Using Photographs in a Patent Application

In the patent industry, line drawings are well-recognized for their unique characteristics. But did you know that photographs of inventions are also acceptable in certain cases?

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the advantages of using photographs in your patent application and when they are acceptable to use instead of line drawings. We’ll also share some of our cutting-edge photo capabilities here at AM Patent Drawings & Graphics which can help put you on the path to patent approval!

Why Photographs Instead of Line Drawings?


It’s pretty amazing how inventions can range from the very simple to the mind-bendingly complicated. For more complex inventions, the USPTO will accept photographs in utility and design patent applications if a photograph is the only practicable medium for illustrating the invention. For example, you might choose to represent your invention with a photograph if there is a significant amount of detail in the material or fabric that is pertinent to the piece. These types of textures can be difficult to depict through a line drawing, as some shadings and line patterns are reserved to symbolize other illustrative features.

Some other inventions that are best shown through photographs due to their innate complexity include cell cultures, electrophoresis cells, autoradiographs, crystalline structures, or gel and blot imaging.

Autoradiographs and crystalline structures are best depicted by photographs

Save time and money

While the process for creating line drawings is often assisted by modern tools and technologies, much of it is still a very manual process. For our team of draftsmen, taking photographic images of your invention is a much faster process, saving our clients both time and money. If your invention would be best depicted by a photograph, you’ll probably be pleased to know that it’s generally quicker and more cost efficient to produce.

Photo Requirements

Multiple views

A patent illustration must show as many views as necessary to show the invention. The views may be plan, elevation, section, or perspective views. These same rules generally apply to patent photographs as well.

Example photocase prepared by our team

Color or black and white?

We’re often asked if color photographs are allowed in patent applications. The answer is yes, though photographs are usually in black and white. If you are seeking to submit color photographs, a petition must be filed explaining why the color photographs are necessary. When the USPTO grants approval for the use of color photos, there is also an additional fee that must be paid. Regardless of being color or black and white, photographs need to be sufficiently clear so that all details are easily seen when reproduced.

It should be noted that black and white photographs and ink drawings must not be combined in a single design application, as this can lead to a high number of inconsistencies between corresponding elements on the drawings as compared with the photographs.

Our Capabilities

At AM Patent Drawings & Graphics, we pride ourselves on being able to serve our clients with all their graphics and drawings needs. With our in-house photographic studio, we have access to the top-of-the-line equipment and lighting required to achieve clear and detailed images of your invention. Some of our equipment include Nikon DSLR cameras, high-speed Tamron zoom lenses, and lighting tents in addition to professional lighting setups.

Our team is highly knowledgeable about patent filing requirements and will take the required number and angles of photographs that will help support your application. If you have a model or prototype of your invention, send it to us, we will photograph it, and return it to you.

Next steps

Our expert team has over 45 years of graphics and illustration experience and can help you take professional photographs of your invention. Contact us to begin taking photographs of your invention that will support your patent application today!

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