A Simplified Guide To Crime Scene Photography

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Introduction, Anyone who has seen the movie M Y C OUSIN V INNY 1992 knows how a. snapshot can save the day In the film inexperienced New York lawyer. Vincent LaGuardia Vinny Gambini travels to a small southern town with. his fianc e Mona Lisa Vito to represent his cousin in a murder case Mona. Lisa s incessant picture taking with a cheap pocket camera causes. frustration throughout the film but eventually produces a photograph that. holds the key to the case, Photography of everything from landscapes to historical events has. preserved and illustrated history for the past 200 years When a photograph. of a forged document was presented and allowed as courtroom evidence in. 1851 1 photography as a forensic tool was born and soon became a boon to. cases of identification and scene analysis Crime scene photography became. cutting edge in the 1870s and new technologies have expanded its use ever. In this discussion photographs are not evidence in and of themselves but. provide visual documentation of the scene and locations of evidence within. the scene Photographs taken at a crime scene allow investigators to. recreate that scene for later analysis or for use in the courtroom If the. crime scene photography does not thoroughly and accurately document the. entire scene it could be detrimental to the investigation and potentially. damaging during a criminal trial,Principles of Crime Scene Photography. There is no prescribed length of time it takes to photographically document. a crime scene The amount of time spent depends on the size and. 1 Luco vs U S 64 U S 23 How 515 162 L Ed 545 1859, complication in the crime scene how much there is to document and. environmental factors like weather or danger to the investigative team It. can consist of thousands of photographs and hours of work. Crime scene photography should not just focus on the obvious The purpose. of crime scene photography is to document what is there and where it is in. relationship to the scene whether it is obviously connected to the crime or. not For example a photographer in Florida shot the inside of every cabinet. and the refrigerator at a homicide scene in a home just as a matter of. procedure It was later discovered that the victim had a receipt for a six pack. of beer matching the beer shown in the photograph of the refrigerator. Relatives noted that the victim did not drink beer Further investigation led. the team to the convenience store where the beer was purchased and the. surveillance tape showed the victim with an unknown person purchasing. the beer It turns out that the victim had picked up a hitchhiker purchased. beer for that person and come back to the house The photograph of the. refrigerator contents had created the link enabling the investigators to find. the suspect,Capturing the Scene, Photography or writing or drawing with light is defined as the process or.
art of producing images of objects on sensitized surfaces by the chemical. action of light or of other forms of radiant energy such as X rays gamma. rays or cosmic rays Fixing an image permanently has been possible since. the 1820s in a variety of ways from the daguerreotype to silver plates to. film and now digitally, Some may consider photography more of an art than a science but well. taken crime scene photographs can aid scientists investigators and. members of the court in their search for the truth This makes photography. a critical first responder skill Larger agencies may have specially trained. and certified crime scene photographers with high end cameras and lighting. to document crime scenes and evidence but more often the first responder. needs to do what they can with equipment assigned to them That said. many of today s digital point and shoot cameras have a variety of settings. that with some basic operator training allow for proper documentation. Controlling the Light, Photographers use several means to tell the camera how to capture the. image including aperture shutter speed depth of field and white balance. Aperture refers to the size of the opening that lets light into the camera and. shutter speed is how long that opening or shutter remains open Depth of. field is the amount of area in front of foreground and behind background. an object that remains in focus Lastly white balance allows the camera to. record the proper temperature of light resulting in an accurate. representation of the color tones of objects in the photograph. Brightening the Darkness, Experienced photographers often use a technique called painting with. light to expose image details in dark or near dark conditions In this. technique the shutter is held open for seconds or minutes and the. photographer walks through the scene adding light from sources such as a. flashlight or detached camera flash, Crime scene at night after using the painting with light technique Courtesy. of Scott Campbell, However the photographer chooses to capture the image the main reason.
for crime scene photography is to thoroughly document the entire scene the. evidence and any areas of special significance to the investigation. Why and when is crime scene,photography used, Photography should be used as part of the documentation for all physical. crime scenes including traffic collisions burglaries homicides or any. number of crimes against people or property Photographs however can be. misleading and confusing to the viewer Therefore crime scene. photographers must ensure their work is both ethical and honest while. capturing as much accurate information and detail as possible Documenting. all elements of a crime scene is a major stepping stone when trying to piece. together what happened how it happened and who did it. Crime scenes are typically full of activity and often unpredictable with first. responders assisting victims and investigators beginning their work Even in. the most ideal situation capturing photographic evidence can be. challenging An experienced photographer will know to take photos at all. stages of the investigation and that it is better to have too many than not. enough images, The following steps are taken to ensure proper photographic. documentation, 1 Secure the scene In all forensic investigations the first step is to secure the. crime scene, 2 Evaluate conditions Next the photographer should evaluate the available. light and weather conditions and adjust camera settings appropriately. Crime scenes can be indoors outside or both they can be vehicles include. multiple rooms or any combination of locations therefore no single camera. setting will work for all crime scenes, 3 Shoot the scene The photographer should take photographs before.
anything is disturbed progressively working through the scene from outside. to close up pictures Many shots should be taken from the entire scene to. medium shots to show the relationship of evidence to the overall scene. Just like a television program will show the viewer the outside of a building. to establish where the characters are going the crime scene photographer. should capture the whole scene first using wide angle shots covering the. entire scene from the approach and through every area Close up images of. evidence can be taken out of context so establishing the scene first with. wide and medium shots is critical, In addition photographs should be taken looking up from the scene to. capture evidence or environmental factors that may be above the scene. 4 Photograph the victims The next series of shots should include victims if. present to show locations injuries and condition, 5 Photograph the evidence Then each piece of evidence should be. photographed to illustrate where it was found This establishes the. relationships of the evidence to the victim the victim to the room and so on. These photographs should be taken from straight above or straight on at. right angles eliminating potential distance distortions Each piece of. evidence should be photographed with a scale to indicate size and without a. Courtesy of Daniel Nichols NFSTC, 6 Evidence markers Photographs should be taken before evidence markers. are placed then again after These initial shots are important to prove that. no one has tampered with the crime scene, 7 Re shoot for new evidence If investigators mark new evidence the whole. series of shots should be repeated including all evidence shots These. photos should include the entire piece of evidence and a scale to indicate. Courtesy of Becky Carter CEP NFSTC, Special imaging techniques and lighting should be used to capture things like.
fingerprints indentations shoe and tire track impressions vehicle. identification numbers VIN and very small pieces of evidence Techniques. may include, Alternate light sources ALS such as lasers blue or green lights and. colored filters that help detect processed latent fingerprints or other hidden. evidence and illuminate for photographing, Green light used to illuminate a latent fingerprint Courtesy of Scott. Oblique angle lighting using a flashlight camera flash or ALS at a very. low angle to cast shadows that allow an imprint or impression to be. photographed, Oblique light used to add contrast to a footprint Courtesy of Scott Campbell. Macro lenses can take very close up images 1 1 or 1 2 of small items. such as tool marks or trace evidence, Cartridge case details captured with macro lens Courtesy of Scott Campbell. Photographs should accurately document the lighting conditions at the. scene After those photos are taken if necessary a photographer will add. artificial light like a flash to compensate for a camera s limitations in. capturing the visible range of light under certain conditions. 8 Shoot fast Sometimes environmental factors such as rain snow or traffic. can make conditions difficult for photography The photographer must work. quickly to capture as much visual documentation as possible from a. deteriorating scene, 9 Photograph the victim later If a victim must be moved or requires.
treatment the photographer can go back to document the victim s injuries. Various techniques using special lighting and colored filters can highlight. injuries bruising scarring and healing status,How It s Done. Who Conducts the Photographic Analysis and,Enhancements. Once working copies of all the photographs have been created investigators. can select images for analysis and enhancement This is normally done by. the photographer or if available within the audio visual department in the. laboratory As with all evidence detailed records should be kept regarding. who accesses or works with the files and what techniques were used to. enhance or otherwise modify the files, The International Association for Identification IAI has a Certified Forensic. Photographer CFPH, http www theiai org certifications imaging index php program. established in 2001 The CFPH process is accredited by the Forensic. Specialties Accreditation Board This program requires specific training or. coursework and testing that includes both written and practical. assessments Evidence Photographers International Council EPIC. http www evidencephotographers com formerly provided specific. certification for evidence photographers, Many times the images are taken by a member of the investigative team that.
is responsible for many crime scene duties that also incorporates. photography Depending on the size of the agency and support from their. local laboratory more experienced photographers may be available for. major cases,How and Where Evidence Photographs are Processed. All photographs taken are saved as originally captured entered into. evidence inventory and tracked Selected photographs of particular evidence. or parts of a scene may need additional enhancement This can be done. within the department if the appropriate software is available or may be. sent to a regional specialist The most common enhancements include. cropping brightness and contrast adjustments and color processing. Potential photographic enhancements follow the same rules as news. journalism An image may be lightened and darkened cropped or the color. enhanced The white balance can be adjusted but adding or removing. information is unacceptable When submitted for courtroom use the. original photograph must be available for comparison and the technician or. examiner must be able to show and describe any enhancements that were. done and why, When images are presented they must be clearly identified as a working. and or enhanced version The original camera sequential numbering system. should be retained to show that images are in order and none have been. removed The working images should not be renamed until identified or. selected for use and original files should not be renamed at all. Type of Equipment Used, Investigators and technicians photographing a crime scene should have. access to a good quality camera that is capable of manual override and has. interchangeable lenses off camera flash cable release and a tripod mount. With these tools and a widely attainable level of training and practice good. quality photographs can be taken in a broad range of scenarios including. low light highly reflective surfaces and tight spaces. That said many first responders are equipped with basic consumer level. point and shoot cameras Since they may be in the best position to . the mostideal situation capturingphotographic evidence can be challenging An experienced photographer will know to take photos at all stagesof the investigation

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