Tone mapping operators (TMOs) aim to compress high dynamic range (HDR) images to low dynamic range (LDR) ones so as to visualize HDR images on standard displays. Most existing TMOs were demonstrated on specific examples without being thoroughly evaluated using well-designed and subject-validated image quality assessment models. A recently proposed tone mapped image quality index (TMQI) made one of the first attempts on objective quality assessment of tone mapped images. Here, we propose a substantially different approach to design TMO. Instead of using any predefined systematic computational structure for tone mapping (such as analytic image transformations and/or explicit contrast/edge enhancement), we directly navigate in the space of all images, searching for theimage that optimizes an improved TMQI.
In particular, we first improve the two building blocks in TMQI-structural fidelity and statistical naturalness components-leading to a TMQI-II metric. We then propose an iterative algorithm that alternatively improves the structural fidelity and statistical naturalness of the resulting image. Numerical and subjective experiments demonstrate that the proposed algorithm consistently produces better quality tone mapped images even when the initial images of the iteration are created by the most competitive TMOs. Meanwhile, these results also validate the superiority of TMQI-II over TMQI.