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$Lenna$ despite being an playboy model posing nude here and there, is one of the most used images for image processing. How she came into the world of image processing?

Was it done intentionally by some male scientist who were very much fond of the playboy stuff or is it just a coincidence?

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    $\begingroup$ Your question is already answered in Wikipedia's Lenna: History:"Alexander Sawchuk... along with a graduate student and the SIPI lab manager, was hurriedly searching the lab for a good image to scan for a colleague's conference paper. They got tired of their stock of usual test images... Just then, somebody happened to walk in with a recent issue of Playboy. The engineers tore away the top third of the centerfold so they could wrap it around the drum of their Muirhead wirephoto scanner..." Maybe being fond of her played a role in its going viral $\endgroup$
    – Conifold
    Commented Dec 15, 2019 at 10:02

1 Answer 1


Speaking as someone who worked in imaging tech and related fields from '79 to whenever, I can offer a little more. This image does contain a wide range of spatial frequencies as well as intensity range, making it useful to "torture test" sensors and image processing algorithms.

In general, a human face is a preferred subject because us humans are very good at noticing small errors in images of faces. I'm sure the fact that she was attractive didn't hurt :-) .

And finally, once a few labs started using this photo, it became a "standard reference" that everyone could use to compare their hardware and software against. It's not really a case of "going viral" the way funny cat pictures or stupid memes propogate, but rather that it has functional utility.


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