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Image Cases Studies

Python prototypes for image processing methods

© 2017 - Aurélien Pierre, Polytechnique Montréal.



This collection of scripts is intended to prototype methods and functionalities that could be useful in darktable and show proofs of concept.


While most studies in digital imagery and signal processing focus on making things possible, investigating options, analysing SNR and computing errors and convergence, they tend to produce unnatural results with artifacts, looking unpleasant to the eye.

This work tries to implement state-of-the-art algorithms into a realistic framework for photography and photographers, realistic both in terms of computation time and of photographic results.

How it's made

It's written in Python 3, and relies on PIL (Python Image Library) for the I/O, Numpy for the arrays operations, and Numba to optimize the execution time. Heavy arrays operations are parallelized through multiprocesses but can be run serialized as well.

Every function is timed natively, so you can benchmark performance.

What's inside

For now, we have :

A collection of test pictures is in img directory and the converted pictures are in img subfolders. The built-in generic functions are in the lib.utils module.

What may come one day

Current prototypes

Richardson-Lucy deconvolution


In theory, blurred and noisy pictures can be perfectly sharpened if we perfectly know the Point spread function of their maker. In practice, we can only estimate it. One of the means to do so is the Richardson-Lucy deconvolution.

Deconvolution differs from usual sharpness filters : while high-pass filters and unsharp masks increase the local contrast (thus the percieved sharpness), deconvolution actually recovers the stiffness of the edges and can recover motion blur.

The main drawback of this method is the creation of artifacts in the deblured picture, such as ringing and periodic replication of the edges. The modified Richardson-Lucy algorithm used here is modified to implement Total Variation regularization . It can run in a blind or non-blind fashion, meaning that the PSF can be passed as an user-input or estimated from scratch using bayesian statistics and refined during the process.

These algorithms are all auto-adaptative, meaning that all the regularization parameters are estimated by the algorithm based on statistical assumptions. However, as stats don't always represent the reality, the user can still force his own parameters.

Math details

Let the blurry image be the convolution product of a sharp image and a kernel (the PSF) plus a noise matrix. The method used hire aims at finding the sharp image by a gradient descend method, following the Richardson-Lucy algorithm. However, both the PSF and the sharp image are unknown, leading to an ill-posed problem. The challenge is yet to find a convex problem to solve this problem in a Sobolev space.

Perrone & Favaro base their method on assuming that a sharp image has the logarithms of its gradients following a Cauchy distribution. Therefore, at every step of the gradient descent, it is possible to compute a penalty for every pixel not following this law, and attenuate these pixels from the intermediate solution. This penalty is such as the L-1 anisotropic norm of the Total Variation is minimized at every iteration, leading to noise and ringing attenuation. In the blind setup, the initial PSF is assumed to be an uniform blur, and then refined at every step along with the image.

While the theory says that minimizing gradients cannot bring back a sharper image (whose gradients are maximum), the practice shows that it actually works. The actual implementation relies on 3 different solvers : the Projected Alternating Minimization, the Primal-Dual method (similar to A. Chambolle's TV denoising), and the Majorization-Minimizatiom.


This work improves the used references in several ways :

The regularization has been modified from the original work to include a collaborative L^{infinite, 1, 1} RGB total variation norm as the regularization term. It acts as handcuffs between channels and helps dramatically in chromatic noise removal.

Also, the gradients are computed in 2D over the 9 neighbouring pixels (over 3 channels) with a 2D filter giving a second-order accurate approximation of the gradient.

This improves greatly the convergence when noise is present and when the PSF guess is oversized. In these cases, the algorithms often never converges and only creates ringging.

In auto mode, after the initial PSF evaluation along the whole picture, this work allows the user to select a specific zone to refine the PSF. This helps in cases where the PSF varies spatially, to constrain the in-focus zone, but also speed-up the computations.

This implementation has a stopping criterion which stops the gradient descent when convergence is reached or when the gradient begins to increase. This criterion prevents the degeneration of the solution as well as useless computations.

The deconvolution has 2 separate steps : a first one, blind, to determine the PSF, and a second one, non-blind, to deblur the picture. This is useful because :

  • the PSF can be computed on a region of the picture only, to ensure fast computations,
  • the PSF can then be saved to be used elsewhere, and checked on a plot before running the full and slow deconvolution,
  • the convergence criterion is always reached sooner on the PSF than the one on the picture.

The convolutions are done in the frequency domain using FFTW. The FFTW wisdoms are saved and reused, meaning that the system gets faster as it performs new work.


The tests have been done on a laptop with an Intel® Core™ i7-2670QM CPU @ 2.20GHz running 8 processes.

Blurred original :

alt text

After (blind algorithm, MM method - 189 s - 325 iterations - Blind.):

This is the implementation of the Majorization-Minimisation algorithm proposed by Perrone & Favaro in 2015. The computations are much slower that's why the PSF is only estimated on a patch of the picture. This method has found the sharp picture at a margin of error of 5 % in more than 50 % of the tests. The PAM method never reaches the sharp picture, but comes close enough. alt text

This method deblurs by recovering the sharpness of the edges. However, it does not recover the local contrast. Further edition of the above picture with local contrast added through wavelets high-pass filter and a laplacian filter is advised.

Sharp image

This is a detail from a 24 Mpx "sharp" image taken with a consumer zoom lens, rather soft. alt text

Its result deblured in 18 min : alt text


It's not recommended to install this unstable framework on your Python environnement, but rather to build its modules and use it from its directory.

python build_ext --inplace

On Linux systems, if you have Python 2 and 3 interpreters installed together, you may run :

python3 build_ext --inplace

The Python interpreter should be in the 3.x serie. Python 2 will trigger ZeroDivisionError since it performs integer divisions by default.

Unfortunately, the setup file has been reported defective so in most cases, the dependencies will not be automatically installed.

To solve this problem until an elegant solution is found, the simpliest way is to first install the Anaconda Python distribution which is a bundle of Python packages for scientific computation and signal processing.

Then, ensure the following packages are installed :

PIL (known as pillow)
numpy (normally included into scipy)


In console

Execute :


Import the required Python packages :

from lib import utils # if you are working directly in the package directory
from PIL import Image 
import numpy as np
from skimage import color

Load an image as a 3D RGB array:

with"path/image") as pic:

        pic = np.array(pic).astype(float)

Set/Reset RGB channels

pic[..., 0] = numpy.array([...]) # sets the R channel with a 2D numpy array
pic[..., 1] = numpy.array([...]) # sets the G channel with a 2D numpy array
pic[..., 2] = numpy.array([...]) # sets the B channel with a 2D numpy array

Blur a channel :

i = # 0, 1 or 2
pic[..., i] = utils.bilateral_filter(pic[..., i], 10, 6.0, 3.0)

Save the picture :

with Image.fromarray(pic) as output:"file.jpg")

See the scripts in the root directory for real examples.


Python prototypes of image processing methods for Darktable modules







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