Doesn’t it seem “patently” absurd that Amazon would be granted a patent for the process of taking a photo against a white background? Earlier this week, Udi Tirosh broke that news at DIY Photography. Tirosh said that he really wasn’t sure how he could tag the story any way “other than a big #fail for the USPTO, or a huge Kudos for Amazon’s IP attorneys.” He added that in a patent titled “Studio Arrangement,” Amazon took IP ownership on what photographers “call shooting against a seamless white backdrop.”
Tirosh wrote that Amazon’s patent “describes the arrangement of elements in the studio to make a product shot—and “even details the F-stop, ISO value and focal length you need to use”:
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; …
Tirosh also noted that part of the patent “describes a table and some trivial lighting”:
… 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.
Tim Cushing of TechDirt wrote that Amazon differentiates “its proprietary white-background photo thing from others exactly like it by pointing out that prior art often refers to image retouching, green screens or other forms of image manipulation.” He jokingly remarked that Amazon’s technique “is apparently the purest of the pure, being only the photographer, the photographed object/person, the white background, a number of front lights/back lights and some sort of object separating the subject from the ground below it.”
Tirosh said that he believes that “there is plenty of prior art on this”—and that there is “absolutely no way to enforce it.”
Cushing sarcastically explained how this innovative step-by-step photography method works in practice:
1. Turn back lights on.
2. Turn front lights on.
3. Position thing on platform.
4. Take picture.
Writing for Salon, Andrew Leonard said that studio photographers have been taking pictures of their subjects against white back drops for many years. He added that the “notion that such a thing could be patented strikes many people as inexplicable and bizarre. But that’s also exactly why this particular tidbit exploded so quickly out of the amateur photography blogosphere and into the mainstream tech press.”
Like Tirosh, Leonard said he, too, thinks that this Amazon patent seems “utterly unenforceable, absent an army of inspectors who barge into photography studios across the world patrolling for infringing setups.” He said it also seems “utterly ridiculous.” He questions how Amazon could “know that photographers haven’t already stumbled upon the exact same setup.” Then he asks, “And how, in any rational sense, is this the kind of thing that patent law was originally designed to protect?”
You Can Close The Studio, Amazon Patents Photographing On Seamless White (DIY Photography)
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