The tile of an article over at the The American Genius (entrpreneurs’ news beat) website has created a stir on (at least) one professional marketing forum and on several Facebook Walls. It reads, “Amazon wins patent for taking photos against a white background. What!?” (That’s just the first of many articles I saw – because this is causing quite a “stir” among photographers and photography blogs.)
Outrageous as that seems – it’s not all that outrageous. The “patent” (March 18, 2014) is for the specific studio setup they use to produce those pictures. Unless one copies that “Studio Arrangement” precisely I doubt there can be a claim of patent infringement. Don’t believe me, though. Read it for yourself: United States Patent: 8676045
Here’s a chocolate cookie with a white background. Is this an example of infringing on that patent? Can you tell (or even guess) the “studio arrangement” I used in photographing that cookie? Can you tell how many lights I used? Or, how about the f-stop, shutter speed and/or ISO sensitivity?***
Said patent acknowledges that photography against a white background is prior art: “Prior art solutions for achieving such a result…” It then goes on to state that nearly all of those techniques also require some amount post-processing. The specifically patented “Amazon” technique allows photos to be used directly in product illustration without any need for (the expense of) post-processing.
The author of that piece used her Masters Degree in English to create an effective “Link Bait” title for an article where the facts are inherently flawed. Another example of “sensational” journalism is basically what I see. The title of the article is not accurate! It is inept and misleading journalism – whether intentional (link bait) or not, I cannot judge. There are many more examples of “sensationalistic” journalism around the interwebs. For example:
- – Taking a photo against a white background? Amazon owns the patent on that (qz.com)
- – You Can Close The Studio, Amazon Patents Photographing On Seamless White (DIY Photography)
One thing these articles all have in common is an outrage against this (seeming) injustice of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). What they do not express is outrage against distorted journalism – which is sad. While there are many (far too many) claims of stupid (for want of a better term) trademarks and patents being granted, this was a poor example to use in the “cause” of enacting reform.
If the need arises, I will continue to photograph against a white background, as in the example above. My personal preference, however it to photograph against black, as in this example of a Christmas Cactus in bloom.
***Ask in the comments and I’ll explain exactly how I shot that cookie to anyone interested.