The extraction of information from images acquired under low light conditions represents a common task in diverse disciplines. In single molecule microscopy, for example, techniques for superresolution image reconstruction depend on the accurate estimation of the locations of individual particles from generally low light images. In order to estimate a quantity of interest with high accuracy, however, an appropriate model for the image data is needed. To this end, we previously introduced a data model for an image that is acquired using the electron-multiplying charge-coupled device (EMCCD) detector, a technology of choice for low light imaging due to its ability to amplify weak signals significantly above its readout noise floor. Specifically, we proposed the use of a geometrically multiplied branching process to model the EMCCD detector's stochastic signal amplification. Geometric multiplication, however, can be computationally expensive and challenging to work with analytically. We therefore describe here two approximations for geometric multiplication that can be used instead. The high gain approximation is appropriate when a high level of signal amplification is used, a scenario which corresponds to the typical usage of an EMCCD detector. It is an accurate approximation that is computationally more efficient, and can be used to perform maximum likelihood estimation on EMCCD image data. In contrast, the Gaussian approximation is applicable at all levels of signal amplification, but is only accurate when the initial signal to be amplified is relatively large. As we demonstrate, it can importantly facilitate the analysis of an information-theoretic quantity called the noise coefficient.
Keywords: Branching process; electron multiplication; electron-multiplying charge-coupled device; geometric distribution.