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?

Dustin W. Stout Avatar

40 responses to “Online Image Terminology That You Need to Know”

  1. John Avatar

    I didn’t scroll through all the comments so maybe this has already been mentioned, but there’s another format worth adding: Image Macros which refers to an image (usually a photo) with text superimposed on it (or graphically attached next to or underneath it). These are different than true memes because the image itself isn’t a meme.

  2. John Avatar

    Good luck with that! (Going against popular use.) Like the Impact font you write about, that ship has sailed. Gif(t) is going to be how 99% of the English speaking population pronounce that acronym.

  3. tom Avatar

    Maybe Sign Language?

  4. Dawn Avatar


  5. Ken Harkey Avatar
    Ken Harkey

    I don’t care what anyone says, its still gif (gift without the t) to me dang it haha.

  6. Shauna, Secret Secretary Avatar
    Shauna, Secret Secretary

    Thanks so much for putting that all into some sort of order for me Dustin! Think I’ll have to add more images to my blogs.

  7. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    Well I use Photoshop and try to incorporate my logo into the image in a tasteful way. There are some free software services out there that you can use which I’m currently reviewing and going to put in one of the next parts of this series.

  8. Dawn Avatar

    Thanks so much, Dustin – this is super helpful! As far as getting credit for an image you share, how do you create a watermark? I usually end up trying to squeeze the source into a tiny text line in the bottom corner of the image, which is far from ideal.

  9. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    Glad you liked it David! It’s my pleasure!

  10. David A Haines Avatar

    Hey Dustin, great post. I’m loving the Cinemagraph! It’s such a cool way to present pictures. And of course the Infographics are always great for sharing! Thanks for sharing this info Dustin!!

  11. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    Thanks Charles. I was specifically identifying the types of images people share online, specifically via social channels. The type of media you’re describing is a bit more complicated and a bit less “sharable” in the social sense.

  12. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    I will likely cover this in a future post, but in a nutshell– it’s always best to have something that doesn’t look like it’s a stock photo. But any photo is better than no photo.

  13. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    Thanks so much Zsuzsi! 😀

  14. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    Some of them are very close, and not necessarily a big deal if you can’t tell them apart. But if you can, you’re that much better at communicating to your audience!

  15. Zsuzsi Szabo Avatar

    Dustin, this is a good roundup! When I clicked I felt I don’t need the basics because I know these already, but the infogram was new to me.

    I may use quotes in my next blogposts!!

    I have found your blog from the SME award, congrats!!

  16. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    The linked Wikipedia article explains the origin of the word and how those who created it pronounced it. I tend to side with the creators in these matters rather than popular use.

  17. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    Read the linked Wikipedia article.

  18. Heather Avatar

    LOL, Wow – I always thought it WAS pronounced GIF (like in Gift, without the T), because it stands for Graphics Interchange Format. How/when did GRA-fics become Ji-rafics?

  19. Lisa Wells Avatar

    Hi Dustin,

    I learned a lot – it feels like several of them are darn close to being the same thing. I’ll have to read it again to try and keep them all different in my head.

  20. Rebecca Avatar

    This may be covered in your forthcoming non-suckification article, but is it better to post a (relevant) stock photo to a business Facebook post than to post text only? For example, finding a stock photo of a person lifting weights to go with a post about lifting weights-verses no picture at all? Thanks!

  21. Brian Avatar

    Sorry, it’s GIF as in GIFT with out the T. How do I know that? Because I speak English.

  22. Dewi E Jones Avatar
    Dewi E Jones

    There’s an agricultural version of the selfie called a felfie

  23. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    Haha! I’ve made the mistake myself… never again!

    BTW, have you considered getting yourself a Gravatar?

  24. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    Awesome Joann! I’m glad you found it useful! The Wizard of Oz was one of my favorite movies growing up. 😀

  25. Joann Woolley Avatar

    :put a watermark on it” made me think of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” with the line:
    “if you liked it then you should’ve put a ring on it”

    I’ve seen too many people create an image that goes viral and they didn’t mark it with even their website name.

  26. Joann Woolley Avatar

    Glad you prompted me to read this post Dustin because it was totally in my blindspot that i was using meme incorrectly. Love the “lions and tigers and bears, oh my” reference in the title of this post btw.

  27. Michel Avatar

    Maybe not but it is online image terminology 🙂

  28. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    Got it Michel. But this isn’t a common thing that you would share via social media.

  29. Charles Register Avatar

    Dustin, great piece, easy reading and it’s hard for me to read anything all the way through. This is probably beyond what you were exploring here but another term is “virtual tour”. Sometimes that refers to a series of photographs (usually of a home for sale) that are panned and zoomed in on and often set to music. Others are done with a video camera walking through and moving around a space. I prefer the ones shot with a still camera creating a 360 degree view of an indoor or and outdoor location. This is accomplished with software stitching several photos together. What sets this apart is the viewer can control how and where they look. Then move forward to another view, just as if they were walking through the location. Here’s an example: Triangle Rock Club

  30. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    Yep, sorry cyndi! I’ve fixed that– here’s the link.

  31. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    Later in this series I’ll be sharing how I create images along with some resources that will help anyone create awesome looking images. Stay tuned. 😀

  32. Johnny Avatar

    Wow Dustin, this is realy-realy great. I just wish that I could do it to images, but I can hardly set up a proper Blogg let alone this. Is there anyway how I can do this? like some part of a picture moving like you do? Or do I just have to admire those of you who can?
    Once again I think you are a genuis! very good.

  33. cyndi Avatar

    Hope this isn’t a dumb question, but was there supposed to be a link to click in this line “And in case you want to take a stab at creating your own, here’s an easy way to create your own memes using Google+” …. or have I read that wrong..

  34. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    Thanks Bridget! I do my best to communicate in a way that anyone can understand and everyone can enjoy. 😀

  35. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    Oh that’s a great questions Jenny! to my knowledge there’s nothing like that. The best thing you can do is put a watermark on it.

  36. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    Good call on Autoawesomes Michel! What are 360 animations though?

  37. Bridget Avatar

    Can’t wait for the more – you always make your content so understandable – many thanks!

  38. Jenny Avatar

    Love this Dustin! You lay everything out in a simple yet concise way that makes it so easy to follow. I was wondering if you might be covering how to claim a photo online. In other words, is there a way {similar to a byline} for authorship that a photographer can claim their photo so that there is less of a chance of scraping images?

  39. Michel Avatar

    You missed out

    1) panoramas
    2) 360 animations
    3) subtype of animated gifs which are the Google Auto Awesome

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