How to become a crime scene photographer

All crime scenes, as well as scenes of accidents and items of evidence, need to be catalogued and documented. A crime scene photographer (also known as a forensic photographer) is an integral part of this process. A crime scene photographer must use different imaging techniques to accurately record evidence that may be used in legal proceedings. She must be technically adept, interested in science, its application to criminology and capable of operating in pressure situations.

Investigate the requirements of becoming a crime scene photographer in the location you wish to work. There are no industrywide standards. Employment criteria differs among states, counties and even towns. Some government police agencies may train police officers for internal promotion to the position of crime scene photographer, while others may commission freelancers with the requisite expertise.

Educate yourself. Most crime scene photography positions require a bachelor's degree in criminology, forensics or science. Employers also expect candidates to have training in camera techniques, lighting and image processing (predominantly digital but also film).

Approach current crime scene photographers and ask to shadow them, or at least talk to them about how to get involved in the profession. They will be in the best position to tell you what the work involves and the entry requirements.

Learn constantly and augment your skills. Crime scene photographers no longer simply use film cameras but also a wide array of digital media, infrared and ultraviolet, even X-rays. There are also more complex processes that would serve you well to learn, such as sensitometry, which involves analysing photographs to determine their validity and thus their admissibility as evidence.

Check your records. You will be unable to become a crime scene photographer if you have a criminal conviction. Also, evaluate your will. The role of crime scene photographer requires long hours, often at unsociable times. It also requires mental strength, as crime scenes can involve deceased and mutilated persons.

Keep your technical knowledge up to date. Crime scene photographers must work fast and accurately to record crime scenes and evidence. Knowing the ins and outs of your camera and the correct shutter, aperture and flash settings for a wide variety of condition will enable you to do the best job.

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About the Author

Dirk Huds has been a writer/editor for over six years. He has worked for bookshops and publishers in an editorial capacity and written book reviews for a variety of publications. He is currently studying for his master's degree.