Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 28 (NIPS 2015)
Color constancy is the recovery of true surface color from observed color, and requires estimating the chromaticity of scene illumination to correct for the bias it induces. In this paper, we show that the per-pixel color statistics of natural scenes---without any spatial or semantic context---can by themselves be a powerful cue for color constancy. Specifically, we describe an illuminant estimation method that is built around a classifier for identifying the true chromaticity of a pixel given its luminance (absolute brightness across color channels). During inference, each pixel's observed color restricts its true chromaticity to those values that can be explained by one of a candidate set of illuminants, and applying the classifier over these values yields a distribution over the corresponding illuminants. A global estimate for the scene illuminant is computed through a simple aggregation of these distributions across all pixels. We begin by simply defining the luminance-to-chromaticity classifier by computing empirical histograms over discretized chromaticity and luminance values from a training set of natural images. These histograms reflect a preference for hues corresponding to smooth reflectance functions, and for achromatic colors in brighter pixels. Despite its simplicity, the resulting estimation algorithm outperforms current state-of-the-art color constancy methods. Next, we propose a method to learn the luminance-to-chromaticity classifier end-to-end. Using stochastic gradient descent, we set chromaticity-luminance likelihoods to minimize errors in the final scene illuminant estimates on a training set. This leads to further improvements in accuracy, most significantly in the tail of the error distribution.