Forensic photographers use their skill with cameras to document essential evidence for investigative and legal use.

There are strict guidelines as to what a forensic photographer must take pictures of. Since photographic evidence of a crime scene as it was prior to investigation is essential to a case, forensic photographers must take great care not to disturb evidence as they create a clear picture of the scene. This can include general and detailed shots of any victims and their wounds, the location and surroundings (as well as where things are relative to each other), bloodstain patterns, footprints, weapons, items that may have been involved, and anything else that may prove useful. Since crimes can occur anywhere, the scope of the photographs required may be confined to a single bathroom or spread out across several city blocks. A photographer should come prepared with the lenses necessary to capture both tiny details and whole areas, and should know how to use them.

While the technical side of forensic photo work may look a lot like commercial photography, the subject matter is very different. This is a far cry from your average fashion shoot; a forensic photographer is typically the first one on the scene in an investigation and must capture whatever is there, be it broken glass, explosion debris, or mutilated body parts. Timing and accuracy are essential; a photographer needs to be familiar enough with their camera to capture clear, admissible images without holding up the rest of the investigation. This means being an expert at things like exposure, depth of field, and lighting; inaccurate images

Forensic photography and imaging work may include...

  • Documenting crime or accident scenes
  • Photographing items for evidence files
  • Processing images for accuracy
  • Color correction and resizing of photos
  • Preparing images for print or digital release

Being a forensic photographer doesn't require a formal education, but it does require a lot of technical knowledge that's not always easy to acquire independently. You'll need a high school diploma or equivalent credential in order to be eligible for a certification in Forensic Photography and Imaging, such as the one offered by the IAI [], as well as some connections in the field who can back up your skills and some hands on training. If all of that is in order, you'll be able to take a written exam. Many employers prefer an associate's or bachelor's degree in a related field like criminal justice or photography because it demonstrates a relevant background.

Forensic photographers mostly find work within law enforcement, but there are some exceptions; fire departments, military bases, labs, and insurance companies may employ photographers to do similar work.

Because the work of crime scene investigation is so varied and unpredictable, it helps to be level headed and flexible. This is definitely not a conventional office job; crime doesn't sleep and investigations occur at irregular hours. If you thrive in chaotic environments but can also buckle down and edit photos for hours at a time after the fact, forensic photography may be the perfect path for you.