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How Computers See Images

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The smallest element of an image is called a pixel, or a picture element. It’s basically a dot in the picture. An image contains multiple pixels arranged in rows and columns.

You’ll often see the number of rows and columns expressed as the image resolution. For example, an Ultra HD TV has the resolution of 3840x2160, meaning that it’s 3840 pixels wide and 2160 pixels high.

But a computer does not understand pixels as dots of color. It only understands numbers. To convert colors to numbers, the computer uses various color models.

In color images, pixels are often represented in the RGB color model. RGB stands for Red Green Blue. Each pixel is a mix of those three colors. RGB is great at modeling all the colors humans perceive by combining various amounts of red, green, and blue.

Since a computer only understand numbers, every pixel is represented by three numbers, corresponding to the amounts of red, green, and blue present in that pixel. You can learn more about color spaces in Image Segmentation Using Color Spaces in OpenCV + Python.

In grayscale (black and white) images, each pixel is a single number, representing the amount of light, or intensity, it carries. In many applications, the range of intensities is from 0 (black) to 255 (white). Everything between 0 and 255 is various shades of gray.

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