Illuminant and device invariant colour using histogram equalisation

Graham D. Finlayson, Steven D. Hordley, Gerald Schaefer, Gui Yun Tian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

182 Citations (Scopus)


Colour can potentially provide useful information for a variety of computer vision tasks such as image segmentation, image retrieval, object recognition and tracking. However, for it to be helpful in practice, colour must relate directly to the intrinsic properties of the imaged objects and be independent of imaging conditions such as scene illumination and the imaging device. To this end many invariant colour representations have been proposed in the literature. Unfortunately, recent work (Second Workshop on Content-based Multimedia Indexing) has shown that none of them provides good enough practical performance. In this paper we propose a new colour invariant image representation based on an existing grey-scale image enhancement technique: histogram equalisation. We show that provided the rank ordering of sensor responses are preserved across a change in imaging conditions (lighting or device) a histogram equalisation of each channel of a colour image renders it invariant to these conditions. We set out theoretical conditions under which rank ordering of sensor responses is preserved and we present empirical evidence which demonstrates that rank ordering is maintained in practice for a wide range of illuminants and imaging devices. Finally, we apply the method to an image indexing application and show that the method out performs all previous invariant representations, giving close to perfect illumination invariance and very good performance across a change in device.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-190
Number of pages12
JournalPattern Recognition
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2005

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