Statistical Characterization of Real-world Illumination

Dror, R. O., Willsky, A. S., & Adelson, E. H.

Journal of Vision, 4(9): 821-837, (2004)


Although studies of vision and graphics often assume simple illumination models, real-world illumination is highly complex, with reflected light incident on a surface from almost every direction. One can capture the illumination from every direction at one point photographically using a spherical illumination map. This work illustrates, through analysis of photographically acquired, high dynamic range illumination maps, that real-world illumination possesses a high degree of statistical regularity. The marginal and joint wavelet coefficient distributions and harmonic spectra of illumination maps resemble those documented in the natural image statistics literature. However, illumination maps differ from typical photographs in that illumination maps are statistically nonstationary and may contain localized light sources that dominate their power spectra. Our work provides a foundation for statistical models of real-world illumination, thereby facilitating the understanding of human material perception, the design of robust computer vision systems, and the rendering of realistic computer graphics imagery.