Reading Images in Python: A Comprehensive Guide

Python is a versatile programming language that can be used for a variety of tasks, including reading and manipulating images. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore how to use Python to read images, including the various libraries and methods available. We will also dive into the details of image processing and how to extract useful information from images.

Table of Contents

Introduction to Image Processing

Image processing is the manipulation of an image to extract useful information or to enhance its visual appearance. It involves a series of operations, including image acquisition, image enhancement, image analysis, and image interpretation. Image processing has a wide range of applications, including medical imaging, video processing, and computer vision.

In Python, there are several libraries available for image processing, including Pillow, OpenCV, and scikit-image. These libraries provide a range of functions for reading, writing, and manipulating images.

Reading Images in Python

Before we can start processing images in Python, we need to know how to read them. The most commonly used library for reading images in Python is Pillow. To use Pillow, we need to install it first:

!pip install Pillow

Once Pillow is installed, we can use it to open an image:

from PIL import Image

img ='image.jpg')

In the above example, we opened an image called ‘image.jpg’. We can now access the properties of the image, such as its size and format:


Image Formats

Images can be stored in various formats, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Some common image formats include JPEG, PNG, BMP, and GIF.

JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) is a popular image format that uses lossy compression to reduce the file size. It is suitable for photographs and other complex images that have a lot of detail.

PNG (Portable Network Graphics) is a lossless image format that supports transparency. It is suitable for images that require high-quality and precise details, such as logos and graphics.

BMP (Bitmap) is a simple image format that stores images as a grid of pixels. It is suitable for simple images, such as icons and buttons.

GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) is a format that supports animation and transparency. It is suitable for small animations and simple images that require transparency.

Manipulating Images

Once we have opened an image, we can manipulate it using various functions provided by the Pillow library. Some common operations include cropping, resizing, and rotating.

Cropping an image involves selecting a part of the image and discarding the rest. We can crop an image using the crop function:

crop = img.crop((10, 10, 50, 50))

In the above example, we cropped the image to a rectangle with coordinates (10, 10) and (50, 50).

Resizing an image involves changing its size while maintaining its aspect ratio. We can resize an image using the resize function:

resized = img.resize((200, 200))

In the above example, we resized the image to a size of 200×200 pixels.

Rotating an image involves rotating it by a certain angle. We can rotate an image using the rotate function:

rotated = img.rotate(90)

In the above example, we rotated the image by 90 degrees.

Image Filtering

Image filtering is the process of applying a filter to an image to enhance or modify its appearance. There are various types of filters, including blurring, sharpening, and edge detection.

Blurring an image involves smoothing out the details in an image. We can blur an image using the blur function:

blurred = img.filter(ImageFilter.BLUR)

In the above example, we blurred the image using the BLUR filter.

Sharpening an image involves increasing the contrast between adjacent pixels. We can sharpen an image using the sharpen function:

sharpened = img.filter(ImageFilter.SHARPEN)

In the above example, we sharpened the image using the SHARPEN filter.

Edge detection involves highlighting the edges in an image. We can detect edges in an image using the Canny function:

from skimage import feature

edges = feature.canny(img)

In the above example, we detected edges in the image using the Canny function from the scikit-image library.

Image Segmentation

Image segmentation is the process of dividing an image into multiple segments, each of which corresponds to a different object or region in the image. There are various methods for image segmentation, including thresholding, clustering, and region growing.

Thresholding involves converting an image to a binary image by setting all pixels above a certain threshold to 1 and all pixels below the threshold to 0:

from skimage import filters

threshold = filters.threshold_otsu(img)
binary = img > threshold

In the above example, we used the Otsu method to automatically determine the threshold value.

Clustering involves grouping similar pixels together based on their color or intensity:

from sklearn.cluster import KMeans

kmeans = KMeans(n_clusters=2).fit(img.reshape(-1, 1))
labels = kmeans.predict(img.reshape(-1, 1))
clustered = labels.reshape(img.shape)

In the above example, we used K-means clustering to group the pixels into two clusters.

Region growing involves starting from a seed pixel and growing a region around it by adding pixels that have similar properties:

from skimage import measure

label_image = measure.label(edges)
regions = measure.regionprops(label_image)
for region in regions:
    if region.area < 100:
    bbox = region.bbox
    crop = img[bbox[0]:bbox[2], bbox[1]:bbox[3]]

In the above example, we used the Canny function to detect edges and then used region growing to identify regions in the image.


Python provides several libraries for reading and processing images, making it a versatile tool for image processing tasks. In this guide, we have explored some of the common operations and techniques used in image processing. By combining these techniques, we can extract useful information from images and enhance their visual appearance.

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