Color by correlation: a simple, unifying framework for color constancy

G. D. Finlayson, S. D. Hordley, P. M. Hubel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

464 Citations (Scopus)


The paper considers the problem of illuminant estimation: how, given an image of a scene, recorded under an unknown light, we can recover an estimate of that light. Obtaining such an estimate is a central part of solving the color constancy problem. Thus, the work presented will have applications in fields such as color-based object recognition and digital photography. Rather than attempting to recover a single estimate of the illuminant, we instead set out to recover a measure of the likelihood that each of a set of possible illuminants was the scene illuminant. We begin by determining which image colors can occur (and how these colors are distributed) under each of a set of possible lights. We discuss how, for a given camera, we can obtain this knowledge. We then correlate this information with the colors in a particular image to obtain a measure of the likelihood that each of the possible lights was the scene illuminant. Finally, we use this likelihood information to choose a single light as an estimate of the scene illuminant. Computation is expressed and performed in a generic correlation framework which we develop. We propose a new probabilistic instantiation of this correlation framework and show that it delivers very good color constancy on both synthetic and real images. We further show that the proposed framework is rich enough to allow many existing algorithms to be expressed within it: the gray-world and gamut-mapping algorithms are presented in this framework and we also explore the relationship of these algorithms to other probabilistic and neural network approaches to color constancy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1209-1221
Number of pages13
JournalIEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2001

Cite this