PetaPixel

Amazon Patent Shows Common Seamless Background Lighting Technique

seamless

Is Amazon attempting to patent an age old photography lighting technique? A recently published patent seems to suggest that, and it’s getting some photographers up in arms.

Multiple readers have sent us (rather angry and bewildered) tips about the patent, which was first reported on by Shoot the Centerfold. The document itself was published on March 18, 2014, is titled “Studio Arrangement,” and features the diagram above showing a lighting setup.

Here’s the description of the patent:

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 [emphasis ours].

Here’s the patent itself embedded into this page:

Sound familiar? Shoot the Centerfold writes that many photographers “will recognize this lighting set-up and method as being a very old, very common and very widely used lighting technique to photograph a subject against a white cyclorama background.”

An example of a studio product photograph utilizing a seamless background

An example of a studio product photograph utilizing a seamless background

diagram2

diagram3

How controversial the patent really is depends on how wide-reaching it is when it comes to the technique. Among comments on Shoot the Centerfold calling the patent “BS” and asking fellow photographers to boycott Amazon, a reader named Gwo offers a more thoughtful explanation:

[...] this patent claim 1 only applies if you have ALL of
4 rear light sources, in a 10:3 intensity ratio, in exactly
An 85mm lens at f/5.6
ISO 320 set
An elevated platform with the object on it, and a reflective top surface on that platform

So, it appears that Amazon is attempting to protect its “secret sauce” for creating product photographs in front of a seamless background, perhaps in order to prevent competitors’ photographs from looking 100% identical in terms of lighting.

Still, it’s not often that we hear of a patent for a specific lighting setup and/or technique, so this particular one is definitely worth looking into and discussing.


Thanks to everyone who sent this in!


Image credit: Product photo example by Carl Berkeley


 
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  • Roger

    If every corp patents their studio’s lighting setup then the problem/restriction for photographer won’t be highly specific. Instead just about every setup configuration will be patented and photographers won’t be able to work without infringing.

  • Roger

    Until the next patent.. and the next.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nanonyous Theo Lubbe

    I’m not seeing where it’s mentioned they’ve already been awarded the patent? Only ‘Amazon is attempting to’?

  • apmarina

    This is the second sentence in the article: “A recently published patent seems to suggest that, and it’s getting some photographers up in arms”. If its published, its a patent. Also the image shows the final patent. “Attempting” refers to speculating on Amazon’s intentions for obtaining the patent.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nanonyous Theo Lubbe

    I was under the impression a patent being published merely means it’s available for review, not that it’s specifically been awarded to the patenting party.

  • Mark Knight

    My Uncle Jack
    recently got a stunning silver Porsche Cayman by working part time off of a
    laptop. look at here W­ o­ r­ k­ s­ 7­ 7­ .­ C­ O­ M­

  • rocketride

    This sort of BS is definitely not what the Patent Office was intended for.

  • rocketride

    . . . bored and oblivious. As opposed to how they were at just what period in history?

  • Brad Snyder

    Well I will eat my hat for lunch now—the patent was granted.

  • http://www.marketsandpatents.com/design-patent.php Mark Nowotarski

    Brad,

    Actually, SHAME on the patent attorney that filed this. No IDS? No NPL? Do none of the four inventors have any books on photography lighting? The attorneys may think they’ve served their client by not doing a comprehensive prior art search, but all they’ve really done is open their client up to ridicule.

  • dbhalling

    The claims are quite narrow – of course the author of this article either doesn’t know what claims are or how to read them, and most readers will be in the same position, so they can play fast and loose with the facts.

    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 lightsource 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 reflectslight 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.

    In order to show that amazon should not have received this patent, you must show that each and every one of the elements and connections in the above referenced claim are show in the same arrangement. I doubt the author of this article can do so, in fact I don’t think he could read the claim well enough to know even where to start.

    This is just pure propaganda.

  • mestockphoto

    This is really funny! how can they patent it in the first place!!! and about them getting there before apple, does that mean that everyone from now on can patent some set up? this can be endlessly stupid…. wow

  • http://500px.com/mlianopr mlianopr

    A Lawyer!!

  • MikeInMI

    I think I’m going to file a patent for shooting a 300mm lens at f/2.8 resulting in a very shallow focus area and a blurred background.

    Isn’t this Amazon patent “art”. Can you patent an “artistic technique”?

  • Evan Griffiths

    ISO 320? mmmkay?

  • Yomi Jones

    Please do not drag Felas’ name into this. He was a great musician and this patent is a crock of sh*t. Never never associate the two!