I have several hundred tif files of ~50mb each where I need to read only a few hundred pixels within a polygon. I currently do this by loading each tif into memory and using rasterio.features.geometry_mask to get the pixels of interest. But reading in the large tifs takes a very long time.

import fiona
import rasterio

with fiona.open('polygon.geojson') as f:

for tif_filename in tif_file_list:
    with rasterio.open(tif_filename) as raster_obj:
        polygon_mask = rasterio.features.geometry_mask(geometries=[geom],
                                               out_shape=(raster_obj.height, raster_obj.width),


Is there any way I can use the Window option to only read the portion of the raster I want? For example I can read just the extent of the area of interest:

with fiona.open('polygon.geojson') as f:
    b = f.bounds

polygon_window = rasterio.windows.from_bounds(left=b[0],
                                              transform = raster_obj.transform)

extent_data = raster_obj.read(1, window=polygon_window)

This takes a fraction of the time, but I can't figure out how to then get the pixel data from only within the polygon.

  • Use the Affine object to translate from pixel's (centre) row,col to x,y coordinates for each pixel. Check with fiona if that point is inside your polygon.
    – nickves
    Commented Mar 3, 2018 at 1:48
  • you might want to use a VRT to access the sub tiff data
    – Bwyss
    Commented Jan 13, 2021 at 23:59

2 Answers 2


It wasn't clear to me what you wanted initially. You basically need to create a raster mask from your polygon with the same resolution as your tiff.

You should check out rasterstats. If you're willing to install the package, it's as simple as feeding the raster and the polygon with "raster_out" flag set to True. Then you get exactly your pixels within the polygon.

If you are averse to installing the package for some reason, the relevant portions are

with Raster(raster, affine, nodata, band_num) as rast:
    features_iter = read_features(vectors, layer)
    for i, feat in enumerate(features_iter):
        geom = shape(feat['geometry'])

        if 'Point' in geom.type:
            geom = boxify_points(geom, rast)

        geom_bounds = tuple(geom.bounds)

        fsrc = rast.read(bounds=geom_bounds)

        # create ndarray of rasterized geometry
        rv_array = rasterize_geom(geom, like=fsrc, all_touched=all_touched)

"geom" is a shapely geometry object. "fsrc" is the initial raster you created (extent_data). The function "rasterize_geom" is as follows:

from rasterio import features
def rasterize_geom(geom, like, all_touched=False):
    geoms = [(geom, 1)]
    rv_array = features.rasterize(
    return rv_array

If you're trying to compute statistics, you can use rasterstats, which is built on rasterio. Your question didn't quite specify which pixels you're looking for, but rasterstats will load only the portions of the raster you need and create a mask for pixels outside that polygon. I haven't tried it, but I see from digging around the code that you can supply a shapefile of points as well as polygons.

If you're in a conda environment, install with

conda install -c conda-forge rasterstats
  • extent_data is a numpy array, so there are no methods in it to geo-reference the area within the polygon. I took a quick look at rasterstats but I don't see anything in the documentation that suggests it doesn't read the entire tif.
    – Shawn
    Commented Mar 2, 2018 at 23:17
  • 1
    @Shawn rasterstats only reads in the pixels for the extent of each geometry. See the source of the rasterstats.gen_zonal_stats function.
    – user2856
    Commented Mar 3, 2018 at 4:29
  • @Shawn I didn't understand what you were asking initially. See my edited answer for the relevant portions of rasterstats.
    – Jon
    Commented Mar 3, 2018 at 15:48

Thanks @Jon, I ended up using the Raster module in rasterstats to get what I wanted. This code only reads the portion of the raster which is within the bounds of the polygon, which cuts the reading time down a lot. While I could use the zonal_stats function in rasterstats, I wanted to pull all pixel values for further processing elsewhere.

import rasterio
import fiona
from rasterstats.io import Raster

with fiona.open('polygon.geojson') as f:
    geom_bounds = f.bounds

for tif_filename in tif_file_list:
    with Raster(tif_filename) as raster_obj:
        raster_subset = raster_obj.read(bounds=geom_bounds) 
        polygon_mask = rasterio.features.geometry_mask(geometries=[geom],

  • As I mentioned in my answer, if you use rasterstats (without computing any stats) and the "raster_out" flag set to true, you do get back the raster and its mask, i.e. all the pixel values. But glad you found a solution!
    – Jon
    Commented Mar 3, 2018 at 21:50

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