Monday, January 24, 2011

Algorithm to determine image contrast

How to determine image contrast ? More specifically - How to determine that image contrast is low and it needs automatic contrast adjustment through histogram equalization method ?

Algorithm is this:
1. Calculate cumulative histogram of image.
2. Make linear regression of cumulative histogram in the form freq(x) = A*x + B.
3. Calculate RMSE of real_cumulative_frequency(x)-freq(x).
4. If that RMSE is close to zero - image is already equalized and should be in good contrast. (That means for equalized images cumulative histograms must be linear)

Because picture is worth a thousand words - this is how cumulative histograms looks for image with different levels of contrast:

So as you see - image with most aggressive contrast has cumulative histogram which is almost a perfect line.

Now fun part - C code which opens image in PGM format with ASCII encoding and detects if image needs contrast adjustment or not :
#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <math.h>
#include <string.h>

#define MAX_COLS 1000
#define MAX_ROWS 1000

typedef struct {
 int Width;
 int Height;
 int max_value;
 int data[MAX_ROWS][MAX_COLS];
} PGMdata;

void readPgmFile(char* fileName, PGMdata * pgmOut) {
 FILE * pFile;
 char line[1000];
 char* res;
 int lineNum = 0;

 if ((pFile = fopen(fileName , "r")) == NULL)
  printf("Error opening file %s \n", fileName);
 else {
  while ((res = fgets(line, 100, pFile)) != NULL) {
  // max value of pixel
  if (lineNum==4)
  // width and height of image
  if (lineNum==3) {
   sscanf(line,"%i %i",&pgmOut->Width, &pgmOut->Height);
  // load real pixels
  if (lineNum > 4) {
   int ix = lineNum - 5;
   int row = ix/pgmOut->Width;
   int col = ix - row*pgmOut->Width;
   sscanf(line,"%i", &pgmOut->data[row][col]);

void CumulativeHistogram(PGMdata* image, double* hist) {
 int i,j;
 double dp = 1.0/((double) image->Width*image->Height);

 // initializing histogram bins to zero
 for (i=0; i<256; i++) {
  hist[i] = 0.0;

 // calculating histogram
 for (i=0; i<image->Width; i++) {
  for (j=0; j<image->Height; j++) {
   hist[image->data[j][i]] += dp;

 // making histogram cumulative
 for (i=0; i<255; i++) {
  hist[i+1] += hist[i];

void CreateXmatrix(double mat[256][2]) {
 int i;
 for (i=0; i<256; i++) {
   mat[i][0] = 1;
   mat[i][1] = i;

void TransposeMatrix(double mat[256][2], double tmat[2][256]) {
 int i,j;
 for (i=0; i<2; i++) {
  for (j=0; j<256; j++) {
   tmat[i][j] = mat[j][i];

double MultiplyMatrixes(double A[2][256], double B[256][2], int row, int col) {
 int i;
 double sum = 0.0;

 for (i=0; i<256; i++) {
  sum += A[row][i]*B[i][col];

 return sum;

double MultiplyMatrixAndVector(double A[2][256], double Y[256], int row) {
 int i;
 double sum = 0.0;

 for (i=0; i<256; i++) {
  sum += A[row][i]*Y[i];

 return sum;

double HistogramPredicted(double c0, double c1, double level) {
 return c0 + c1*level;

double RootMeanSquare(double* hist, double c0, double c1) {
 double rms = 0.0;
 int i;

 for (i=0; i<256; i++) {
  rms += pow(hist[i]-HistogramPredicted(c0,c1,i),2.0);
 rms /= 256.0;

 return sqrt(rms);

void LinearLeastSquares(double* hist, double* c0, double* c1) {
 double X[256][2];
 double tX[2][256];
 double a1,a2,a3,a4;
 double b1, b2;

 // create matrix X composed of x'es

 // transpose X matrix

 // calculate tX*X matrix which is
 // [a1 a2]
 // [a3 a4]

 a1 = MultiplyMatrixes(tX,X,0,0);
 a2 = MultiplyMatrixes(tX,X,0,1);
 a3 = MultiplyMatrixes(tX,X,1,0);
 a4 = MultiplyMatrixes(tX,X,1,1);

 // calculate tX*Y  (Y=HISTOGRAM) which is
 // [b1]
 // [b2]

 b1 = MultiplyMatrixAndVector(tX,hist,0);
 b2 = MultiplyMatrixAndVector(tX,hist,1);

 // solve matrix equation by using elimination of variables method
 // [a1 a2]   [c0]   [b1]
 //         *      =
 // [a3 a4]   [c1]   [b2]

 *c1 = (a1*b2-a3*b1)/(a1*a4-a2*a3);
 *c0 = (b1-a2*(*c1))/a1;


int main () {
 double hist[256];
 static PGMdata image = {0};
 double c0=0.0, c1=0.0;
 double rms;
 char pgm_file[20] = {0};

 while (1) {
   // get PGM file name
   printf("PGM filename: ");
   scanf("%s", pgm_file);

   // read grayscale image from PGM format
   memset(&image, 0, sizeof(image));
   readPgmFile(pgm_file, &image);
   if (image.Width == 0)

   // create cumulative histogram
   CumulativeHistogram(&image, hist);

   // least mean squares method, to find c0,c1 coefficents in equation:
   // c0 + c1*gray_level = Frequency

   // calculate RMS of Frequency[bin]-predicted_Frequency(bin)
   rms = RootMeanSquare(hist,c0,c1);

   // Low RMS shows that histogram frequencies are distributed in linear fashion
   // between bins. This means that histogram equalization was performed on image
   // and/or that global image contrast is good.
   if (rms <= 0.01)
    printf("\n==> %s contrast is OK (rms=%f)\n\n", pgm_file ,rms);
    printf("\n==> %s contrast is BAD (rms=%f)\n\n", pgm_file ,rms);

 return 0;
If you want to test this algorithm on ASCII PGM image - you better covert image to PGM format with GIMP 2.6.11, because it was only tested in this way.
So by running this C code on below image (after converting it to PGM)

we get algorithm output
"image contrast is BAD ... " :-)


  1. Hi, I tried to experiment the above code with the ballons.pgm data file which presents in link. when it tries to calculate a histogram in cumulativehistogram function, it crashes. Am not sure about the reason, could you plz comment on the same? Thanks in advance, Veeru.

  2. Thanks for note. There was a problem that too big image not fitted into stack. I fixed that issue by moving image struct to static area of program data. Try it now - it should work.


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