Illumination estimation in three-dimensional scenes with and without specular cues

J Vis. 2005 Dec 15;5(10):863-77. doi: 10.1167/5.10.8.


We report the results of three experiments in which observers judged the albedo of surfaces at different locations in rendered, three-dimensional scenes consisting of two rooms connected by a doorway. All surfaces composing the rooms were achromatic and Lambertian, and a gradient of illumination increased with depth. Observers made asymmetric albedo matches between a standard surface placed in the rooms at different depths along the line of sight and an adjustable surface at a fixed location. In Experiment 1, gradients of intensity on the walls, floor, and ceiling of the scene, as well as its three-dimensional structure, provided information about variations in the intensity of illumination across depth (the illumination profile). In Experiment 2, specular spheres provided an additional veridical cue to the illumination profile. We sought to determine whether observers would make use of this additional cue. They did: all observers exhibited a greater degree of lightness constancy in Experiment 2 than in Experiment 1. In Experiment 3, the specular spheres reflected an illumination profile in conflict with that signaled by the other cues in the scene. We found that observers chose albedo matches consistent with an illumination profile that was a mixture of the illumination profiles signaled by the specular spheres and by the remaining cues.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cues*
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional*
  • Judgment*
  • Lighting*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods*
  • Scattering, Radiation