What’s The Difference Between a Photo, Picture and an Image?

Have you ever asked yourself what is the difference between a photo and an image? How about the difference between an image and a picture? Are they the same words? or is there any technical difference between them?

Old Cottages at Pinner, 1885-1895 by Helen Allingham, Source: Unsplash

Photo vs Picture

The most used terms in this photography era are photos and pictures and these terms are always interchanged. But the truth is both have close meaning and there is no shame in mixing both. But before that, let’s see their meaning. 

What is a Photo?

A photo is simply a shortening of the word Photograph. A Photograph is an image of an object, person, scene, etc, in the form of a print or slide recorded by a camera on the photosensitive material. In short, it is a real-world representation captured by a camera in any given place and time. 

What is a picture?

A picture is a design or representation made by various means (such as painting, drawing, or photography)

In simple words, the difference between a photo and a picture is if it’s taken by the camera it’s a photo. A picture on the other hand can be a photo as well but be also a drawing or a painting. This means when you use a photo or a picture describing that flower you took with your phone camera you are right in both ways.

Note that when a photo is saved on a computer, the file on a computer is called an image. 

Green alley

Photo vs Image

What is an image?

An image is an optical counterpart or appearance of an object, as is produced by reflection from a mirror, refraction by a lens, or the passage of luminous rays through a small aperture and their reception on a surface.

So this means the main difference between a photo and an image is that an image is broader and can be used to describe more than a result of a camera. A photo is real, an image can be abstract, like a representation in the mind of a picture of yourself.  

Picture vs Image

An image does refer to the optical process while a picture is the actual painting/printed photograph. As stated above an image can also mean the idea of a representation of what something is like. For example, people often say that they can see an image of what they dreamed about.

A photo can be a picture and a picture can be an image. The other way around is not necessarily true.