Is There A Preference For Linearity When Viewing Natural Images?

TitleIs There A Preference For Linearity When Viewing Natural Images?
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsKane D, Bertalmío M
Conference NameSPIE/IS&T Electronic Imaging Conference

The system gamma of the imaging pipeline, defined as the product of the encoding and decoding gammas, is typically greater than one and is stronger for images viewed with a dark background (e.g. cinema) than those viewed in lighter conditions (e.g. office displays).1–3 However, for high dynamic range (HDR) images reproduced on a low dynamic range (LDR) monitor, subjects often prefer a system gamma of less than one,4 presumably reflecting the greater need for histogram equalization in HDR images. In this study we ask subjects to rate the perceived quality of images presented on a LDR monitor using various levels of system gamma. We reveal that the optimal system gamma is below one for images with a HDR and approaches or exceeds one for images with a LDR. Additionally, the highest quality scores occur for images where a system gamma of one is optimal, suggesting a preference for linearity (where possible). We find that subjective image quality scores can be predicted by computing the degree of histogram equalization of the lightness distribution. Accordingly, an optimal, image dependent system gamma can be computed that maximizes perceived image quality.