How to open, edit and save raster files (.tif) using Python

Fellow researchers and open-source GIS enthusiasts,

Welcome to my blog!

I’d like to start with a disclaimer – I may be a researcher of this very area but that doesn’t mean everything I do or write here will work for you, in your own desktop configurations and package versions. I have no responsibility if you lose data or mess up your installation. I also do not authorize any copies of my content.

Today, I am going to write about how to open, edit and save raster files using Python if you are familiarized with Python (mainly Anaconda).

Maybe you need to run every pixel in a raster through a Python function, or you want to do custom operations with them that are not available on GUI software such as QGIS. It also can be used to do batch processing. I showed another way to do batch processing here.

We are going to use GDAL on Python, installed through Conda, to do this.

How to do it

First thing you will need to do: install GDAL on Python using Anaconda

conda install gdal

I read it can be installed using pip as well, but have not tried it:

pip install gdal

and then load the package gdal from osgeo on your Python console or script. I use Anaconda Spyder.

from osgeo import gdal

Knowing the location of your raster to be opened, you can open it using the command:

step1 = gdal.Open('path_of_the_file.tif', gdal.GA_ReadOnly)

for opening the raster read-only and saving it on step1 variable.

Copy the transformation to a variable, it will be useful later.

GT_input = step1.GetGeoTransform()

Read the bands of your raster using GetRasterBand

step2 = step1.GetRasterBand(1)

Transform the read band into an array, to work with it.

img_as_array = step2.ReadAsArray()

Read the size of your array


Create the output to be saved with the same dimensions

import numpy as np

Do the processing you need to and save it to the output variable. Example, the whole raster to the power of 1.2:

for i in range(0,size1):
    for j in range(0,size2):
        output[i,j]=img_as_array[i,j] ** 1.2

Then, we will export the output variable into a file using rasterio.

import rasterio

You may need to install rasterio by using:

conda install -c conda-forge rasterio

Create a variable with the projection of your raster. Example:


Transform your output to a float

output = np.float32(output)

And finally, write the variable output to your file

) as dest_file:
    dest_file.write(output, 1)

This example saves an output called output_map.tif

Example with a random raster

I generated a random raster by binomial distribution on QGIS 3.18, with values between 0 and 10. The actual range of the generated raster was [2,7].

randomized raster

After running the code on Python, the following raster was generated:

randomized raster

It looks the same, but the range has changed:

randomized raster Showing that the code worked!

Edit (August 2nd, 2021): if you are having issues with GDAL-style transforms in rasterio, there is a quick solve for it. Check out this post.

Edit (March 21st, 2023): I wrote a post about saving raster files using GDAL on Python. It might be useful for someone who does not want to use both rasterio and GDAL to open and save raster files when using Python.

Luísa Vieira Lucchese
Luísa Vieira Lucchese
Postdoctoral Researcher

Postdoc at University of Pittsburgh