The fun of social media is crowdsourcing expertise, much as with Stack Exchange. There are a lot of species identification groups on Flickr, where people post images with helpful ID information, and others will make educated guesses or positive identifications in the comments. This should at least get you the common name of something.
As a bird photographer learning about bird identification, I'm immensely indebted to the Flickr Bird Identification Help group. You post a picture of the bird, along with geographic location (including country) and time of year, and they'll tell you what they can. You can also use the pool itself and their answers to test your own ID skillz.
There are similar identification groups, with similar submission rules to aid group members in identification, for Insect Identification and a lot of different plant identification groups.
In addition, simply tagging a photo with your best guess and mentioning in the description you don't know might just bring someone to your door to tell you. It's happened for me with a couple of thistle shots I took in the back canyons here in Southern California, and a friendly thistle aficionado in the UK took pity on me and IDed them for me. Likewise, a friendly neighborhood herpetologist told me that what I'd tentatively thought was a Pacific gopher snake, was in fact, a gorgeous newborn baby rattler.
Once you have the common name, it's pretty easy to look up the Latin binomial (Family species) designation. The advantage to using Wikipedia vs. paper resources for this is that Wikipedia will be more likely to capture any recent changes to classifications, and with the hypertext linking, you can generally explore what the family designation means, which can help you identify at least that far on sight (e.g., for birds of prey, you can more easily tell Buteo (broad-wing hawks), Accipitridae (accipiters), and Falco (falcons) apart).
Use a Field Guide
The problem with using a field guide is that it can probably only help you so far. Especially for the rare sightings, and the more subtle distinctions between very similar-looking or wildly hybridizing species. Which is why going with someone who's experienced and knowledgeable is probably going to trump what you can figure out with a field guide as a newb. Still, a field guide will give you the basics of what lives where during which times of year, and is liable to help you quickly learn the most common and distinctive species around you.
For North American birding, the most useful guide I found was the Sibley Guide to Birds. It's a bit too big to hump into the field, but the fact that Sibley uses his own paintings, rather than photographs, is actually a plus for me, because he mostly gives you the avatar of that species with main plumage variants, so I don't too hung up or fooled by individual looks. YMMV.