if I spent significant time and/or might come back to it in future I’ll save as TIF somewhere along the way, before resizing and saving the upload version as a jpeg.

After doing any uploads, I save everything I have kept to folders that are arranged by subject.

I don’t do any colour profiling at all. I work on each photo individually, although I sometimes group similars for the first step in Camera Raw. Sometimes doing that works, other times I end up starting from scratch again anyway.

For photos that are uploaded to iNat, I remind myself that the most important thing is to show the detail of the organism, which is sometimes contrary to the best colour or composition. So a photo I upload to my own website might be different from the version I added to iNat.

Edited to add that I also use an old GoPro Hero 3+ for underwater shots. They are jpeg only with those I work on saved to TIF before the final version is uploaded as a jpeg file.


My default final image size is usually 10 inches on the long end at 300dpi, saved at a PS image quality of 10, unless that results in an image smaller than 1MB in size. iNat will compress that a bit, but not enough so that you can tell.

I’ve picked that as my default final image size and settings because it’s not memory heavy, the image quality is enough for presentations, on-line images, ones for articles and such both print and online, and for reports. If I need larger that’s why I keep the EXIF data, so all the Camera Raw editing info is saved and I can pretty easily recreate a full-sized image for large prints or for documentaries and such if needed/requested.

In Camera Raw I’ll set I’ll often set the image profile to Vivid or Landscape, but it depends a lot on the image. That’s as close to a color profile as I’ll ever use. Vivid tends to make to make the darker colors a bit too dark, so you have to do a bit more selective adjustment for those, and Landscape tends to over emphasise the greens and yellow/oranges. To correct for that I’ll often desaturate the image slightly, but bump the vividness setting a little. This gives a bit of subtle pop, but cuts the overblown bits. Sometimes you have to go in and manually adjust the specific colors, both the saturation and luminosity, but not all that often.

A lot of folks like to boost the contrast, and sometimes that’s effective, but I often find that reducing the contrast is useful of you have a lot of variation in lights and darks in the image. Reducing the contrast a little can help to bring out more detail in the darker areas without imposing grain or adding other weird effects. Either way my contrast adjustments are rarely more than 10-12 plus or minus.

In Camera Raw these are the things I’ll usually make adjustments to: profile, white balance, exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, whites, blacks, saturation, vividness. If it’s foggy or hazy I’ll sometimes use dehaze, but that often requires a light touch and then going back over to readjust other settings to correct for some of the changes that makes to the image.

One out of Camera RAW and in the main PS program I’ll usually only make a curves and threshold adjustment (in that order), followed by cropping, adding a watermark, and resizing.

Also, layering different edits of the same image can help to address difficult challenges in images.

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If I use my phone, I download the photos to PC, next sort and clean photos, after crop with IrfanView.
If I use my camera, I shoot Raw files. Again, download it to PC, filter, convert in RawTherapee (as I`ve been doing for last ten years). Simple cropping, curving, noise reduction and a bit of enhancements. Next I add GPS information from GPS track with help of GeoSetter.

Next I combine phone and DSLR photos into one list, change time of the files to the shooting time, sort by time and upload photos to Inat.

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That’s pretty similar to my process. Although I crop my images down as close to 2048p on the widest dimension as is reasonable with the photo.

By “color profile”, I mean something different from color grading, filters, etc. If I understand it correctly, a color profile is the code within an image file that defines how a device should interpret values as color. There is a default setting of sRGB when one exports an image from Camera Raw, but there are a lot of other color profiles to select from. And unfortunately, an image with an sRGB color profile looks different on my Macbook from what I see on my Samsung phone. Each of the color profiles are tailored to different devices and different platforms. I’m wondering which color profile is ideal for the iNaturalist image viewing software.

As you say, colours look different depending on the display tool. A colour profile really matters if you intend to print (CMYK values) or if you are using a colour calibrated monitor.

I shot in RAW or JPG depending on the camera, then work in Lightroom. For iNat, I will work on light/darkness and crop to make my subject identifiable. Then I scrap everything and work on aesthetic (my own subjective) for the pictures I keep on flickr.

Since I have no control on what hardware is used to see my images, I don’t worry about colour calibration. I understand the value if you make a living from your pictures. For instance you want the correct profile depending on the monitors at an art gallery or depending on how the pictures will be printed.

Finally, you can’t control the secondary and more important colour profile: the perception from the viewer, are they tetrachromat, colour blind, or what languages do they speak (colours perception being linked to the vocabulary to describe them). I would say, upload the same picture with different colour profiles in a test-observation and keep the process that gives a result true to you.


I leave them as RGB unless they are intended to be printed in a physical medium. In that case I convert to CMYK.

If I make the conversion I usually have to do a bit more editing adjustment again.

This conversion is something I tend to have to do more often when I’m making maps though as the printing of images is usually the responsibility of the reporters and such we let my and use our images. For large poster prints that I make I’ll talk with the printers and often make the CMYK conversion myself.

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I shoot with 3 different cameras: Cell phone, jpgs with Nikon P-1000 (Point and Shoot), and RAW images with a Canon R6ii/Canon R100-500 lens.

All photos are moved to my MacBook Pro. I use Adobe Bridge to do the initial screening. I discard the obviously bad images, choose the best* ones of the rest, name them, and add copyright info.

I open the best images a few at a time with Adobe Camera Raw and adjust the parameters as needed including cropping. If necessary, I use Topaz Noise Reduction, Topaz Sharpen, or Topaz Photo AI. For anything I will post on-line, I use sRGB.

I save images at 2000 pixels on longest side and 200 ppi unless they are smaller due to cropping. I do not upsize smaller images to 2000 pixels.

*Sometimes the “best” images are not that great. They are the best of the lousy images I got of that observation. :)

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For what it’s worth, I use Preview on Mac for curating, cropping, resizing, and exposure / color balance / sharpening. Yeah, it’s kind of primitive, but it does keep the metadata intact, and that’s a tradeoff that I’m willing to make to avoid entering everything by hand. (My camera doesn’t do GPS, so I already have to recreate location data.)

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I’m pretty obsessive about processing my photos, but that’s mainly because I love working on them almost as much as I love taking them. For me it’s way of reliving the moment and I go way beyond what actually serves. For what it’s worth, here’s my workflow… sounds a lot, but it’s actually much quicker to do than it is to write. My photos are taken 95% with a Canon DSLR, 5% with an Olympus T6, 100% in RAW.

  • The first step is to download them onto my laptop/PC, input them into Adobe Lightroom and sift out the obvious fails.
  • I then rename the files with a name that gives a hint of where I took them, the date, the camera I used and a sequence number.
  • They are then georeferenced against a track I’ve recorded and downloaded separately (Locus on my smartphone) and I also enter the location in the metadata.
  • I then look through the images carefully and, still in Lightroom, do a minimum of processing: exposure, maybe a tweak or two to bring out hidden detail in the shadows/highlights, and above all cropping to focus attention on the subject organism.
  • For uploading to iNat, in 95% of cases, I export the images in bulk directly from Lightroom (with an export preset) to a jpg with 2000 px longest side. In the other 5%, I might do some more fiddling with Topaz DeNoise or Photoshop to bring out as much detail as possible.
  • When I’ve IDed the organism, I add the name to the filename and archive the image (RAW + low-res jpg) in a taxonomic archive, still in Lightroom.

As I said, it sounds a lot, but the workflow is so streamlined it just takes a few minutes.
As for colour, it’s by far the most difficult thing to get “right” (whatever that is) and there are so many factors acting from the moment you click the shutter to the moment you upload that I really don’t believe the colour profile has much effect. Where possible, a good way to reduce the subjective element is to take one shot of the organism with something white in the frame, so the viewer can mentally adjust for any chromatic skew.

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Interesting thread! I’ve often wondered this myself! As for my workflow, I try to keep it at a minimum. I always shoot in RAW, so I can crop without losing as much detail. This is especially important with distant animals. I don’t do much editing of the photo, and what I do is only for the benefit of identification: more detail. This involves cropping, and often darkening the image slightly to enhance shadow and then adjusting the color, again to enhance details. For iNat I don’t think about the aesthetics. I just try to make the details more obvious so that identification is faster. I do as least as I can and then export as JPEG and upload.

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Good to hear someone who works the same way I do. I shoot in JPG and crop and adjust in Picasa. I love exploring and finding organisms, my happy place is out in the garden and veld, not in front of an editing program.


I really like the image editor in Photos, the denoise function works really well and is simple so I do all my editing there, but I’m not sure how to move the photo to preview from photos?