The physical contrast of simple images such as sinusoidal gratings or a single patch of light on a uniform background is well defined and agrees with the perceived contrast, but this is not so for complex images. Most definitions assign a single contrast value to the whole image, but perceived contrast may vary greatly across the image. Human contrast sensitivity is a function of spatial frequency; therefore the spatial frequency content of an image should be considered in the definition of contrast. In this paper a definition of local band-limited contrast in images is proposed that assigns a contrast value to every point in the image as a function of the spatial frequency band. For each frequency band, the contrast is defined as the ratio of the bandpass-filtered image at that frequency to the low-pass image filtered to an octave below the same frequency (local luminance mean). This definition raises important implications regarding the perception of contrast in complex images and is helpful in understanding the effects of image-processing algorithms on the perceived contrast. A pyramidal image-contrast structure based on this definition is useful in simulating nonlinear, threshold characteristics of spatial vision in both normal observers and the visually impaired.
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