Two methods for display of high contrast images

Jack Tumblin*, Jessica K. Hodgins, Brian K. Guenter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

189 Scopus citations


High contrast images are common in night scenes and other scenes that include dark shadows and bright light sources. These scenes are difficult to display because their contrasts greatly exceed the range of most display devices for images. As a result, the image contrasts are compressed or truncated, obscuring subtle textures and details. Humans view and understand high contrast scenes easily, "adapting" their visual response to avoid compression or truncation with no apparent loss of detail. By imitating some of these visual adaptation processes, we developed methods for the improved display of high-contrast images. The first builds a display image from several layers of lighting and surface properties. Only the lighting layers are compressed, drastically reducing contrast while preserving much of the image detail. This method is practical only for synthetic images where the layers can be retained from the rendering process. The second method interactively adjusts the displayed image to preserve local contrasts in a small "foveal" neighborhood. Unlike the first method, this technique is usable on any image and includes a new tone reproduction operator. Both methods use a sigmoid function for contrast compression. This function has no effect when applied to small signals but compresses large signals to fit within an asymptotic limit. We demonstrate the effectiveness of these approaches by comparing processed and unprocessed images.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)56-94
Number of pages39
JournalACM Transactions on Graphics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1999


  • I.3.3 [Computer Graphics]: Picture/Image Generation - display algorithms
  • I.3.7 [Computer Graphics]: Three-Dimensional Graphics and Realism - color, shading, shadowing, and texture
  • I.4.0 [Image Processing and Computer Vision]: General - image displays

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design


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