Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

Contribute Photos to Illinois Plants

What Types of Photos Do We Want?

The majority of the photos shown on the Illinois Plants website are actually located on the PhytoImages server at Southern Illinois University. Thus, to contribute photos to Illinois Plants means contributing also to PhytoImages.  At the time the Illinois Plants was launched, we had at least one photo or illustration for over 75% of the vascular plant species found in Illinois.  This means that we still need photos for over 800 of the plant species known to occur in the state.  A list of those species can be found HERE. But just because a species is already represented photographically, that does not mean we do not want more photos of it!  To the contrary, we view PhytoImages more as a digital herbarium in that we encourage photographs of the same species taken at different localities. This allows representation of the full range of morphological variation seen within a species.  We also strongly encourage photos that show previously undocumented phases of the life cycle (e.g. seedlings, vegetative, flowering and fruiting plants). Bear in mind that the photos you submit will be reviewed prior to public posting.  We reserve the right to reject and not post any submitted image.

Who Do I Contact?

You can contact any of the Illinois Plants website botany team at illinoiplants(at) for general information, but to specifically contribute to PhytoImages, contact Dr. Nickrent.

What Kind of Contributor Do You Want to Be?

There are basically three types of contributors that we can envision:

• A few photos (10 or less). This type of contributor can simply email the photos, along with relevant metadata, to any of the web site authors.  The photos will be processed and uploaded to PhytoImages.

• A large collection (but not a curator). This contributor has a large collection of photographs, but he/she does not have a lot of time to be involved in the Illinois Plants project or does not anticipate contributing many photos in the future. For this person, we recommend that the photos be placed in a folder and compressed (zipped).  That zipped folder can then be uploaded to any number of free hosting sites such as Dropbox.  Please do not attempt to send such large files via email!  We will also work with such contributors to assemble the metadata associated with the photos.  We would prefer that the information be entered into an Excel spreadsheet (see below); however, other formats for assembling these data could be used.

• A large collection (curator). This contributor has a large collection of photographs and he/she is interested in becoming directly involved in the Illinois Plants project.  This person would be a long-term contributor of photos (for at least a year) and would therefore be given curatorial privileges.  A curator will be granted access to PhytoImages (with a username and password) and will thus be able to upload any number of photos from any internet-connected computer at any time and from any place.  Because of direct access to the photographic database, this person will be required to adhere to particular guidelines and protocols.  In short, this process involves placing the Excel file with the metadata into a folder with the photos.  That folder is zipped and then uploaded to PhytoImages through a simple user interface (web page).

What Information Must Accompany My Photos?

To be scientifically useful, photos should have associated metadata, that is, information not available from looking at the photo itself.  The most important (and therefore the minimum) of these are the location where the photo was taken and the photographer.  The date the photo was taken can be obtained from metadata by the digital camera. Things such as full identification to species is useful but not required because other users of the site may be able to provide this information, particularly if the photo shows sufficient detail.

The Excel file with metadata should be sent within the same folder as the photographs. The column headers that are available to use are the following:
file_name, genus, species, subspecies, variety, cultivar, family, subfamily, subgenus, Tribe, Section, CultivarGroup, country, state_equiv, county_equiv, caption, img_date, locality, LatLon, owner, Altitude, keywords, id, Detby, DetDate, collector, coll_no, coll_date, coll_lot_no, spec_comments
The column names shown in bold are required, the others optional.  Note that the format for Latitude and Longitude  is as follows: 49 21 18.50 N, 124 43 08.76 W. This is the standard DMS format (degrees, minutes, seconds) but with no degree, minute, or second marks included.  Please do not submit LatLong as DM (Decimal Minutes) or DD (Decimal Degrees) as these would have to be converted to work properly. If your camera does not record GPS as metadata associated with the photo, you can determine your location easily using Google Earth.  If you wish to supress the exact location of the plant (for whatever reason, e.g. it is rare or endangered), the LatLong can be omitted.  Records with just the county name are automatically mapped to the county center.

If I Contribute Photos, Do I Lose Rights to Them?

Copyright for any contributed photograph remains with the photographer (see Terms of Use page at PhytoImages). If you desire additional restrictions on use of your images, you can compose your own "Terms of Use" and these terms will be presented on the PhytoImages web pages.

Updated 1 July 2015