3 Things You May Not Know About Pixels, and Why They’re Important

If you are a beginning photographer just getting to understand the world of digital photography, it is important to understand the nature of pixels – those little dots of color that are in every photograph. Here is a summary of three things you might not know about pixels that can help you master your images for photo sharing:
Picture Element

The word “pixel” actually combines two words: picture and element. As such, a pixel is the small particle, or element, that makes up the parts of a picture. When you start photo sharing, understanding pixels can become important in order to create the best images.

Pixels are very small units of color, similar to cross stitches on a cross-stitched pillow. When an image has many pixels in it, it has many dots per inch of color. In such images, it may be very difficult to actually see the small units of color from a normal distance. However, if you get very close to the computer monitor, you might see small squares, each with a different color.

Alternatively, if you were to blow up a small image on a computer screen, you would see that once the image gets larger and larger, there are very defined boundaries of color. For example, an eyeball would contain square blocks up close. However, when viewed from a distance, the square blocks, or pixels, would not be noticeable.


There are two major types of color systems that are commonly used: CMYK and RGB. The major distinction between these two types of files is that CMYK images are considered to be optimal for printed materials and RGB images are best for computer screens and televisions. Here’s why:

RGB – RGB stands for Red, Green, and Blue. Television screens and early computer monitors were made up of tiny light bulbs that would illuminate in a certain combination in order to create an image. Most television viewers might not have known that there were small light bulbs in their TVs unless they stood within inches of the screen.

Thus, in order to optimize an image for the television and early computer monitors, the image needed to be comprised of a color system of red, green, and blue variants.

CMYK – CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black. This color system is used for printers because most printers use a four-color process. This means that all images will be prepared using ink in these four colors. Therefore, the image needs to be optimized for printing by putting it into the CMYK system.

Size Matters

The sizes (in megabytes) of the images that your camera takes matters. Most cameras take images that are over 6 megabytes. The larger the number megabytes in a photo means that there is more information stored in the image. Therefore, if more information is stored in each dot, the image can be blown up to a larger size without losing image quality.

Therefore, if you want to blow your photos up to poster size or more, make sure that your camera takes photos with a high number of megabytes, such as 7 or even 10.

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