15-463, 15-663, 15-862
Computational Photography, Fall 2020
Time: Mondays, Wednesdays 11:40 am - 1:00 pm ET
Location: Remote-only (see Canvas for Zoom links)
Instructor: Ioannis (Yannis) Gkioulekas
Teaching Assistants: Jenny Lin, Byeongjoo Ahn
Course Description

Computational photography is the convergence of computer graphics, computer vision, optics, and imaging. Its role is to overcome the limitations of traditional cameras, by combining imaging and computation to enable new and enhanced ways of capturing, representing, and interacting with the physical world.

This course provides an overview of the state of the art in computational photography. At the start of the course, we will study modern image processing pipelines, including those encountered on mobile phone and DSLR cameras, and advanced image and video editing algorithms. Then we will continue to learn about the physical and computational aspects of tasks such as 3D scanning, coded photography, lightfield imaging, time-of-flight imaging, VR/AR displays, and computational light transport. Near the end of the course, we will discuss active research topics, such as creating cameras that capture video at the speed of light, cameras that look around walls, or cameras that can see below skin.

The course has a strong hands-on component, in the form of seven homework assignments and a final project. In the homework assignments, students will have the opportunity to implement many of the techniques covered in the class, by both acquiring their own images of indoor and outdoor scenes and developing the computational tools needed to extract information from them. Example homework includes building end-to-end HDR imaging pipelines and structured light scanners. For their final projects, students will have the choice to use modern sensors and other optical instrumentation provided by the instructors (lightfield cameras, time-of-flight sensors, projectors, laser sources, and so on).

Cross-listing: This is both an advanced undergraduate and introductory graduate course, and it is cross-listed as 15-463 (for undergraduate students), 15-663 (for Master's students), and 15-862 (for PhD students). Please make sure to register for the section of the class that matches your current enrollment status.


This course requires familiarity with linear algebra, calculus, programming, and doing computations with images. In particular, either of the following courses can serve as proof that you satisfy these prerequisites:

If you want to enroll but have not taken any of the above courses, please make sure to contact the instructor! We make a lot of exceptions each year, on a case-by-case basis. The course does not require prior experience with photography or imaging.


Readings will be assigned primarily from relevant papers. Readings will be posted at the last slide of each lecture.

Additionally readings may be assigned from the following textbooks, which can also be useful references in general. All of them are available online from the CMU library:


Lectures will take place on Zoom. See the course's Canvas page for Zoom meeting links.


Your final grade will be made up of:

Homework assignments: All homework assignments will have a programming component and a photography component, where students will use a DSLR camera to capture and process their own images. The programming component of all assignments will be done in Python.

Bonus homework assignment: There will be a seventh optional homework assignment that can be used to make up for lost credit. It will involve using a physics-based graphics renderer to simulate computational photography techniques.

Late days: For the homework assignments, students will be allowed a total of five free late days. Any additional late days will each incur a 10% penalty.

Collaboration policy: Students are encouraged to work in groups but each student must submit their own work. This includes: writing your own code, building your own imaging setups, taking your own photographs, and producing your own writeup. If you work as a group, include the names of your collaborators in your writeup. You absolutely should not share or copy code. Additionally, you should not use any external code unless explicitly permitted. Plagiarism is strongly prohibited and will lead to failure of this course.

Submitting homeworks: We will use Canvas for submitting and grading homeworks.

Final project: Details about the final project can be found here.

15-663, 15-862: Students taking 15-663 or 15-862 will be required to do a more substantial final project, as well as submit a longer paper describing their project.


Students are encouraged to obtain a digital camera for use in the course — any digital camera with manual controls should work. However, this is not a requirement, and about 50 camera kits (DSLR camera, lens, and tripod) kits will be provided by the instructors for students that do not have one.

Camera tutorial: To make it easier for students to use the camera kits, we have put together a camera tutorial.

Email, Office Hours, and Discussion

Email: Please use [15463] in the title when emailing the teaching staff!

Office hours: Teaching staff will have regular office hours at the following times:

All office hours will take place on Zoom. See the course's Canvas page for Zoom meeting links.

Feel free to email us about scheduling additional office hours.

Discussion: We will use Piazza for course discussion and announcements.

Interested in research?

We are actively looking for students at all levels (undergraduates, MS, PhD) to help in projects on various aspects of computational photography, imaging, rendering, and graphics in general. If you are interested, please send Yannis an email (or talk to him in person in class).

You should also take a look at the imaging group website, to find more information about related projects active here at CMU.

Finally, you are welcome to attend the imaging group meetings during the semester. If you want to receive announcements about the group meetings, as well as other emails regarding photography and imaging research, ask Yannis to add you to the imaging group's mailing list.

(Tentative) Syllabus

Slides will be uploaded on this website before each lecture.

M, Aug 31Introductionpdf
W, Sep 2Digital photography pipelinepdf
F, Sep 9HW1 out
M, Sep 7No class (Labor Day)
W, Sep 9Digital photography pipeline (continued)pdf
M, Sep 14Pinholes and lensespdf
W, Sep 16Photographic optics and aberrationspdf
M, Sep 21Exposure and high-dynamic-range imagingpdf
F, Sep 18HW1 due, HW2 out
W, Sep 23Noise modeling and calibrationpdf
M, Sep 28Colorpdf
W, Sep 30Color (continued)pdf
M, Oct 5Bilateral and edge-aware filteringpdfHW2 due, HW3 out
W, Oct 7Gradient-domain image processingpdf
M, Oct 12Focal stacks and depth from (de)focuspdf
W, Oct 14Lightfields
M, Oct 19DeconvolutionpdfHW3 due, HW4 out
W, Oct 19Deconvolution (continued)
M, Oct 26Coded photographypdf
W, Oct 28Coded photography (continued)
M, Nov 2Radiometry and reflectancepdfHW4 due, HW5 out
W, Nov 4Reflectance and reflectance (continued)
M, Nov 9Photometric stereopdf
W, Nov 11Geometric camera models and calibrationpdf
M, Nov 16Two-view geometrypdfHW5 due, HW6 out
W, Nov 18Disparity and stereopdf
M, Nov 23Structured light
W, Nov 25No class (Thanksgiving)
M, Nov 30Time-of-flight imagingpdf
W, Dec 2Global illuminationpdf
M, Dec 7Light transport matricespdfHW7 out
W, Dec 9Light transport probing, course wrap-uppdf
F, Dec 11HW6 due
F, Dec 18HW7 due
Previous Course Offerings
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The materials for this course have been pieced together from many different people and places. Special thanks to the following colleagues for sharing their course materials or making them available online (in alphabetical order): Supreeth Achar, Andrew Adams, Amit Agrawal, Michael Brown, Oliver Cossairt, Fredo Durand, Alyosha Efros, Kayvon Fatahalian, Steven Gortler, Mohit Gupta, Sam Hasinoff, James Hays, Hugues Hoppe, Ivo Ihrke, Kris Kitani, Kyros Kutulakos, Douglas Lanman, Jaako Lehtinen, Anat Levin, Marc Levoy, Steve Marschner, Srinivasa Narasimhan, Shree Nayar, Ren Ng, Matthew O'Toole, Sylvain Paris, Ravi Ramamoorthi, Ramesh Raskar, Aswin Sankaranarayanan, Robert Sumner, Richard Szeliski, Gavriel Taubin, James Tompkin, Gordon Wetzstein, Todd Zickler. Special thanks to Jiatian (Caroline) Sun for developing the renderer used in some of the homework assignments. Individual slides and homework assignments include their own credits.