# Digital image processing using MATLAB: digital image representation 4

Posted by **Steve Eddins**,

Today I'm starting an regular, occasional series with tutorial material on digital image processing using MATLAB. I'm going
to look at topics in roughly the order used in the book *Digital Image Processing Using MATLAB*, Gatesmark Publishing, 2009, by Gonzalez, Woods, and Eddins. (Yes, that's me. It was a lot of nights and weekends.)

### Contents

### Digital image representation

Let's start with digital image representation. (I do not plan to cover image formation. For that topic, see Chapter 2 of *Digital Image Processing*, Prentice Hall, 2008, by Gonzalez and Woods.) The common mathematical representation of an image is a function of two continuous
spatial coordinates: \( f(x,y) \). The value \( f(x_0,y_0) \) is often called the image *intensity* at \( (x_0,y_0) \), although that term is used loosely because it often does not represent actual light intensity. The term *gray level* is also commonly used.

You can represent a color image mathematically in a couple of different ways. One way is to use a collection of image functions, one per color component, such as \( r(x,y) \), \( g(x,y) \), and \( b(x,y) \). Another way is to use a vector-valued function, \( {\mathbf f}(x,y) \).

Many functions in the Image Processing Toolbox also support higher-dimensional images. For example, \( f \) might be a function of three spatial variable, as in \( f(x,y,z) \). Image Processing Toolbox documentation calls this a *multidimensional image*.

Converting the amplitude values of \( f \) to a set of discrete values is called *quantization*. Capturing those values at discrete spatial coordinates is called *sampling*. When \( x \), \( y \), and the values of \( f \) are all finite, discrete quantities, we call *f* a *digital image*.

### Coordinate conventions

It's important to pay attention to different coordinate system conventions that may be used in image processing. Often the
center of the upper-left pixel is considered to be the origin, (0,0). There is more variation in the assignment of \( x \) and \( y \) axes. The coordinate system in the diagram below, with the \( x \)-axis pointing down and the \( y \)-axis pointing to the right, is used in *Digital Image Processing Using MATLAB* in order to be consistent with the Gonzalez and Woods book, *Digital Image Processing*.

*From Figure 2.1, Digital Image Processing Using MATLAB, 2nd ed. Used with permission.*

When displaying images in MATLAB, the usual convention is for the center of the upper-left pixel to be at (1,1), the \( x \)-axis to point to the right, and the \( y \)-axis to point down.

### Images as matrices and arrays

Digital images are very conveniently represented as matrices, which happens to be great for working with in MATLAB. A monochrome image matrix looks like this:

f(1,1) f(1,2) ... f(1,N) f(2,1) f(2,2) ... f(2,N) . . . . . . . . . f(M,1) f(M,2) ... f(M,N)

(This happy marriage of a convenient digital image representation and the MATLAB strength at working with matrices is, more or less, the reason I ended up working at MathWorks.)

We represent color images in MATLAB as multidimensional arrays. For example, an RGB image (with three color components) is represented as an M-by-N-by-3 array. A CMYK image (with four color components) would use an M-by-N-by-4 array.

Multidimensional images are also represented in MATLAB as multidimensional arrays. Therefore we rely on context to distinguish
between an RGB image (M-by-N-by-3) and a three-dimensional image with three z-plane slices (also M-b-N-by-3). For example,
if you pass an M-by-N-by-3 array to `rgb2gray`, it is clear from the context that the input should be interpreted as an RGB color image and not as a three-dimensional image.

### For more information

For more information, see Section 2.1 of *Digital Image Processing Using MATLAB*. See also the section Image Coordinate Systems in the Image Processing Toolbox User's Guide.

Get the MATLAB code

Published with MATLAB® 7.12

**Category:**- DIPUM tutorials

### Note

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## 4 CommentsOldest to Newest

**1**of 4

Hey Steve, Thanks for the post and the pointers. I always had this issue in not having the image (or imagesc) in the “pixel coordinate system” – I’m dealing with vector data in head slices and I would love to be able to have a 1-on-1 correspondence between the value of my Image matrix pixel and the one displayed on the screen by imagesc.

I’m still struggling with this, and plan to write a little function which does the following 2 things:

1) get(gca,’currentpoint’) => and swap the x,y

2) edit “text update function” of datatip

Is there a better work-around converting from defaulted spatial coordinate system (of imagesc) to pixel coordinate system? Please let me know your thoughts, would appreciate it.

Thanks,

– Vick

**2**of 4

Vick—If you have the Image Processing Toolbox, the function axes2pix might be useful.

**3**of 4

Hey Steve,I think this articl is an excellent work! Even old materials could be cast in lights.

I’ve worked with IPT about 2 years,but I just know little about 3D reconstruction/ 3d Display.And I cannot understand the contents of “help isosurface”and other 3D Visualization documents because I know nothing about the Algorithms of 3D R/D(such as Marching Cubes,etc). The materials about these algorithms are hard to learn. SO can you,our master, write sth about?

**4**of 4

Sharing—I don’t know that much about 3D reconstruction and visualization algorithms myself. But I’m not sure why you would need to understand the underlying algorithms in order to use a function such as isosurface.

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