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Variations in illumination degrade the performance of appearance based face recognition. We present a novel algorithm for the normalization of color facial images using a single image and its co-registered 3D pointcloud (3D image). The algorithm borrows the physically based Phong’s lighting model from computer graphics which is used for rendering computer images and employs it in a reverse mode for the calculation of face albedo from real facial images. Our algorithm estimates the number of the dominant light sources and their directions from the specularities in the facial image and the corresponding 3D points. The intensities of the light sources and the parameters of the Phong’s model are estimated by fitting the Phong’s model onto the facial skin data. Unlike existing approaches, our algorithm takes into account both Lambertian and specular reflections as well as attached and cast shadows. Moreover, our algorithm is invariant to facial pose and expression and can effectively handle the case of multiple extended light sources. The algorithm was tested on the challenging FRGC v2.0 data and satisfactory results were achieved. The mean fitting error was 6.3% of the maximum color value. Performing face recognition using the normalized images increased both identification and verification rates.