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What is a Forensic Photographer?

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  • Written By: Cassie L. Damewood
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 06 December 2016
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    Conjecture Corporation
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A forensic photographer is the person who takes pictures of legal evidence at crime scenes as well as in hospitals and forensic laboratories. He normally works as a freelance photographer or for a forensic photography company. Some in this profession are employed by magazines or newspapers or work for hospitals, law firms or private detectives. Police departments and government agencies also hire these professionals.

Photographers who specialize in forensic images are generally required to have a clear understanding of what the laws and courts require for their work to be admissible as evidence. Knowledge of human anatomy is considered helpful in taking pictures that clearly depict an injury or piece of important evidence on a body. A forensic photographer frequently confers with physicians and medical illustrators to ensure his photographs are technically accurate.

Many different types of cameras and lenses are normally used by a forensic photographer. Which type he chooses to use depends on the subject of the photos as well as the environment in which the photos are taken. Some subjects are minute details on a victim’s body, shots of an operating room procedure or close-ups of evidence discovered in a forensic laboratory. Others are panoramic views of a scene. These atmospheres often necessitate the use of zoom or wide-angle lenses.

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Crime scenes often have inadequate lighting or are in locations with irregular angles and views. These typically require specialized photography equipment with apertures that automatically adjust the light in the shot. A forensic photographer also frequently uses computer-aided devices that produce three-dimensional images of a scene or subject.

X-ray, infrared and ultraviolet techniques are also occasionally used to photograph substances and details undetectable by regular cameras. Strobes, optical microscopes and microscope adapters are frequently attached to cameras to produce intricately detailed images. A number of scientific instruments and tools electronically record pictures and images that are helpful in forensic investigations.

A forensic photographer’s work commonly requires him to present his findings to judges and juries in courtroom proceedings. He is regularly summoned to testify about his interpretations of the photographs. This ordinarily necessitates the presentation of visual charts for contrasting and comparing scenes and evidence.

There are no formal educational requirements for this position, though a degree in photography may help a candidate find employment in a competitive job market. A forensic photographer is normally a professional photographer with expertise in using a variety of cameras and photography peripherals. He generally has considerable knowledge of science, criminology and forensics. Good communication skills are helpful in dealing with victims at crime scenes and enlisting the aid of other professionals.

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