A reference-free underwater image quality assessment metric in frequency domain

Ning YANG, Qihang ZHONG, Kun LI, Runmin CONG, Yao ZHAO, Sam KWONG

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

64 Citations (Scopus)


Owing to the complexity of the underwater environment and the limitations of imaging devices, the quality of underwater images varies differently, which may affect the practical applications in modern military, scientific research, and other fields. Thus, achieving subjective quality assessment to distinguish different qualities of underwater images has an important guiding role for subsequent tasks. In this paper, considering the underwater image degradation effect and human visual perception scheme, an effective reference-free underwater image quality assessment metric is designed by combining the colorfulness, contrast, and sharpness cues. Specifically, inspired by the different sensibility of humans to high-frequency and low-frequency information, we design a more comprehensive color measurement in spatial domain and frequency domain. In addition, for the low contrast caused by the backward scattering, we propose a dark channel prior weighted contrast measure to enhance the discrimination ability of the original contrast measurement. The sharpness measurement is used to evaluate the blur effect caused by the forward scattering of the underwater image. Finally, these three measurements are combined by the weighted summation, where the weighed coefficients are obtained by multiple linear regression. Moreover, we collect a large dataset for underwater image quality assessment for testing and evaluating different methods. Experiments on this dataset demonstrate the superior performance both qualitatively and quantitatively.
Original languageEnglish
Article number116218
JournalSignal Processing: Image Communication
Early online date17 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - May 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by the Beijing Nova Program under Grant Z201100006820016, in part by the National Key Research and Development of China under Grant 2018AAA0102100, in part by the National Natural Science Foundation of China under Grant 62002014, Grant 61532005, Grant U1936212, Grant 61772344, Grant 61672443, in part by the Hong Kong RGC General Research Funds under Grant 9042816 (CityU 11209819), in part by the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities under Grant 2019RC039, in part by Elite Scientist Sponsorship Program by the China Association for Science and Technology, in part by Elite Scientist Sponsorship Program by the Beijing Association for Science and Technology, in part by Hong Kong Scholars Program, in part by CAAI-Huawei MindSpore Open Fund, and in part by China Postdoctoral Science Foundation under Grant 2020T130050, Grant 2019M660438.


  • Dark channel prior weighting
  • Frequency domain
  • New dataset
  • Reference-free image quality assessment
  • Underwater image


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