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Images in MATLAB and the Image Processing Toolbox

The basic data structure in MATLAB is the array, an ordered set of real or complex elements. This object is naturally suited to the representation of images, real-valued ordered sets of color or intensity data.

MATLAB stores most images as two-dimensional arrays (i.e., matrices), in which each element of the matrix corresponds to a single pixel in the displayed image. (Pixel is derived from picture element and usually denotes a single dot on a computer display.) For example, an image composed of 200 rows and 300 columns of different colored dots would be stored in MATLAB as a 200-by-300 matrix. Some images, such as truecolor images, require a three-dimensional array, where the first plane in the third dimension represents the red pixel intensities, the second plane represents the green pixel intensities, and the third plane represents the blue pixel intensities.

This convention makes working with images in MATLAB similar to working with any other type of matrix data, and makes the full power of MATLAB available for image processing applications. For example, you can select a single pixel from an image matrix using normal matrix subscripting.

This command returns the value of the pixel at row 2, column 15 of the image I.

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