What is a Forensic Photographer?

The Forensic Photographer produces a visual record of accident and crime scenes to be used as evidence in court. The Forensic Photographer must show detailed images of all the objects at the scene for evidence purposes. The items of evidence they need to photograph are:
  • Accurate pictures of tire marks
  • Fingerprints
  • Footprints
  • Blood spatters
  • Bullet holes
  • Evidence unique to the scene
  • Injuries sustained through accidents or assaults
  • Dead bodies at the scene
Where do Forensic Photographers Work?

The Forensic Photographers can be hired by the police or a Forensic Services Company. Independent Forensic Photographers also work for lawyers and insurance companies. Most Independent Forensic Photographers have experience working for a police force or an insurance company before establishing their sole business as a Forensic Photographer. The Independent status for Forensic Photographers is sometimes for more desirable work hours. The shifts on the police force or for a service company can vary and the Forensic Photographer will be called as needed, anytime of the day or night.

The lead photographers in Forensic Photography usually have backgrounds as Crime Scene Investigators or Scene of Crime Officers (SOCOs). It is common for the photographers to study photography after being CSIs or SOCOs.

Forensic Photographers must have some of the following skills for photographing crime and accident scenes:
  • Photographic skills using techniques that are not standard (such as aerial imaging high and low)
  • Detail oriented skills with a careful approach to image recording.
  • Must be skilled to select and use the best equipment and techniques for the job in all environments and lighting conditions.
  • Skills in exposure so the picture is correct in the depth of field and in clear focus.
The Forensic Photographer's work can become emotionally stressful working around accident and crime scenes especially when photographing gruesome accidents and bodies. The work might require carrying heavy camera equipment. The Forensic Photographer's job might also be combined with other types of evidence gathering and perhaps some work back in the lab to examine the evidence. When a photographer has an expanded skill set he can become more flexible on the forensics team.

Education for Forensic Photography

As previously mentioned many Forensic Photographers were first policemen or Crime Scene Investigators and went through the training process. There are now courses specifically dealing with forensics photography that can be taken online or at local and state colleges which have criminal science or forensic class work. Many employers will do onsite or in-house training for forensic photographers in fingerprinting and imaging.

Salaries earned by Forensic Photographers are taken from May 2006 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and are in line with other criminal investigators who collect evidence at the scenes of crimes and accidents. The salary range of those criminal investigators was from $24K to $47K with the median salary being $34K. Salaries do go higher depending on education, experience and location.

In conclusion, the job outlook for Forensic Photographers is good as all investigative careers are predicted to grow faster than any other field through out the next decade. Opportunities will vary based on location and at least the competition can be keen. Best wishes if you are looking for a career in forensics!

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