Newbie iPhone Tips: Photographing Plants

It is my pleasure to be using iNaturalist to learn about animal, plant, and fungi species. Though I joined a few years back, I only began using it in earnest earlier this year, specifically to help me learn more from those who really know their species.

No matter what genus you may be observing, there is likely someone on iNat who knows a quite a bit about the species within that genus, perhaps a PhD whose research was on that very subject, or someone in your area is very family with what grows there. Having trouble with Croton? No problem! Distinctions between Carpenter bees? Several people. My point is, when you use iNaturalist to learn, you must first give the experts what they need in order to help you better.

Using the iNat app and iPhone camera, here are a few tips that will help get your plant observation to 'research grade.'


  1. Shoot the macro first: flower or leaf. No matter which iPhone you are using, pinch your zoom to only 1/3 of the capacity which gets the best focus without sacrificing clarity. (For the 6S which I use, I bring the slider to just between 'photo' and 'video'.) This photo will be the default. If it isn't you can change that before you submit it to iNat by tapping on the box beneath the photo (that says 'Default').

TIP! If you're having trouble getting the subject full frame in focus, don't worry. Pull up the snapped photo on your screen, then zoom again to enlarge... now take a screensnap by pressing the power button and thumb button simultaneously. Make this improved image your default to iNat, not the original.

  1. For the 2nd shot, shoot the stem/leaf structure, how the leaves connect with the stem. For small plants, lay a good representative stalk in your hand or up against a structure, if it helps in getting good focus. If you can get a focused shot of the leaf itself, shoot that too, perhaps from underneath.
  2. For the 3rd shot, photograph the entire plant in its environment, if you can framed top to bottom. I find that getting low (right down where the plant is, silly) prevents shooting down on it, an odd angle. Think of being eye to eye with your subject, only you'll be eye to flower.
  3. Before you submit, check the map of the species you selected. You'll want to be certain it's one known to be in your eco-region, and not something from another part of the world entirely. (That can be embarrassing.)
  4. Species uncertainty: Sometimes you're down to just a couple of species but can't figure out which one. In this case, select the genus, then type a comment on your suggestion or a short note about what you know. Many times, someone will tell you what features led to the suggestion ... and you will gain knowledge to help you with the next ID. When the species comes back, you can agree with the iNat suggestion making your observation research grade.
  5. Trouble getting an image crisp? Exit the iNat app and take the photo using the iPhone's camera app instead. You can better control the aperture and focal depth this way. Then go back into the app and select the photo taken. You may have to re-select your location if the photo didn't embed it already.

EXAMPLES SELECTED BELOW.

Happy shooting!

Posted by dirtnkids dirtnkids, October 21, 2019 13:41

Observations

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