Do you turn on CSI, Law & Order, or such crime shows every morning and watch them well into the evening? Are you equally enthusiastic about photography and all things image-making? Then maybe a career in forensic photography is right for you!
Forensic photography is one of the most important aspects of solving any case, as it involves gathering all of the evidence and documenting it before the crime scene is tampered with. Between weather and police, it’s very easy for the scene to change its appearance, and forensic photographers ensure the original scene is forever captured. Forensic photographers take skilled photos of crime scenes to capture evidence and physical settings. Their photographic documentation of a crime scene provides investigators with detailed information and possible clues on what happened.
What Is Included Under the Forensic Photography Umbrella?
Forensic photography has many faces to it, as crimes tend to feature a slew of different types of evidence. Some of what is included under that umbrella are:
- Victim Photography
Victim photography refers to the physical appearance of the victims. Whether the victims are alive or not, photographic evidence showcases the ordeal that they had endured.
- Victim’s Location Relative to the Scene
Photographing where the victim lies in the scene can significantly help figure out how the crime took place.
- Crime Scene Overall View and Contextual Images
Likely one of the most important aspects of the job, capturing the crime scene in its original form before it is crawling with detectives and CSI is so important! So many pieces of evidence and details to the crime can be found in these images. As well, the context for everything is very important when solving a mystery.
- Blood Stain Photography
The really morbid stuff starts here! Blood stain photography refers to photographing any and all blood splatter or stains at a scene. This can help the crime scene investigators determine the direction of any blows or violence, what weapon may have been used, and whether or not the body was moved after the crime was committed.
- Fingerprint Photography
Fingerprints are a big piece of evidence for all of the cases as they directly link to the individual present in the room during the crime. This is also the quickest to be tampered or lost, so photographing those fingerprints as quickly as possible is a big part of a forensic photographer’s job!
- Shell Casings Photography
Shell casings are photographed in crimes involving a gun, as the casing is what is left over from the bullet. Capturing the positioning of these in a crime scene can help figure out where the shooter was standing and how many shots were fired. Sometimes, they can even point to where a stray bullet might be hiding!
- Objects Involved in the Crime
As you can imagine, not all crimes are committed with your typical arsenal of weapons. Sometimes crimes involve objects of accessibility. Photographing these objects are evidence of murder weapons.
- Any Other Physical Evidence
Forensic photographers capture anything and everything associated with the scene of the crime!
All of the above may sound morbid, but that’s what forensic photography is! All of the above help find the criminal and bring justice to the victim, so it is a worthwhile cause. Equally, crime scene photographers need to be great critical thinkers and problem solvers- these photographers are often looking for evidence in the most unlikely places and have to work in a high-paced, often stressful, environment to ensure everything is documented before tampering takes place.
What Gear Do Forensic Photographers User?
Gear is often supplied by the department that the forensic photographer is working for! Typically, it is a high quality DSLR camera paired with a standard lens and a macro lens, along with a very powerful flash or strobe light to ensure all details are visible. Shooting modes are Manual, so that the photographer can adjust ISO, shutter speed, and aperture as needed! Apertures tend to sit pretty narrow, to ensure everything is clearly in focus. This isn’t an artistic photography position unfortunately, so your work will be more akin to documentarian photographs.
How Does One Become a Forensic Photographer?
As to how one becomes a forensic photographer, it’s not as straightforward as picking up a camera and taking photos of crime scenes!
In order to become a professional forensic photographer, schooling is required. You must first enroll and pass general photography courses and forensic photography courses. A Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice is another necessity, as the job entails a deep understanding of the criminal justice system (especially in the jurisdiction you are going to be working in).
Next, you’ll need to receive a professional certification, which ensures you possess all of the knowledge and skills needed for the job position. Some of the knowledge includes:
- Basic and advanced photographic principles and processes
- Proper procedures for crime scene and evidence recovery
- Court requirements for photo evidence
- Law enforcement procedures
- Crime scene safety procedures
Finally, you’ll need to apply to internships in order to gain actual working experience, build up a professional portfolio, make connections, and eventually qualify for a full-time working position. You have to pay your dues, much like any career!
Finally, find a job in the forensic photography field!
Is It a Worthwhile Career?
The million dollar question! Whether or not forensic photography is a worthwhile career to pursue really depends on you as a person. If you have a passion and dedication for something, anything is possible.
As for salary, that’s also very dependent upon the area you are working in. Typically, starting pay is a few dollars over minimum wage, with room for growth. According to an online career website, the following numbers ring true as of December 2020:
“Photographers: make an average of $14.65 an hour
Crime scene technicians: make an average of $18.76 an hour
Forensic specialists: make an average of $43,473 a year
In addition to advanced photography skills, crime scene photographers must know forensic procedures and crime scene investigation, which will likely increase their yearly salary.”
In conclusion, hopefully this article answered all of your questions on forensic photography and what it’s all about!