Forensic Photography

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History of Photography With Evolution Into Forensic Photography

History of Photography With Evolution Into Forensic Photography


Police photographers are forensic scientists who, like medical examiners, biologists and chemists, develop and document evidence to help law enforcement solve crimes. Forensic photographers may be sworn police personnel (especially in smaller departments) or they may be full-time forensic scientists. Visual records gathered using photography are used to prosecute criminal cases and are subject to the same rules of evidence and chain of custody requirements as any other evidence. (Rohde 2000)


The modern science of forensics can be traced back to the establishment of the Department of Legal Medicine at the University of Edinburgh in 1807. E. A. Poe introduced the forensic specialist to audiences in 1842 and Sherlock Holmes used modern science (with more than a little brilliant deduction) to discover the truth. The London Metropolitan Police criminal investigations division (known as Scotland Yard) became the world's leading forensic laboratory, in part, as a result of the Holmes stories. As forensic science developed, each new invention brought tools to the laboratory to help investigators. (Miller 1999)

The earliest form of forensics photography was traced to Belgium and Denmark in the early 1800s. Inmates were photographed for purposes of documentation. These were the earliest mug shots and led to the hiring of professional photographers to take posed pictures of inmates.

During the late 19th century governments began collecting more information about their citizens as they became more professionalized. (Platt 2005) Police procedures began to include more science, and photography grew in popularity because people believed in its accuracy and realism.

The man credited with the invention of the modern mug shot translated his ideas to the crime scene itself. Alphonse Bertillon was the first to recreate a crime scene using a camera. He took shots from different angles and documented the position of bodies, and the placement of objects and evidence. His methodical approach led to major changes in the field. Pictures were published in newspapers and the public became involved in the solving of crimes.

Today the basic principles of crime-scene photography are still at work. Strides in the field are guided by technology. (Fulford 2006)The digital revolution has taken forensics by storm and inventions such as ultraviolet and infrared light have led to a whole new level of evidence collecting.

Modern technology had led to a new twist in the way crimes are solved. Police often have to piece the crime scene together using the photos provided by the crime-scene photographer, surveillance camera footage and still pictures taken by passerby's cell phone. If you are seeking a job as a forensics photographer, the outlook is great. This is a vital occupation in our ever-more-dangerous society.

The Facts

Modern police photographers use video, microscopic and telescopic photography and digital and emulsion film-based images in documenting evidence. Forensic photographs must be clear and must include known items (such as coins or a measuring device) from which size can be judged. The police photographer must be qualified to speak on photography and be able ...
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