Amazon patents common photographic trick for taking product pictures

amazonAmazon has been granted a patent on a photo studio setup commonly used by professional photographers to take pictures with seamless white backgrounds.

fuelbandYes, this might sound like a new low for the patent system, and maybe that’s the case, but Amazon is probably just covering its butt here.

That’s the viewpoint of the site DIY Photography, which advises photographers to “put down the pitchforks” and not worry about Amazon using the patent to sue them.

It’s sad to say this, but there are people out there that will sue you for using a photography technique when they have it patented,” the site explains. “Should someone with that patent try and sue Amazon, who make thousands of these photographs per day, they’d have a hefty sum of cash coming in their way. What Amazon’s doing is protecting itself from companies like that.”

Adds the site PopPhoto, “Unless Amazon starts patent trolling, it’s probably safe to keep shooting against that seamless.”

However, it’s one of those patents that can make the U.S. patent system an easy target. Here’s the abstract.

Disclosed are various embodiments of a studio arrangement and a method of capturing images and/or video. One embodiment of the disclosure includes a front light source aimed at a background, an image capture position located between the background and the front light source, an elevated platform positioned between the image capture position and the background, and at least one rear light source positioned between the elevated platform and the background. A subject can be photographed and/or filmed on the elevated platform to achieve a desired effect of a substantially seamless background where a rear edge of the elevated platform is imperceptible to an image capture device positioned at the image capture position.

The patent was filed in 2011 and granted in March of this year, before surfacing publicly this past week.

  • larry9

    The US Patent Office is making a fool of itself and the taxpayers. Companies
    such as Apple are grossly abusing the system. But I agree in this case
    that Amazon is blameless.

    • kieraeastedi321

      My Uncle
      Ethan got a new gold Audi S8 Check This Out F­i­s­c­a­l­p­o­s­t­.­C­O­M­

    • Mike

      Then they should give it to everyone to use free of charge. That way Amazon is protected from patent trolls and nobody else can be destroyed by Amazon for using a technique older than Bezos. In reality, it’s such an old way of shooting photos that it’s lifespan for a patent would be DOA.

  • Guest

    Congrats to ‘zon on the ‘tent!

  • http://laudeman.com William Laudeman

    Dang! Been doing this for (about) 60 years and never guessed I could have patented it! Dang! Uuhhhh – is Uppercase patented? How about lowercase?

  • Paul-Seattle

    This is is horribly misinformed article. I will never read another Geekwire article again since if this representative of the depth of knowledge they have on subject before publishing and article then I can only imagine all the misinformation I have received from them over the last year or so since I started following the Geekwire publication.

    What rights does the Abstract of the patent give the patentee? Answer: None. It has nothing to do with the scope of protection of the patent. The claims define the scope of protection. All you misinformed buffoons criticizing the patent system should actually learn some basic facts before publishing such terribly misleading articles as that above.

    Claim 1 of the patent, which defines some of the material protected by the patent, as follows:

    1. A studio arrangement, comprising: a background comprising a white cyclorama; a front light source positioned in a longitudinal axis intersecting the background, the longitudinal axis further being substantially perpendicular to a surface of the white cyclorama; an image capture position located between the background and the front light source in the longitudinal axis, the image capture position comprising at least one image capture device equipped with an eighty-five millimeter lens, the at least one image capture device further configured with an ISO setting of about three hundred twenty and an f-stop value of about 5.6; an elevated platform positioned between the image capture position and the background in the longitudinal axis, the front light source being directed toward a subject on the elevated platform; a first rear light source aimed at the background and positioned between the elevated platform and the background in the longitudinal axis, the first rear light source positioned below a top surface of the elevated platform and oriented at an upward angle relative to a floor level; a second rear light source aimed at the background and positioned between the elevated platform and the background in the longitudinal axis, the second rear light source positioned above the top surface of the elevated platform and oriented at a downward angle relative to the floor level; a third rear light source aimed at the background and positioned in a lateral axis intersecting the elevated platform and being substantially perpendicular to the longitudinal axis, the third rear light source further positioned adjacent to a side of the elevated platform; and a fourth rear light source aimed at the background and positioned in the lateral axis adjacent to an opposing side of the elevated platform relative to the third rear light source; wherein a top surface of the elevated platform reflects light emanating from the background such that the elevated platform appears white and a rear edge of the elevated platform is substantially imperceptible to the image capture device; and the first rear light source, the second rear light source, the third rear light source, and the fourth rear light source comprise a combined intensity greater than the front light source according to about a 10:3 ratio.

    I cannot comment on whether the above should or should not have been granted by the patent office, but remember one would need to do each and every element of this claim to infringe.

    Horribly misleading to cite the Abstract and then imply that a patent was granted on what is disclosed there.

    The patent trolls are a real problem and quality at the patent office needs to be improved, but is misinformed article like that above that add NOTHING meaningful to the discourse regarding relevant changes that need to be made to improve the patent system and patent litigation (the real issue with the trolls).

    Very disappointing Geekwire.

    • Dy

      This comment is so much better than the article.

    • panacheart

      I think the article was a good overview, and I completely disagree with your assessment. First, this is a stupid patent, granted for a setup that many people use already. Second, look in photography how to books and you’ll see this is a common setup.

      Amazon isn’t worried about being sued by an invalid patent by some troll, it just wants to be a patent troll. And yes, this is a perfect example of our patent system gone very wrong.

      • dasfoto

        You should be on the jury of every criminal case. With your ability to read the minds and intents of people so well we’d be assured of no innocent person ever being convicted of a crime they didn’t commit.

    • Cleeeeeston

      Dibs on the “selfie” patent! Hahahaha
      Paul, I used to work in a patent law firm and I have to tell you that you are wrong. With this patent theoretically Amazon could sue everyone that take a picture using a “similar” arrangement. And if you know anything about photography you know that this is a very common arrangement. Let’s hope that they’re not planning to spend millions of dollars suing everyone for this…

    • Andrew Davidson

      “I will never read another Geekwire article again…”

      Seriously? Bishop did his best here to explain something that is interesting but kind of complicated for most readers who don’t consume themselves with the topic.

      Regardless, how about taking a measured and rational approach to an article that you feel wasn’t quite what it should have been?

      Boycotting an entire news/information outlet is just patently (pun intended) STUPID.

      Most people in the readership of Geekwire aren’t going to use Geekwire as their isolated baseline for any topic written by it – if we are that interested in the specifics, we will look it up…Bishop is not going to write a novella about this, he is just skimming over the minutia to pull out the salient parts…you know, kind of like every other journalist on the planet.

      My advice: keep reading Geekwire articles, assume the rest of us are not lemmings, and give Bishop credit for bringing the subject into the light of day in the first place.

  • panacheart

    Oh, and it’s not a “trick”, it’s a common “technique”. It’s not magic or trickery.

  • Brian Ostrovsky

    If I’m not mistaken, aren’t patents supposed to be granted for inventions which are novel and not currently being used? I’m confused.

  • http://tewha.net/ Steven Fisher

    This is the same Amazon that sued B&N for 1 Click?