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Analyze imagery using raster functions

Raster functions provide a quick and powerful way to analyze or process your imagery and remote sensing data in ArcGIS.

Traditional image analysis methods, where each processing step is applied to an image to produce a new dataset, can require significant computing power, take a long time to process, and produce unnecessary intermediate datasets that required additional storage space and data management. Additionally, optimizing parameters and processing workflows often requires re-running the entire processing sequence.

For many image analysis workflows, the raster functions in ArcGIS offer a valuable alternative. Raster functions are operations that apply processing directly to the pixels of imagery and raster datasets (as opposed to geoprocessing tools, which write out a new raster to disk).

Since no intermediate datasets are created, processes can be applied quickly, as opposed to the time it would take to create a processed file on disk. As you zoom and pan around, the calculations are performed and rendered on the fly. The functions are only applied to the display extent (the area you are currently viewing) and at the current display resolution, so only pixels that are visible on your screen are processed. This means you can complete your analyses rapidly, without having to wait for long processing times. No new datasets are created, reducing the need for storage space and data management.

If you wish to save the product of a raster function analysis, you can also save those outputs as their own dataset. Raster functions can be applied locally or on the server. They can be chained together to create new, customized functions. You can use any of the hundreds of out-of-the-box ArcGIS raster functions, or create your own using Python. Finally, when published as part of an image service, your custom processing can be shared with end users inside and outside your organization.

Explore the following resources to learn more about using raster functions for image analysis in ArcGIS. (Not sure where to start? Look for the star by Esri's most helpful resources.)

Raster functions can be run using ArcGIS Pro, ArcGIS Image Server, or your ArcGIS Enterprise portal. Additional raster functions are available with ArcGIS Image Analyst and ArcGIS Spatial Analyst. You can also create your own raster functions using ArcPy.

Imagery Workflows resources

Community-supported tools and best practices for working with and automating imagery and remote sensing workflows:

ArcGIS Help

Reference material for ArcGIS Pro, ArcGIS Online, and ArcGIS Enterprise:

ArcGIS blogs, articles, story maps, and technical papers

Review the following supplemental guidance about concepts, software functionality, and workflows:


Review the following Esri-produced videos that clarify and demonstrate concepts, software functionality, and workflows:

Training and tutorials

Review the following guided lessons and tutorials based on real-world problems and key ArcGIS skills:

ArcGIS Solutions

Review the following industry-specific configurations for ArcGIS:

Developer resources

Review the following resources and support for automating and customizing workflows:

Technical support

Review the following troubleshooting resources from Esri's tech support team:

Esri Community

Use the online Esri community to connect, collaborate, and share experiences:

* Esri's top picks

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