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Stupid Geek Tricks: How To Turn Images And Photos Into Sound Files

sound from images

There may be no point to it… it must be a stupid geek trick! Here’s how you can convert some of your images into sound files and hear what your photographs are secretly saying to you.

Maybe you’re an electronic music composer looking for a new source of samples. Maybe you’re just a geek looking to goof around with some image files! In hardly no time at all, you can convert your images into weird unpredictable sounds, just for the heck of it. Give it a shot!

Converting Your Images With Audacity

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We’ve covered Audacity on How To Geek before. It’s a great open source tool for editing sound… but what about images? If you don’t have Audacity installed, you’re going to need it in order to convert your images.

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This screenshot is the image file we’re going to be experimenting with today. We’ve saved it in several different formats to see what audacity will do with them.

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PNG and GIF didn’t work for us,  but your mileage may vary—although the format of the image is likely the most important factor in opening the file in the sound editor. The formats that worked for us (all converted in Photoshop) were TIFF, BMP, PSD, PSB (another proprietary Photoshop format), High Quality JPG, and Low Quality JPG.

Update: Remember when you’re trying your own files that the program you’re converting with can be very important. We used Photoshop, but try the GIMP as well, and try multiple files. Not every file we tried worked, although all of these conversions of the screenshots did work.

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Start by going to File > Open in Audacity.

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Make sure your filetype is set to “All Files” as shown above bottom right. Pick one of your image files and simply open it. See our weird results.

WARNING: If you choose to download or listen to the linked WAV files, make sure your speakers are at managable levels. Some of the sounds are high frequency and a little loud.

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JPG Low Quality. Listen here.

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JPG High Quality. Listen here.

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TIFF image. Listen here.

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BMP—in two sound channels! Listen here.

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Photoshop PSD. Listen here.

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Photoshop PSB. File seems identical. Listen here.


Another stupid geek trick from HTG to goof around with. Have fun! If you happen to get anything interesting from your Image to Sound file conversions, save them as WAV or MP3 and send them to ericgoodnight@howtogeek.com, and we’ll share our favorites with our readers.

Image credit: Employee Photo Day by Grant Hutchinson, available under Creative Commons.

Eric Z Goodnight is an Illustrator and Graphics Geek who hopes to make Photoshop more accessible to How-To Geek readers. When he’s not headbanging to heavy metal or geeking out over manga, he’s often off screen printing T-Shirts.

  • Published 11/2/11

Comments (14)

  1. Jack Madden

    This would be a great way of hiding/transporting fires if there was a way to convert back

  2. romel

    LOL.. not working.. the file don’t even play :P

  3. will

    Cool idea if it actually worked. Audacity didn’t recognize any images I tried. I even took a screen shot like the example and nothing.

  4. richprince

    Well, it did not work as described. I had to import raw the subject file (.jpg) and then in audacity it was not hing but pure noise. No deviation or pulses to make it interesting.

  5. Eric Z Goodnight

    Try using GIMP or Photoshop to convert the file to the specified filetypes: BMP, TIF, JPG, PSD, PSB, etc. The format created by the image program is probably very important to Audacity recognizing it as an audio file.

    And not every file is going to make weird sounds… some of them might be boring! I tried a whole bunch with varying results. These were the most consistently interesting.

  6. KDC3

    As mentioned by richprince, you have to use Import/Raw Data to get it to work. Any jpg I tried just produced a lot of uninteresting white noise. It didn’t matter if it was straight out of the camera or processed through any number of programs. The most consistent interesting results were with psd files.

  7. Pete Frosio

    Here’s the best and most creative way to ‘make music’ from ‘data’!!! I’ve been doing it for several years now. (LONG story how I got started ….. E-mail me for a conversation. PeteFrosio@comcast.net ) I’ve made music from DNA, photo’s of snakes, constellations, Grand Children, …… almost any image/file. For the best discription(s) check out AlgoArt.com by John Dunn. There are MANY examples to get you get started. This is a Musical Geek’s Delight!!!! We’re talkin’ MIDI all the way, big time. Way too many features, customizing, etc. to describe here. Believe me, it’s addictive!!!

  8. miaousse

    There is a software wich does that pretty much well.

    http://photosounder.com/

  9. anybodysguess

    if you cold convert them back then you could transmit pictures over a laser beam. there is an instructable on transmitting music. pix would b awesome.

  10. Cryptic

    Nine Inch Nails did this one their Year Zero album.

  11. windom_earle

    Aphex Twin did this on his song “#2″ using a mac program called metasynth.

  12. nt0xik8ed

    those are some wicked sounds. now to mix and loop them

  13. Dale

    Nine Inch Nails used a different method. They created their sounds by reversing the process of a spectrograph which translates audio frequency density over time into images. As you probably know, during the promo campaign for that album, people figured out that the sounds in some of their songs created images that turned out to be based on the album artwork..

    One of the best marketing campaigns I have ever seen. This article gives you a good idea of it..
    http://www.wired.com/entertainment/music/magazine/16-01/ff_args

    nerdgasm

  14. Michael S

    What is this “Girls” folder I spy with my little eye, in screenshot 4?

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