What is the difference between an image, photo, and a picture?
Today, most people consider an image, picture, and photograph (photo) as synonyms (the same word) when talking about a visual representation of an object on a computer. However, for the sake of ambiguity, we define each of these as follows.
- Image - Any visual object that is modified or altered by a computer or an imaginary object that is created using a computer.
- Photo or photograph - Anything taken by a camera, digital camera, or photocopier.
- Picture - A drawing, painting, or artwork created on a computer. A picture is also used to describe anything created using a camera or scanner.
In the image above is a visual example of the differences between these three words. First, the image is a photo of a computer keyboard that was altered by a computer to help show where the bumps on a keyboard are positioned by circling the bumps on the F and J keys. Next, the photo is a photograph of a man setting up photographs at a local market taken by a digital camera. Finally, the picture is of a man holding up a Computer Hope logo that was all created using a computer.
If you're following a style guide that prefers one of these words over another, we suggest following your style guidelines. If you have no style guide for your writing, we suggest either following our usage of these words or always use the same word in all your writing.
According to Google Trends the word "photo" is used more than any of these words on the Internet followed by image, photograph, and then picture.
There are other visual objects created on a computer that may fall into their own category, such as clip art, graphic, illustration, render, and a screenshot. When talking about any of these, we suggest using the proper terms instead of image, photo, or picture. In other words, if you're working with clip art, refer to it as clip art instead of a picture.