Standardized Method of Photographing Mints

I was recently asked by @carexobnupta to describe my method of photographing mints, and I had fun picking out some examples. Maybe it's helpful to post it here too to give observers an idea of what they may need to document in order to post an identifiable mint.

I'm not always great at sticking to my standards, but I generally take photos of the front view of the corolla, side view of the corolla, fruit (if present), the inflorescence/infructescence, both surfaces of the leaves, and the whole plant in its substrate. This is great for mints of the continental US and Canada, and it is sufficient for species-level identification of nearly every one of the species that occur there.

Here are some examples:

You'll notice I generally like to arrange the photos in a specific order. It represents the way I view mints.

Here are some examples of species that I'm particularly interested in that I go more in depth on:

I'm a little less standardized with fruiting and dead plants, but here are some examples:

When there is no evidence of flowering or fruiting, close up images of all features can go a long way:

Hopefully this helps to explain what features mint IDers hope to see in observations.

Posted by alex_abair alex_abair, May 04, 2022 22:43


@alex_abair Thank you for the photo documentation procedure. I have to recommend the approach as a standard practice for all of the vascular plants. I particularly like images of the non flowering observations. My first training was the identification of winter twigs and buds. This early inquiry has had a lasting value and developed an approach to see more then the flowers.
I am finding iNaturalist is an important tool for learning new taxa as it provides the opportunity to study the features that differentiate similar taxons. In fact pubesence is often the defining difference between two similar taxons. Thy systematic approach to documentation is valuable as it provides more opportunities to see and recognize the identifying features.

Posted by carexobnupta about 2 months ago (Flag)

Yea, this is great. I will try to approach pictures of plants in general in this way when possible, certainly when I am unsure of the ID. Thanks for this!

Posted by cesarcastillo 16 days ago (Flag)

Thank you for this helpful flowering and non-flowering plant photographic documentation suggestion(s). Photo sets, such as your examples on this page, are not only very helpful for IDers, but for iNat observers. iNat observers (including myself), when exerting the effort to take photos of these characters at these angles may better learn the taxa.

@alex_abair, what photographic equipment do you recommend for making a set of photos, such as the examples you provided of the species on which you go more in depth? What dissecting microscope or other equipment do you recommend to take in focus and magnified photos with good lighting? I waste time trying to photograph a plant's characters in windy, harsh sunlight or dark conditions, with usually only an iPhone, and often cannot see closely if the photos were in focus while in situ, then come home to be disappointed with my photo sets.

Thank you again and I greatly appreciate all you do for the mint family research and documentation, particularly in Florida, my home state!

Posted by sk321 8 days ago (Flag)

@sk321 I use my phone for my photos. Usually I use my old phone (Samsung Galaxy s7), but sometimes I use my newer phone (Samsung Galaxy s9). The color quality is all messed up on my s9 and there are lots of irritating light artifacts in my s9 photos. I use zoom, manual focus, and adjusted aperture/shutterspeed when lighting conditions are challenging. Flash sometimes allows for better depth of focus, but it has its challenges sometimes. Many phones have "pro" settings that can give you more control over your phone's abilities.

On the rare occasion that I use a microscope for observations (maybe only 10 of my observations), I use a cheap Amscope dissecting micriscope. I don't recommend that brand. The quality is poor, and I've burned my hand on the lightbulb a number of times.

Posted by alex_abair 2 days ago (Flag)

@alex_abair , thank you for the answers and photo tips!

Posted by sk321 2 days ago (Flag)

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