Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Forensic Photography- Need & Scope

Photography serves as proof of its importance as a powerful weapon in the war against crime, almost in every forensic case. It has now become a reality that even the simple images taken with a simple cameras will make an incredible difference in court decisions.

Photography is considered as the heart of crime investigation and reconstruction. It is said that "Even signed confessions do not necessarily prove guilt in Court. But, photographs of physical evidences can show what happened so clearly and convincingly that juries convict and judges sentence".

Crime Scene Photography

Significance of Photography in Forensic Science & Crime Scene Investigation:

As mentioned-above that photography is an evidence itself. Hence, it is required that photography should be done at the crime scene (to record the crime scene and the evidences), around the crime scene, during the packaging and labeling of the evidences, at the arrival of the evidences in the forensic lab, during the analysis of the evidences, as well as before the court submissions.

How to become forensic photographer? 

Below are few of the significances of photography in Forensic Sciences:

1. It is one of the best method of the recording and preservation of the scene of crime : Approaching the crime scene and searching for the shreds of evidence is a tedious task. An investigator may displace any evidence (by mistake or by other means), and this will be of great concern in the investigation. Therefore, it is always suggested to photograph the crime scene first even without touching or searching for the evidences. This will keep a good record of the crime scene encountered, and its condition will be well preserved. Also, at any point in time, court may ask to prove or disprove a fact that can be clearly established with the help of adequately documented photographs.

2.The method of representation of the crime scene and the evidences in the court of law: You can not take the crime scene or the dead body to the courtroom. It is only the photographs that serve as the visual representation of the crime scene and certain pieces of evidence in the courtroom. Hence, properly photographed crime scenes and the evidences are the crucial things for the success of the investigation.

3. A busy investigating officer may overlook certain evidences that can be ascertained later on careful examination of the photographs: Many times it happens that a busy investigating officer or the forensic expert due to the complexity of the crime scene, or media intervention, or because of any other such issue, may overlook certain evidences on the spot. However, in the later stages, with the help of the photographs, he may encounter some new clues in the direction of an investigation.

4. Unbiased conclusions: We can not always rely on the statements of the witnesses, suspects, or the victim. To check the accuracy or otherwise of these statements, photographs are the best evidences. The only glitch here is that the photographs have not been manipulated. This can easily be checked by a computer forensic expert (if needed by the court) on-demand along with the source memory stick. Several cases have solely being solved based on the photographs and the video footage.

5.Recording of the invisible evidences or missed evidences: With the use of Ultra-Violet and Infra-red photography, an investigator/forensic photographer may uncover certain invisible evidences such as washed off blood stains and other biological fluids, secret writings, latent fingerprints, etc.

UV photography for blood stains
Luminol Blood Stains During UV Photography

6. Tells about the position and location of the crime scene and the evidences on the crime scene: If you have the proper range of photographs (overview, mid-range, and the close-ups), the inter-relationship between the evidences can be easily established along with their correct position and location on the crime scene. However, this requires a series of pictures to be taken at different angles and ranges. 

7. Reference photography is useful for the dimensions of the evidences: Reference photography is that when you put a measuring tape or a ruler along with the case and evidence detail near the evidences during photography. It is the best method to know the exact dimensions of the evidences and the crime scene, irrespective of the size of the photograph taken. This is very much required in investigation and court presentations.

reference photograph for fingerprints and footwear impressions

8. Serves as a mean of comparison for two evidences: Certain evidences like signatures, handwriting samples, fingerprints, footwear impressions, footprints, cartridge cases can easily be examined through their enlarged photographs.

There are many other uses, which I can not discuss in one single article. Surely, I will be coming up with complete series of forensic photography in near future.

Type of Equipment Used in Crime Scene Photography

Police and technicians photographing a crime scene should have access to a high-quality, DSLR camera with interchangeable lenses, off-camera flash, cable release, and a tripod mount. With these devices and a high level of training and practice, photos of good quality can be taken in a wide range of scenarios, including low light, highly reflective surfaces.

Many times the first responders or the primary investigating officers are equipped with basic, consumer-level point-and-shoot cameras. Since they may be in the best position to capture important evidence, basic knowledge of how to capture an image and use the camera they have is very important. Even with simple equipment, a first responder with introductory photography training can produce images of sufficient quality to support an investigation. 
Cell phones and other personal electronic devices with integrated cameras are not recommended unless their use is an operational necessity.

By,Dr. Bhoopesh Kumar Sharma

Forensic Expert


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