At the start of the survey, we made a considered decision to only allow certain types of records to become part of our database. Basically, these were records for which a physical specimen could be located. We also accepted historically published records where no specimen could be located; this was only done when the author was someone who really knew the Odonata (i.e. Donald Borror), and even then, the record was flagged in the database so it could be included/eliminated from later analysis as needed.
Since those times, several things have changed. The climate for one; we are seeing species in Ohio that haven't been seen before, at least not in a long time. Dragonflies are also becoming a lot more popular with naturalists; a lot of people from outside the academic world are now working with dragonflies and making important contributions. It's getting harder to collect dragonflies as restrictions on collecting are put into place on some public properties. Finally, digital technology has made photographing dragonflies easier than ever, and digital files can be transferred, stored and indexed far easier than slides and prints.
With all these considerations, the Ohio Odonata Society began to accept photo records in 2003. There are a number of guidelines to ensure the scientific integrity of the data collected. First, a committee has been appointed (following the lead of birders, who have been dealing with purely observational data for many years). This committee reviews all submissions to ensure that the photo is a valid record for a species. This means that the quality is high enough to ensure that any diagnostic characters are clear, the view(s) allow the committee to see enough diagnostic characters to positively identify the species, and finally that the species is one that can be reliably identified by photograph alone. This last point is important; there are some species where the taxonomy is in flux, and others that cannot be separated without close, often microscopic examination of such structures as the hamules of a male.
In order to keep from swamping the committee, photo records will only be considered when the record would represent a new county record, a record for a new, significant site within a county even if the species was already known from that county (i.e. for rare species), and for new state records - although the latter will be given especially close scrutiny. Another way of saying this is that if you photograph a common whitetail in Columbus it's not worth submitting to the committee. Likewise, only specimens which have been identified should be submitted; many members of the Society would be glad to help you with identifications.
Once submitted, the committee chair will pool the submissions and circulate them to the members of the committee, who will vote and debate on the records. Currently this happens once per year after the field season. Approved records are forwarded to the database manager, who will add them to the database, with a qualifier that identifies them as photo records. We hope to have results posted on the web.
Photo Records Committee Guidelines