Taking photos of insects in classrooms
Taking photos of insects in classrooms

Taking the best photos for Never Home Alone

Close, Closer, Closest — Students explore iNat database, and then practice taking useful and effective photos for uploading to iNaturalist.

Lesson Summary

Essential Question(s): How can we take usable, relevant photos of various arthropods in our classroom? How do we use the Macro lenses to get the most useful photos?

Established Goals/Objectives: At the conclusion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Understand how to take properly sized and framed photos for use in the iNaturalist program.

Materials: Macro lenses, ipads/phone/camera/chrome book – specimen samples, meter stick/yardstick – Science/STEM notebooks

21st Century Skills – Critical Thinking, Collaboration (assigned roles), Technology Literacy

Teacher Background Information: Many ways to take macro photographs with your smartphone

Lesson Preparation: Collect small objects to take photos from different distances. Make sure there are insect samples available for when student teams are ready to use the Macro lens with a real specimen.


  • First have the students look through the Never Home Alone database of photos. Have them select photos of insects that have the most clarity. What makes them good photos? How do the specimens fill the frame? Can you understand how many legs the specimen has?
  • This is an activity then gets the students used to taking usable photos – for K-2 possibly starting with a small object (like a single lego) and have them take photos from 3 different distances (adding in measurement) – also for 3-5, have the teacher find a few specimens to model, then practice — having the students reflect on what details they notice from different distances, and why it would be important to “fill the frame” with the arthropod.
  • After modeling Close, Closer and Closest with and without using the Macro lens, let the students look through the example photos and decide on the most effective for uploading to iNat. How do they compare to the research grade photos already accepted on the site?

Observation Stations: practicing observation – use drawing and writing – and modeling with device

Assessment: – Have students collect measurement data in Science Notebooks. Have the students decide which are the most effective photos and share out with group.

Resources: Many ways to take macro photographs with your smartphone

Next Generation Science Standards

Analyzing and Interpreting Data: Analyzing data in 3–5 builds on K–2 experiences and progresses to introducing quantitative approaches to collecting data and conducting multiple trials of qualitative observations. When possible and feasible, digital tools should be used.

  • Analyze and interpret data to make sense of phenomena using logical reasoning. (3-LS4-1)

NC Standards

4.MD.1 Know relative sizes of measurement units within one system of units including km, m, cm; kg, g; lb, oz.; l, ml; hr, min, sec. Within a single system of measurement, express measurements in a larger unit in terms of a smaller unit. Record measurement equivalents in a two-column table.
3.MD.4 Generate measurement data by measuring lengths using rulers marked with halves and fourths of an inch.
2.MD.1 Measure the length of an object by selecting and using appropriate tools such as rulers, yardsticks, meter sticks, and measuring tapes.

This lesson was prepared by Gregory Eyman, K-5 STEM, Brentwood Magnet Elementary School of Engineering.

Never Home Alone: Lessons and Activities