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Image Gallery Image Quality Recommendations

Keep in mind that the best plant pictures are taken from nature using soft natural light and a tripod. Other things to consider:

DIGITAL CAMERA: 4 megapixel or larger will give the best results.

COMPOSITION: Check composition

  • Try to have only one subject in the picture
  • Fill the frame with the subject (leaving edge for balance and effect)
  • Avoid masses of leaves or large featureless subjects by isolating a focal area with well-defined plant parts
  • Include entire parts or plants, don’t cut off structures
  • Try to include as many diagnostic features (flowers, leaves, bark, individual structures) as possible
  • Habit, intermediate, and various close-up photos are often desirable
  • Not all parts will photograph well, and some growth habits are difficult due to size, structure, etc.
  • Avoid distracting backgrounds

FOCUS: Check focus

  • Ensure the main subject is in focus
  • To minimize blur in windy conditions, please use a larger aperture (lower F stop) and corresponding faster shutter speed to stop action. Remember, this will also reduce the depth of field so that the background won’t be as obvious.
  • Consider a diffuse off camera flash to stop motion and increase depth of field
  • USE A TRIPOD if at all possible

EXPOSURE: Check exposure

  • To improve exposure, consider bracketing your shot. Many digital cameras will automatically bracket, and you can then discard the more poorly exposed shots to conserve disk space.
  • The best pictures depend on the even lighting that is available on cloudy days, or early and late. Strong sidelight during the early morning and late evening hours often times provide better structural definition.
  • Sunny conditions generally make photographs too contrasty and render light objects on dark backgrounds nearly impossible to photograph. You can reduce contrast with a neutral density filter under these conditions.
  • If your subject is a light item on a dark background, stop down (higher F-stop and smaller aperture), or spot meter on the subject.

IMAGE TYPE: Check digital image type and size

  • Save as TIFF (preferred) or RAW. Convert RAW to TIFF for submission.
  • If your camera only takes JPEG’s, the largest possible file size is preferred for long-term archiving.


Pictures with rulers (coins, knives, etc.) look artificial. We prefer natural-looking pictures since these are more versatile, and plant dimensions can be obtained from floras and other sources. If used, rulers should be limited to supplemental images such as those showing the size of a cone, rhizome, perigynia, or other plant part.


  • Artificial backgrounds (black velvet or similar) are a last resort that look best in close-ups where it’s difficult to see them since they appear as a uniform color.
    • Ensure that the camera focuses on the plant; some cameras will automatically focus on the solid background instead.
  • Use a larger aperture (smaller f-stop) to reduce the depth of field for the subject area. This can often times reduce distracting backgrounds or other unimportant structures.
    • If you use a large aperture to reduce the depth of focus, the need for a tripod will be reduced since you will compensate with a faster shutter speed.
    • Zooming in will also reduce the depth of focus but will often times require a slower shutter speed for the same F-stop.
    • Most digital cameras will use a larger aperture automatically when set on the 'close-up' or ‘portrait’ setting


If taking new pictures, consider which plants are already plentiful on PLANTS and what you've already photographed and submitted. Concentrate on other species or diagnostic characters unless you've got something great!

Thank you for your contributions to PLANTS!