Did Amazon Patent the White Backdrop?

 
Amazon's controversial patent, that relates to using multiple lights to illuminate subjects in front of a white backdrop.

Amazon’s controversial patent, that relates to using multiple lights to illuminate subjects in front of a white backdrop.

Patents to protect technological innovations are common, but in a rather bizarre development, Amazon seems to have patented one of the most common photographic lighting techniques. On 18 March, the United States Patent and Trademark Office granted them a patent that relates to subjects being shot in front of white, seamless backgrounds.

According to 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.”

One way of looking at this patent, of course, is that it is too specific to pose a problem for anyone else.

One way of looking at this patent, of course, is that it is too specific to pose a problem for anyone else.

Some commenters have suggested that the company is protecting itself from anyone else who may patent a similar setup in the future, and then use it against them. Curiously enough, the patent is actually detailed down to the most intricate of details, including the lighting ratios of each light source, the aperture that must be used and the focal length of the lens being used. It says,

… 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.

Not surprisingly, photographers around the world have expressed outrage in these past few days, since the patent became public. The whole idea of using multiple lights and a white backdrop to produce images that have minimal shadows is common to almost every product photo. The fact that one website claiming that it is now their patent, is not only controversial, it is probably even funny.

You can view the entire patent over here.

So does Amazon really own this age-old photography technique? Would it make any real-world practical difference to the day-to-day lives of other photographers who have been using this technique? What do you think? Write in and tell us.

Tags: studio, background, Amazon, Controversy, patent, white backdrop, photography technique