sorry to ask this but unless I've missed something fundamental in that massively overly complicated and distracting description of a setup that, with probably small adjustments in lighting positions, is already used in photographic studios all over the world.

I was always under the impression that a for something to be patentable it "must be new, or novel, and different from what's gone before:.

Photographing subjects against a white background, where that background is lit to, in effect, be overexposed and thus providing what is known as a high key image is a standard technique. see the following link for more info.. in fact looking at the pictorial description it looks remarkably similar..


perhaps the addition of a reflective floor is the differentiator?


Can someone point out what's new. novel or different from what's gone before.

  • Title: Studio Arrangement

  • Assignee: Amazon

  • Priority Date: 11/9/11

Claim 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.

  • 1
    This claim one is extremely specific - it requires an 85 mm focal length lens, not linger of shorter and also specifies the ISO and f-stop to fairly narrow ranges. It also requires four lights positioned in a specific relationship. At this level of detail the examiner found it novel and non-obvious. But it is so specific that it seems very easy to get around.
    – George White
    May 6, 2014 at 5:22
  • I've created a question on the Photos Stack Exchange to help gain some attention for this request. photo.stackexchange.com/questions/50036/… May 6, 2014 at 15:59
  • See also dpreview.com/news/2014/05/06/… -- that's what brought me to Ask Patents to check for a prior art request in the first place
    – bwDraco
    May 9, 2014 at 15:39
  • This needs to be in their company procedure manual as an SOP, NOT a patent!!!!
    – user8620
    May 10, 2014 at 13:55
  • Discussion on Hacker News: news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7725129
    – mnicky
    May 10, 2014 at 14:06

7 Answers 7


This patent utilizes the most common portrait lens, the 85mm, on a lighting setup that has been in common use for decades. This would only make sense to someone who knows nothing about commercial photography. I see it was filed in 2011 so it isn't like they were short on time to do a thorough review. There is nothing new or novel about this procedure.

  • 2
    Most of the time between filing and examination is queue time. The hours spent on examination ( < 20 hours) are unrelated to the queue time (~ 1 1/2 years).
    – George White
    May 6, 2014 at 22:16
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This patent may be specific, but certainly not novel. See Avedon, or any product photo in recent years. This is a great example of the system off its rails restraining innovation, and this is from someone who love Amazon.

  • 2
    Looking at photo how can one tell how many lights were used and what the ISO, and f-stop were?
    – George White
    May 6, 2014 at 15:26
  • Depending on how the image data is processed and edited, there may be embedded meta data that describes the f-stop, lens and iso at the time the image was taken. See EXIF on Wikipedia. May 8, 2014 at 23:37
  • @GeorgeWhite It's often possible to reverse-engineer the lighting setup from reflections and shadows in an image.
    – mattdm
    Nov 23, 2014 at 2:10

Also, I don't think that specific prior art is the issue here. Given the problem this is solving, a person skilled in the art would have come to this solution. Therefore, it is not an invention. There is no inventive step, only application of the art.

The Wikipedia page says:

"Further, the combination of previously known elements can be considered obvious. As stated by Winner Int'l Royalty Corp. v. Wang, 202 F.3d. 1340, 1348 (Fed. Cir., 2000), there must be a suggestion or teaching in the prior art to combine elements shown in the prior art in order to find a patent obvious. Thus, in general the critical inquiry is whether there is something in the prior art to suggest the desirability, and thus the obvious nature, of the combination of previously known elements."


Any portrait or studio lighting book prior to 2001 should resolve this.

This is so easy to defend against that I would ignore it as a "junk patent". If they try to enforce this, laugh at them. They are the ones who wasted money on this useless document.


As far as prior art, here is a post from 2007 describing this as a "classic method".


The specifics of the settings are built in settings on the camera and that is probably the most commonly used portrait lens so nothing is being invented.

To put it another way, this would be like patenting illumination of a room with a centrally located ceiling hung light fixture by setting the wall lightswitch to the "on" position.

In other words, there is nothing new being done here, method wise, and no new equipment being used either.


I'm no expert on patent law, but I don't think their claims are very specific at all. From the patent: "It is to be understood that the numerical data is presented herein and used for convenience and brevity, and thus, should be interpreted in a flexible manner to include not only the numerical values explicitly recited as the only workable parameters, but also to include all the individual numerical values that can be employed in a studio arrangement to achieve the desired effect discussed herein." So basically, any similar arrangement that produces the same results. There is nothing new here at all. There are a range of setups to achieve a blown out background with a shiny floor, and this falls well within the standard setups that have been used for years. Here's an example from 2007: http://www.gregrphoto.com/blog/2007/01/14/shooting-with-a-white-background/comment-page-1/ And his description next to the diagram: "I usually use a platform that’s about 10 inches high. I cover the platform with white seamless paper, and then put the plexiglass on top of it. The model stands on top of all of this. Once you do this, you effectively hide the part of the background that is most difficult to light (the part on the floor), and the plexiglass foreground reflects the background light…with no seam."

  • 1
    And from the comments section of the above link, the OP writes: "Bryan – no…typically, I can get the lighting set up such that I don’t have to do any photoshop work on the floor/background. No real secrets, other than what I said in this post…" This specifically pertains to the patent's description: "..a background that appears, when captured with an image capture device, as a near perfect white without the need for post-processing, retouching, or other image manipulation."
    – user8629
    May 11, 2014 at 21:53

Anyone shooting with Tri-X Pan Professional (roll or sheet film), would have used ISO 320 film. And maybe ISO 400 is "about" 320.

85mm is a good focal length for upper body portraits using 35mm film and is recommended by lots of people.

For years, Kodak published a detailed book on portrait lighting setups. I'm not finding a good reference right now, but here is one on eBay, to give an idea.



"If you go to Amazon's own pages, go to books, then put in "studio photography" you will turn up dozens of books in which this very approach is detailed...it has been done this way as long as camera has existed."

  • my dad, a professional photographer who for 40+ years.

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