The influence of illumination direction on the pictorial reliefs of Lambertian surfaces

Harold T. Nefs*, Jan J. Koenderink, Astrid M L Kappers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In order to assess the influence of illumination direction on shape constancy, we studied the pictorial relief of computer images of globular 3-D objects. We used two globally convex objects, one with a furrow and one with a dimple. Observers adjusted local surface attitude probes at 200-250 different locations in the image such that they seemed to lie on the pictorial surface. We manipulated the viewing direction and the illumination direction in a 2 × 2 orthogonal design. Viewing directions were chosen such that the image contained only a few, or no, contour singularities. Changes in the illumination direction were found to induce systematic changes in the settings for both viewing directions. Effects were especially pronounced for images that had no contour singularities. The results showed that a change in the illumination direction can change the local shape of the pictorial relief in addition to the bas-relief ambiguities of scaling and shearing in depth. We found that concavities in the pictorial relief are associated with the darker areas in the image. The deviation from shape constancy cannot be explained by bas-relief ambiguity since the required transformation between the shapes is nonlinear.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-287
Number of pages13
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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