Taking Photos

Taking Photos to Help with Identification

1. Remember scale

Whenever you take a photo, especially a close-up, place a standard-sized object nearby to help viewers determine relative size.

The photo on the left is a close-up of a grackle dropping. Without an object to show the scale, a viewer cannot determine how large the dropping is. The photo on the right has a standard-sized pen to show the relative size of the vole hole and runway.

Grackle droppings
Vole hole and run

2. Watch for shadows

Try to keep the subject out of shadows, including your own shadow.

3. Consider your background

Many photos lose their effectiveness or impact because of distracting backgrounds. Sometimes the background makes it hard to see the main subject of the photo.

Spider on web strand.
Spider on web strand stands out well from the background.

4. Try to have sharp images

Photos need to be clear and sharp because details are important to accurately identify the animal that left the sign. This blurry photo is due to two different kinds of mistakes. Blurry photos may look clear in the viewfinder.

  • The camera was too close to the target, a common mistake. The closer the camera is to the target, the more likely small details will be visible in the photo. Unfortunately, photographers forget that when you get within a foot to 6 inches of the object, the camera must be converted to Macro mode in order for the image to be sharp.
  • Shaky hands. A steady camera makes for clear pictures. A tripod provides the best support, but laying the camera on a surface or against a tree can go a long way in helping to steady your hand.

Images almost always look sharp in the camera’s view finder. You often have to view them on a computer screen to see the actual quality.

6. Consider Context

Take a photo of the area to help the inspector understand the situation where the damage or problem occurred. While close-up shots are essential, context or area shots are too.

7. Use the Highest Resolution

Set your camera to take photos at the highest resolution possible. New cameras typically are set at the lowest resolution. To get an idea of resolution, right click on a thumbnail of a photo on your computer, then click Properties to determine its size. Images in the 1 to 99 kilobyte range are too small. Images in the 1,000 to 2,000 kilobyte range have better detail when looked at closely.