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Forensic photography

Crime scene photography is an important part of the collection of evidence at the crime scene. It documents the appearance and location of victims, shell casings, footprints, bloodstain patterns, and other physical evidence and produces a permanent, visual record.

Forensic photography, also referred to as crime scene photography, is an activity that records the initial appearance of the crime scene and physical evidence, in order to provide a permanent record for the courts.” Miller

The latest development of science in allying UV rays and IR with photography have opened up enormous possibilities in criminal investigation. Modern day cameras offer the photographer a plethora of options to ensure proper lighting and focus on the subject.

  1. The use of digital cameras allows a crime scene photographer to instantly review his photos and make changes to the camera settings, if needed to capture the best possible image while still on the scene.
  2. Special imaging techniques and lighting are being used to capture fingerprints, indentations, shoe and tire track impressions, vehicle identification numbers and very small pieces of evidences.
  3. Alternate light sources (ALS) such as lasers, blue or green lights and colored filters help detect processed latent fingerprints or other hidden evidence and illuminate for photographing.

Objective of forensic photography

The purpose of crime scene photography is to record what is there and where it is in relationship to the scene, whether it is connected to the crime or not. Investigators rely on these photographs for evidence.

Forensic photographers capture every little detail of a crime scene. For example, a detailed picture of a gunshot wound on a man’s body may help investigators figure the direction and angle from which the bullet was fired.

Photographs should be taken in such a manner as to provide clear, undistorted high quality images, which document the condition of the crime scene, evidence, and persons related to a criminal investigation. In short, the main objectives of forensic photography include the following:

  1. to record the condition of the scene before alterations occur;
  2. to record the location of the scene;
  3. to record the position and condition of evidence;
  4. to document the point of view of the persons involved and witnesses;
  5. to convey the look of the scene to investigators, attorneys, and the judicial officers who may not have the opportunity to view the scene first hand;
  6. to use as a tool for crime scene reconstruction;
  7. to assist in portraying an accurate picture of the crime scene during courtroom testimony;
  8. to refresh the memory of those involved in the investigation.

Importance of forensic photography

Photography is an essential part of almost every crime investigation. The purpose of crime scene photography is to provide a true and accurate record of the crime scene and physical evidence present by recording the original scene and related areas. It allows the investigator to document the condition of a crime scene, describe a sequence of events, preserve evidence, confirm placement of items of physical evidence, and record information for later evaluation.

  1. Photography records injuries on victims for evidence of violence. Photographs of stolen goods, shoe prints, etc. can be used to show to potential witnesses.
  2. Photographs and crime sketches are the most effective and simplest way to represent a crime scene by the investigating officer.
  3. Well-taken crime scene photographs can aid scientists, investigators and members of the court in their search for the truth. They are most useful in supplying significant bits and pieces with exact measurement of the site and evidence where the crime has occurred.

Crime scene photography plays a crucial role in reconstructing a crime scene. It helps in cases of death by fall, where we need to prepare a dummy of the victim’s weight and build. Besides, it is a permanent record of a crime which is used during trial as most witnesses do not remember minute details of the crime scene.” Sanjeev Kumar Gupta: Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL)

Evidentiary value of photographs

Crime scene photographs are investigative photographs. They are made to record an object or event, or to clarify a point, which is related to a particular investigation. Photographs are admissible in court, if testimony can establish that they are a true and accurate representation of the crime scene. For the photograph to be of evidentiary value and to have the highest quality as evidence, it must accurately depict the scene, persons, or objects precisely as they were found.

About the Author

author Sunil Sharma is an advocate; editor and compiler of legal commentaries, having authored more than 40 books.

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