Online Image Terminology That You Need to Know

What is a meme? How do you pronounce gif? What is considered an infographic? What’s the difference between a gif and a cinemagraph?

As we begin to take a deep dive into the complex world of sharing images online, I thought it was important to first go over online image terminology. I want us to be able to communicate more effectively, or at least have a reference point when we are talking about the different types of images that are shared online. This will make our conversations more effective and make you sound like the super-savvy online rock star that you are.

Think of this post as your official online image terminology dictionary. (Say that five times fast!)

There are many different types or formats of online imagery. Below I have identified the most commonly shared formats and even introduced a couple new words that help to classify image types that have yet to find their own name.

This is part of my Essential Guide to Sharing Images Online series. You can view the rest of the posts in this series here.


The most common image type is the classic photo. This is a static (non-moving) image captured with a camera. It is not engineered by a graphic artist from scratch— this is a real life capture from the real world. It may have had some work done to beautify it, but the subject matter is taken through a camera lens.

For example:

how to make visual content desk setup

Hang in there folks, we gotta start with the basics!


A gif (pronounced like JIF, the peanut butter brand— not as in “gift” without the ’t’) is an image format that allows for animation. It gives the ability to make “moving” images that play in an infinite loop. (via Wikipedia) A gif can be static, but the format is most commonly used to make animations.

For example:

michelle obama dunks

Animated gifs seem to be quite popular and tend to get a lot of social shares when they are humorous. [Image credit: SBNation]

And just so we’re clear, the proper way to pronounce GIF is with a soft ‘g’ sound. As in gin, giraffe, and general.


Cinemagraphs are still photographs in which a minor and repeated movement occurs. Cinemagraphs, which are usually published in an animated gif format, can give the illusion that the viewer is watching a video. (via Wikipedia)

For example:

binoculars cinemagraph

These are like the high fashion form of gifs. Great ones can be completely captivating, or really creepy like this one:

blink cinemagraph

[Image credit:]


A selfie is a type of self-portrait photograph, typically taken with a hand-held digital camera or camera phone. It’s also one of the most overused words of 2013.

In most cases it’s customary to make a strange, duck-like face when taking a selfie, however not making that face won’t disqualify it as a selfie.

For example:

dustin selfie

Notice I have refrained from making said duck-face. I refuse.


meme [mēm] (noun) a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc. that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users. (As defined by Google.)

For our purposes we’re focusing on the “image” application. A meme is most commonly recognizable by having a big white-text caption over top of an image that is meant to be humorous.

For example:

apple maps iphone 5 meme

And in case you want to take a stab at creating your own, has an entire category for meme templates that are insanely easy to customize.


in·fo·graph·ic [infōˈgrafik] (noun) a visual image such as a chart or diagram used to represent information or data. (As defined by Google.)

Now I often see people referring to any type of graphic with words on it an infographic. I don’t think that’s an accurate representation of what an infographic should be. In my opinion, an infographic is any graphic image which communicates multiple data points in a visual manner.

For example:

facebook image sizes infographic

Infographics are one of the best ways to communicate interesting data in a way that people will actually enjoy reading. They’re highly sharable (especially on Pinterest) and when done right can be one of the best forms of content marketing.

Oh, and by the way— it just so happens to be one of the things I love doing. Feel free to contact me here to learn more.


An Infogram is a completely new or concise part of an infographic that works as a standalone piece of content. (defined by NeoMam)

For example:

how to brand your pins

This is a great way of repurposing an infographic for different mediums that may not support very long [tall] images. It can serve as a snapshot (or Headline Graphic) or as part of a slide show.

Headline Graphic, Title Graphic, Feature Image, Hero Image

For every blog post I write, I create one of these types of images. They’re called different things by different people and for all intents and purposes each of the names listed above works just fine.

These images are created with the explicit purpose of being a visual headline for a blog post, article, or webpage.

For example:

choose brand colors with paint samples all over a desk

[Scroll back to the top of the page and see what I’ve done for this post.]

This is a great way to draw attention to a social media post that is promoting a blog post. Visuals will elicit far more engagement and click-through than just a stand alone text post. I’ve done significant testing of this on Google+ and found sharing images always yields more engagement.

Quote Graphic

Quote graphics are those insanely popular and highly sharable images you see flood your Google+, Facebook, and Pinterest streams. Simply put, it’s a quote that has been created as an image.

For example:

fonts quote

Although the internet seems to be flooded with these types of images, the ones that are done well can gain a lot of exposure very quickly.

And there you have it

So now that we’ve got some basic online image terminology covered, we can start breaking down specifics on sharing legality, curation, creation, optimal dimensions and non-suckification. Stay tuned for the next part in the Essential Guide to Sharing Images Online series.

In the meantime, are there any formats that I’ve left out? Would you add/take away anything from the definitions above?