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What is a Pixel?

Lesson 17 from: The Beginner Photographer’s Crash Course

Khara Plicanic

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Lesson Info

17. What is a Pixel?

Lesson Info

What is a Pixel?

We have gone through all kinds of things. Understanding exposure, et cetera, shooting modes, camera functions and here we are, we're on the home stretch a little bit. Image size, resolution and we're gonna talk a little bit about format too. And JPEGs versus RAW. So we're gonna start... This is heavy on audience participation. So, I'm counting on you guys. We're gonna start with "What is a pixel?" Who wants to take a stab at answering that? (laughs) Gabby's like, "What! Not me, not me." Is a pixel a single point of light? Ooo! Or light censor maybe? It is a... Interesting. Single point, it's a point, it's a square technically. It is the building blocks of our photos. Our photos are made up of pixels the way that a wall might be made of bricks. K? Here is a visual for you. So, if we zoom in really close on our photos. This is my son again. (chuckles) He's everywhere. (laughs) And if we zoom really in closely on a portion of this photo then we can see little squares. Those little...

tiny squares are the actual pixels. They comprise the photo itself. And actually, the word pixel comes from the combination of two words, picture and element. Picture, element (makes crashing noise) came together and crashed and then we have the word pixel. So that's where that comes from. If a pixel is a little square, if it's a building block of our photos, then do you suppose a megapixel is? (laughs) Take a stab at it, Gabby. A picture. Just an actually picture cause-- (Khara) That would make sense! Kinda sorta yeah. Cause it's bigger than a pixel. In a way, that is correct. So a megapixel is a big, fat giant one. No, I'm kidding. (man laughs) It's slang for million pixels. For one million pixels. (man laughs) That is such an old school joke. I think I've worn that one out. I'm not even good at telling that but... (man laughs) Yes, Austin Powers. Okay, so what is... A megapixel is a million pixels. If you have a camera that is a 10 megapixel camera, that means it's capturing about 10 million pixels in each photo. Does that make sense? It's just slang but it's a million pixels. Okay, so the more important question is why do we care about pixels? Anybody? I know, I told you, just hold on to the mic cause we're doing talk a little bit here up front. Well if each picture is made of these pixels, I think the more you have, the bigger the picture can be. Yes! You nailed it. We care because the more we have the more options we have for how we output that image. Okay and it gets a little confusing, it gets a whole lot of confusing, to be honest, when we talk about what's required or what's necessary because what we use on a screen is not equal to a print requirement. Often times, especially as a designer... I have a background in design and when I would work on a newsletter for a company or something, or recently I was designing business cards and when people give me photos to use and these different things, they often just grab them off of a web, off the company website. They don't know where the actual file is because they're like everyone else and they can't find anything on their hard drive. So they just find it on the web, on their company web page or whatever, and then they save it in an email and email it to me. And I'm like, I can't use this for your print because print has different requirements. We'll talk about that, but there is a difference. But the hard thing is when people look at it on a screen, they think, well it's fine, it's right here and look how big it is on my screen. We're gonna talk about why that's not the case with print.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Bonus Video - Shooting In Natural Light HD
New Camera Setup

Ratings and Reviews

Kate Ambers

Khara is awesome! She really breaks down how the camera works, photography terminology, and technique. She does it all with a fun and entertaining personality and really makes it easy to understand what you are learning! I love this course!!! So worth it!

Holly Cooper

Loved this course and have recommended it to a friend who is looking to purchase his first DSLR. This course is perfect for beginners or someone who is self taught and who has picked a few bits up along the way; Khara then puts all these little bits of information together. I feel like the pieces have come together for me and I have taken my best/favourite photographs after watching these videos. Thank you CL and Thank you Khara x


I’ve taken a number of excellent courses from Creative Live, and this very thoughtfully organized, well taught class took me from “I love photography but I’ll never get how to do it” to “wow I get it!” It created a huge shift (finally!) for me. There is an intelligent simplicity that really does make for lightbulb moments. I’m extremely grateful for this class. Now I can go back and watch the others courses again and they will make much more sense and I can apply what I learned here.

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