Ever mixed up the terms photo, image, and picture? You’re not alone. While they seem similar, they each have unique meanings. Let’s explore these differences and clear up any confusion.
Oxford & Cambridge dictionary definitions
I dug up official Oxford and Cambridge dictionary definitions of nouns (not verbs) photo, image, and picture.
- a picture that is made by using a camera that stores images in digital form or that has a film sensitive to light inside it (Oxford)
- a photograph (Cambridge), a picture produced using a camera (Cambridge)
- a picture, photograph or statue that represents somebody/something (Oxford)
- any picture, especially one formed by a mirror or a lens (Cambridge)
- a painting or drawing, etc. that shows a scene, a person or thing (Oxford)
- a drawing, painting, photograph, etc. (Cambridge)
- Photo vs. picture: A photo is a camera-captured scene or object. Picture is broader, encompassing all visuals.
- Photos vs. photographs: Simply two terms for the same thing—camera-taken pictures.
- Photo vs. image: Photos are camera-taken, images could be anything visual.
- Image vs. photo: An image is any visual representation. A photo is a subset, taken by a camera.
- Pictures vs. images: Pictures include photos and hand-drawn art. Images are all-encompassing.
- Photograph vs. picture: Both are visuals, but ‘photograph’ hints at camera use.
- Image vs. picture: Image is a broad term for all visuals, while ‘picture’ often suggests a physical, hand-made piece like a painting.
Stock photo vs. stock image
Every time I write about stock photos, I see that people get confused about the differences between a stock photo and a stock image. While the definition is akin to the ones above, stock image sites generally use them like this:
- Stock photo: Stock photos are professional photographs available for licensing, covering a wide range of subjects. They’re designed for versatile use, ideal for businesses, advertisers, and media needing quality images without the cost of custom shoots. Stock photos are commonly seen in marketing materials, websites, and publications, helping to convey specific ideas or themes.
- Stock image: Broader than stock photos, ‘stock image’ includes vectors, illustrations, and digital art, alongside traditional photos. Available for licensing, they serve various purposes, offering more creative options beyond what photos can. Stock images cater to diverse needs, from vector logos for branding to illustrated infographics for educational content. They are a comprehensive resource for a range of visual requirements.