Forensic Photography

I’m not going to go into the basics of photography here. There are other pages on the web that will do it much better than I can. Actually, this section is going to be pretty short. There are just a few particulars to hit on, and a couple of interesting techniques.

The first thing that needs to be done after securing the crime scene is photographing it. This creates a permanent record of the condition of the crime scene, one that is incontestable. First, take a picture that shows where the scene is; a shot with a street sign with the crime scene location in the background. Take pictures of the areas around the crime scene; alleys, dumpsters, rear areas, neighbouring structures and even the structures across the street. Next, take pictures of the outside of the structure, showing points of entry and exit. Enter the structure, taking shots that show the locations and layout of the rooms. Take pictures of the whole room where the crime took place. Take close-ups of the scene or body. All pictures of items of evidence, which will be covered in the next paragraph, should be take both with and without a scale (a small ruler showing the size of the object). Take pictures with the scale to show the size of an object. Take pictures without the scale in case its presence in the picture blocks other evidence.

What items are photographed at a crime scene? Bullet casings; photograph as a group and photograph individually. Photograph any dropped items, foot prints or animal tracks. If a homicide, photograph the body or bodies. Photograph any tool marks, bite marks or skin impressions. Basically, anything that might be evidence is photographed.

Imprint evidence requires extra measures. Shoe imprints are photographed individually and as a series or group. Shoe imprints need to be lit from the side to show as much detail in the imprint as possible. Tire imprints are photographed from above as a whole. If the tire imprint is four feet long, then a picture showing all four feet is taken. Detail pictures are then taken showing one foot sections, each picture overlapping the one before it. This way, specific detail can be show and the overlapping pictures lined up to show the whole print. Again, all pictures are take with and without a scale.

There is a special technique for no light situations. This technique is useful outdoors at night (perhaps a car accident scene), or in situations where the room is too big to light or there is no light available for pictures to be taken (such as a burnt out warehouse arson). The camera is set on a tripod with its shutter locked open. The photographer walks to several points in the room, popping off the flash, which is held in his or her hand. Each time the flash goes off, the film in the camera is exposed to another part of the room. The photographer does not appear as he/she is behind the flash and does not get exposed to the light when it pops off and only moves around the room while it is still dark. Remember, the film in a camera captures light. If there is no light, you can walk around in front of a camera all you want and never show up on the film.

Video is also used to film crime scenes, taking long sweeping shots that take in everything in an unbroken time frame. The problem with video is, camcorder microphones will pick up the officers talking in the background, which can sometimes be embarrassing when the tape is replayed in court.

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