What is Forensic Photography?

Jodee Redmond
Jodee Redmond
Forensic photographers gather visual, or phtographic, evidence at crime scenes.
Forensic photographers gather visual, or phtographic, evidence at crime scenes.

Forensic photography can also be described as crime scene photography. Investigators and prosecutors need to have accurate images of various aspects of the location where a crime has occurred. The crime scene photographer may be asked to photograph a homicide victim before the body is taken to the morgue. In other situations, the forensic photographer may be asked to capture images of shell casings, blood stains, broken glass, or other objects.

Forensic photography can help with an investigation into an arson case.
Forensic photography can help with an investigation into an arson case.

Forensic photography jobs will appeal to people who have a good eye for detail and who are very precise in their work. Each image must be carefully set up so that investigators have a clear image that they can use in their work. Often, the photographer is asked to shoot the same item from several angles to provide an accurate record of the evidence discovered at the crime scene. The images that the forensic photographer captures may be used in court as evidence if the case goes to trial.

Forensic photography at the scene of an accident can be use to determine the extent of damages.
Forensic photography at the scene of an accident can be use to determine the extent of damages.

The photographer must have a good understanding of his or her equipment, including the camera and flash. Special lighting may be needed to provide clear images for investigators. The photographer must also be knowledgeable about scale, so the object's size can be accurately represented in the photographic images.

Not all of the images the forensic photographer is asked to capture involve a deceased person or inanimate objects. In the case of a person who has been assaulted, photographic evidence of the person's injuries may be used as part of a criminal prosecution. The photographer must be able to capture the images they need as evidence, while still demonstrating empathy for the victim.

Images that a forensic photographer captures may be used in court as evidence.
Images that a forensic photographer captures may be used in court as evidence.

Many people who end up working in the field of forensic photography started off working as police officers or crime scene investigators first. This experience will help them stay calm when the time comes to given evidence in court. Once they get some practical experience, they may take a forensic photography course offered at the college or university level. Other forensic photographers start their careers by working in a crime laboratory to get experience and the necessary contacts to get hired for one of these positions.

A crime scene photographer may photograph a homicide victim before the body is taken to the morgue.
A crime scene photographer may photograph a homicide victim before the body is taken to the morgue.

Forensic photographers may also find work for companies that provide consulting services to law firms, insurance companies, or the arson investigation branch of fire departments. Opportunities for employment may also be available in the military. Wherever there is a need for photographic records for legal purposes, you will find people working in the field of forensic photography.

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    • Forensic photographers gather visual, or phtographic, evidence at crime scenes.
      Forensic photographers gather visual, or phtographic, evidence at crime scenes.
    • Forensic photography can help with an investigation into an arson case.
      Forensic photography can help with an investigation into an arson case.
    • Forensic photography at the scene of an accident can be use to determine the extent of damages.
      Forensic photography at the scene of an accident can be use to determine the extent of damages.
    • Images that a forensic photographer captures may be used in court as evidence.
      Images that a forensic photographer captures may be used in court as evidence.
    • A crime scene photographer may photograph a homicide victim before the body is taken to the morgue.
      A crime scene photographer may photograph a homicide victim before the body is taken to the morgue.
    • Forensic photography may be particularly beneficial in cases of sudden death.
      Forensic photography may be particularly beneficial in cases of sudden death.