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Mobile Mondays: ID your subjects on your iPhone with Visual Look Up


I was looking through the photos on my iPhone 13 Pro and noticed in the tools under the photo that the information tool also had little stars next to it. Visual Look Up is a feature that lets you quickly find out what the subject is in your photo — like plant species, dog breed and more.

When researching this, the Visual Look Up feature has been present since the iOS 15 update and is available in the iPhones dating back to the iPhone SE, XS, XR, 11, 12 and 13 series. It is also a feature available in some of the iPads. Visual Look-up has limited availability regionally, check feature availability for your device.

Visual Look Up and plants

The photo, mentioned above, was a flower that I had taken on my Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III with the M. Zuiko 12-100mm f/4 Pro lens. I share photos with my phone so I can message them to those who do not have social media. I sometimes check the information tab to see if the metadata is there.

When I tapped the information tool, a little leaf icon appeared on my flower. I tapped the leaf and a window popped open to provide me with an ID of the plant!

Personally, this is a game changer! I often use the Picture This app when I am out photographing plants and flowers. You take a photo of the plant and it gives you an identification and common names of the plant and you have the option to save it in a file for future reference. Now you can do this by just using Photos on your iPhone.

Being the curious tech person that I am, I began scrolling through all my images looking for plants to ID. Siri surprisingly did a decent job at most identifications, but some were not quite accurate.

I had a photo of a Belladonna or Surprise/Naked Lady Lily and yes it correctly identified it as a Lily, but it also classified it as a type of hosta. A real surprise to me was the Ohio Spiderwort! It correctly identified it as its second choice!

Personally, I think this will be a great tool for us nature and macro photographers. There are so many times I’ve guessed and sometimes I’m right and others wrong.

I decided to make it more challenging by looking at flowers that had other objects like bugs and butterflies in them. It had difficulty identifying a butterfly bush — it kept giving it the ID of a lilac, and they are completely different even though their blooms appear similar.

However, it correctly identified a sunflower missing a lot of petals with a bird sitting on it. Siri also correctly ID’d a side view of a sunflower as well as a Crimsomeyed Rosemallow Hibiscus photographed from the back.

Identify your pet breeds

Another perk of the information tool is that it identifies dogs and cats! I took a photograph of my dog, Ruby, and the stars appeared next to the information tool. It incorrectly identified her as a Dogo Argentino, an American Bulldog and a Cordoba Fighting Dog, which is extinct. She does have that appearance, but she is a mix of American Staffordshire Terrier and Wirehaired Terrier (per DNA).

It also incorrectly identified my cat as a Munchkin cat but it took a safe guess at a bicolor cat! Generally speaking, my cats are domestic shorthair.

The future of identification

Since the technology is fairly new, it will take time for information to become completely accurate. It is still a fun tool to play with! I do hope at some point they will include birds and insects. I will be doing more tests on it to see how it performs when traveling to different regions. 

Take your iPhone out for a photo session and see what interesting plants and animals you can identify! Learn and explore! I believe over time this tool will get smarter and be of greater benefit in the future.

Editor’s note: We welcome this post from Pam DeCamp, an award-winning fine art photographer from southern Ohio. Her photography experience has ranged from photojournalism, sports, performing arts, fine art, to macro and wildlife. Travel photography is her passion and she enjoys planning trips with friends to various places across the country and internationally. She has traveled to all 50 states, 10 countries and three continents. Pam enjoys teaching and hosts workshops at her studio and in different cities. Visit her on her website or on Facebook for more information.



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Rafael Jones

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