Abstract

Sensations of color show a strong correlation with reflectance, even though the amount of visible light reaching the eye depends on the product of reflectance and illumination. The visual system must achieve this remarkable result by a scheme that does not measure flux. Such a scheme is described as the basis of retinex theory. This theory assumes that there are three independent cone systems, each starting with a set of receptors peaking, respectively, in the long-, middle-, and short-wavelength regions of the visible spectrum. Each system forms a separate image of the world in terms of lightness that shows a strong correlation with reflectance within its particular band of wavelengths. These images are not mixed, but rather are compared to generate color sensations. The problem then becomes how the lightness of areas in these separate images can be independent of flux. This article describes the mathematics of a lightness scheme that generates lightness numbers, the biologic correlate of reflectance, independent of the flux from objects

© 1971 Optical Society of America

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