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The Essence of

Image Basics


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Image Introduction
Image Basics
JPG ''Lossiness''
Picture ''Anatomy"
Color Models
Colors - More Facts
Image Tools
Image "Tweaks"
Animated Images
Resolution and DPI
Printing after
Digital Cameras
Binary and Hexadecimal
with Color
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Image ''Burden''
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Photo Facts - Diagrams

Image Basics -

There may be some of you who have thus far had no particular interest in looking at the make-up and construction of images but perhaps wish now to learn a little more. The examples shown below are used to help illustrate the essence of the subject and I have tried to include enough material to give at least some idea, without trying to get too deep - but maybe perhaps wet your appetite!

We should discuss image formats for completeness, but as far as "The Web" is concerned, we are at the moment only really concerned with .JPG ("jaypeg") and .GIF ("Jiff"). Most image applications have their own "save" format (eg. .PSD extension in PhotoShop®"), able to store all information on changes made and properties etc - but ultimately, it is just these two we will cover, other formats being used to create an image but the "save" being to these formats. (You may have come across the .PNG type too - this is in use and versatile and may be used on the Web more in future, but file sizes are for my liking too much on the large size).

The most basic format is BMP (bitmap) ..... here, every pixel is saved ''as is' and there is no compression. The file size stored is the same as file size in memory when displayed (JPG for example, compressed 10:1 could be 10k stored but 100k in memory when displayed.). BMP is of little use generally for web display because of shere file size relative to image size! Don't post Bit Maps!!

GIF is limited to 8 bit - 256 colors and has some compression. One of its most useful attributes is the ability to select one specific color and make that transparent - very useful for use on web pages. Furthermore ... it is possible to ''sequence'' a set of GIF images to make small animations .... everyone is familiar with the smilies etc!! There is a brief description of this on the animations page , (opens new window).

For most of the sections we are using the .JPG format which can compress the image, and these have been saved using the highest resolution sampling/compression algorithm, minimising color degradation. As a generalisation, the .JPG format permits a large color range (up to 16 million colors) and higher degrees of compression. The .GIF format is based on a 256 color total, and while versatile with regard to transparent colors etc, is generally larger and less compressible then .JPG.

Note - JPG is referred to as ''lossy'' compression, and if images are over compressed then when viewed (decompressed) they will not return to as they were. Typically, some losses are found in the colors but most of all, edge definition can be degraded. When viewed close in, it can appear that there is a lot of ''pixel spilling'' or ''ghosting'' ....... edges are no longer clean. Take a look at JPG Examples (new window) to see the effects of compression when useful limits are exceeded.

Let's look closer at the digital image itself .......

Starting image
Starting with a fairly ordinary "snapshot" type of picture, reduced in size and compressed as far as I dare without too much loss. Look at a higher res' version if you wish.

Statistics - 200 x 145 pixels, 24 bit RGB color, 85K in memory and 5K on disk (17:1 compression). Total pixel count is 29,000 and original resolution was 240. Format progressive .jpg with YUV 4,4,4 subsampling algorithm.

Let's now have a look at the content of this at higher magnification -

I am showing the image above, with a mask drawn around the face area. This enclosed area in the mask is then copied to the clipboard and pasted as a new image. It is then enlarged back up to the 200 x 145 size, thus magnifying the pixel structure - see pic' below for the result.

Sample area selected

Pixel structure is now visible
Now we have just the face area but magnified about three times. Notice how "blocky" the image now appears. This shows how necessary a lot of pixels, or "image blocks" are to make a picture appear well defined.

By slightly squinting the eyes however, we can still approximate to a recogniseable image and see what it is.

Taking the previous and enlarged image - we again place a mask and include just a small part containing an eye, cheek and some hair.

Now we will further copy to the clipboard and again pasting as a new image - with an enlargement to return to a size of 200 x 145. See next picture for the result of that.

Selecting a further small region

Pixels now very clearly seen
We now have a further magnication or enlargement of some 4 times. From the original picture this represents a "blow-up" factor of around 12.

This now is an all but unintelligible image - content unknown, and is unuseable but shows clearly the make up of pixels as color blocks within the image.

To conclude, here is a purposely "pixelized" version of the original - whereby we have artificially decreased resolution over the whole picture.

Again, a squinting view will almost approximate the original but of course the fine detail is gone due to not having enough pixels or "image blocks" to spread all the details. This may help show how pixel density relates to perceived quality.

A false 'pixelized'' effect

This is a very abreviated coverage of image construction but should at least give some idea as to how pixel density can affect the ability to resolve detail, along with the relationship between pixels and file sizes.

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