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This paper presents a novel illumination normalization approach for face recognition under varying lighting conditions. In the proposed approach, a discrete cosine transform (DCT) is employed to compensate for illumination variations in the logarithm domain. Since illumination variations mainly lie in the low-frequency band, an appropriate number of DCT coefficients are truncated to minimize variations under different lighting conditions. Experimental results on the Yale B database and CMU PIE database show that the proposed approach improves the performance significantly for the face images with large illumination variations. Moreover, the advantage of our approach is that it does not require any modeling steps and can be easily implemented in a real-time face recognition system.