I am looking to improve my understanding of raster formats and how to manipulate them. I do not really want to go into the mathematics of it, but really want to know the differences between the different formats available, best practices, performance optimization etc.

Does anyone have any good sources which they would like to share?


IMHO the best tutorials I know about this matter are:

  • the GDAL Raster Formats about raster formats, where you can find a very exhaustive description of the most used raster formats, their creation option and various hidden properties;
  • the GDAL utilities about raster manipulation.

These are a very good starting point.


Getting into Raster processing with GDAL is a very effective place to start and this tutorial on Geoprocessing with Python using Open Source GIS is great if a little old. The first few lessons are on Vector data but you get to the Raster soon enough.

Also, reading the ESRI documentation on raster data is very informative about processing methods and possible approaches often with examples. The link will take you to the documentation pages and you can explore the wealth of information there (especially the pages on how a tool works). Obviouslt tools will vary from GIS to GIS but they are often called similar things as they are mostly named by function.

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If you are up for some Esri training, they have a number of Virtual Campus courses available that deal with rasters. The search link is included below. Some you might start off with could be:

  • Basics of Raster Data
  • Displaying Raster Data Using ArcGIS
  • Working With Rasters in ArcGIS Desktop


Depending on your familiarity, there are also more advanced courses available too.

The ones I listed above are all pay courses. However, there are also a few webinars in the search results that are free and may be worth looking into as well.

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This is a wide field to investigate. A common understanding of the raster concept in GIS and areal imaging can be found at CRISP. The understanding of data formats is a more complex task. Some formats will be desinged or developed for certain purpose, like technical handling of multiband satellite images or specialized storage of climate and weather modelling stuff netcdf or grib. Other data formats addressing portable image container formats with embbeded metadata and image lists like TIFF with GIS extentions like GeoTiff. There are data formats which will be related to the advanced underling hard- or software (at the time) like ECW, MrSID, SGI, sun raster file or TGA. At least you can find tutorials, how to deal with raster in an alogithmic way often subsumised under the buzzword "Computer Vision". OpenCV is one of the popular open source libraries, which helps you to work raster stuff with good tutorials and computer language backends like C++ and Python. For GIS related open source based format conversations and storage is GDAL (in format description as well as in tutorial terms WIKI/API) a well documented library and toolkit.

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