Abstract

Digital imaging of natural scenes and optical phenomena present on them (such as shadows, twilights, and crepuscular rays) can be a very challenging task because of the range spanned by the radiances impinging on the capture system. We propose a novel method for estimating the set of exposure times (bracketing set) needed to capture the full dynamic range of a scene with high dynamic range (HDR) content. The proposed method is adaptive to scene content and to any camera response and configuration, and it works on-line since the exposure times are estimated as the capturing process is ongoing. Besides, it requires no a priori information about scene content or radiance values. The resulting bracketing sets are minimal in the default method settings, but the user can set a tolerance for the maximum percentage of pixel population that is underexposed or saturated, which allows for a higher number of shots if a better signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) in the HDR scene is desired. This method is based on the use of the camera response function that is needed for building the HDR radiance map by stitching together several differently exposed low dynamic range images of the scene. The use of HDR imaging techniques converts our digital camera into a tool for measuring the relative radiance outgoing from each point of the scene, and for each color channel. This is important for accurate characterization of optical phenomena present in the atmosphere while not suffering any loss of information due to its HDR. We have compared our method with the most similar one developed so far [IEEE Trans. Image Process. 17, 1864 (2008)]. Results of the experiments carried out for 30 natural scenes show that our proposed method equals or outperforms the previously developed best approach, with less shots and shorter exposure times, thereby asserting the advantage of being adaptive to scene content for exposure time estimation. As we can also tune the balance between capturing time and the SNR in our method, we have compared its SNR performance against that of Barakat’s method as well as against a ground-truth HDR image of maximum SNR. Results confirm the success of the proposed method in exploiting its tunability to achieve the desired balance of total Δt and SNR.

© 2015 Optical Society of America

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