The meaning of the word “photography” is derived from two Greek words, “phos” (light) and “graphia” (writing or drawing). Together, they mean “writing with light” or “drawing with light.”
Photography involves the creation of an image using light. Forensic photography was introduced in 1851 in Belgium..
Photographs provide visual documentation of the scene of crime and locations of evidence within the scene. Photographs taken at a crime scene allow investigating officer and lawyers to recreate that scene for later analysis, or for use in the courtroom.
If the crime scene is not photographed thoroughly and accurately, it could be detrimental to the investigation and potentially damage any trial.
OBJECTIVES OF CRIME SCENE PHOTOGRAPHY
As they say, A picture is worth a thousand words. Photographs document the scene in a way people can not express. Photographs can be used to recreate the crime and to prove or disprove a suspect’s explanation. They can help the judges (those who have not witnessed the scene of crime )to understand where and how the crime was committed.
- Where & What – Photographs give a fair idea to judges, scientist, crime scene investigators and those involved in the case to prove or disprove the crime, about the crime scene, its location, about the kind of weapons which could have been used and so many other things.
- Location Fixation – Crime scene photography should not just focus on the obvious. The purpose of crime scene photography is to document what is there and where it is in relationship to the scene, whether it is obviously connected to the crime or not.
- Crime Scene Reconstruction – An important aspect of cracking a case is to determine the sequence of events about what occurred during and after a crime. Photographs, Sketches , forensic lab reports; all play an important role in reconstructing how crime must have been committed.
- Refreshing the memory – Crime Scene Photographs also help refresh the memory as time goes by. Experts are called in for testimony months and years after the scene of crime. Photographs help them refresh and relive the crime scene that will help them give their testimony.
- Fair, Accurate and Relevant Information– Notes and sketches may give wrong information if desired ; but photographs provide unbiased and unprejudiced information if taken properly.
PROCEDURE FOR CRIME SCENE PHOTOGRAPHY
There are certain procedures to be followed to obtain proper photographs of the crime scene. They are:
- Securing the scene: After the crime has been reported and crime scene established, the scene should be secured as it is, any reallocation in the scene photographed will act as wrong evidence
- Evaluating conditions: Conditions such as light and weather should be evaluated, and camera settings should be adjusted accordingly
- Photographing the entire scene: Photographer should capture the entire scene using wide-angle shots followed by close up shots to visualize the full scene to show relationship of the evidence to the overall scene.
- Photographing the victims: While photographing the victims, location, injuries, and condition of victims should be highlighted
- Photographing the evidence: Photographs should be taken directly at right angles, eliminating probable distance distortions for clear visualization with a scale to signify size and without scale to show relationship with overall scene.
- Placing evidence markers: First shot of entire crime scene is very essential to confirm that no one has altered with the crime scene. Photographer should capture the scene with and without the evidence markers.
- Use of filters and alternate light source: Alternate light sources such as lasers and filters should be used to be used to detect fingerprints, bite marks, and footprints.
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND WHILE PHOTOGRAPHING
- Nothing should be moved from their actual position unless and until photography is done from all the angles. The value of photographs as an evidence will be lost if the objects have been moved from their positions or removed or if any item is added.
- If the crime scene includes a body, photographs must be taken to show the body’s position and location relative to the entire scene. Once the body is removed from the scene, the surface beneath the body should be photographed.
- Crime scene should be photographed with and without keeping Evidence numbers, IO Slip with and without scale too.
- Parallax error should be avoided- Parallax error is caused by viewing the object at an oblique angle with respect to the scale, which makes the object appear to be at a different position on the scale. This should be avoided by taking photographs at 90 degrees/ acute angle.
- Photographs must be correctly exposed, Have maximum depth of field, Have an accurate perspective and Be in sharp focus.
- Block out surrounding light if it is producing glare in the photograph – Can be done by using a large piece of cardboard and use a strong light source at oblique angle to show the best detail (specifically for foot prints and tyre impressions).
- Always use a tripod.
- Always take Colored and black and white photographs while photographing the scene of crime.
- Crime scene should be photographed in all the three ranges – Far or Long range, mid-range and close up.
PHOTO PLACARD USING IO SLIP
- It is important to remember to take a photograph of a photo placard as the first photo taken at the crime scene.
- It will ensure that personnel are familiar with which photographs pertain to which case, and the name of the photographer.
- Photographing a photo placard will serve as a separator between the cases, so that case photos will not become commingled.
TYPES OF CRIME SCENE PHOTOGRAPHY
There are three ranges in which photography should be done
LONG OR FAR RANGE
Also called overall photographs.
These are exposed with a wide-angle lens or in such a fashion that allows the viewer to see a large area in the scene at eye level. Their function is to document the condition and layout of the scene as it was found.
Typically, these are shots from the four corners of the crime scene. If indoors, usually, they are taken from the corners of the room, shooting towards the center.
It may be necessary to not only take overall photos facing the building or scene in question but also overall photos facing away from the scene to show the surrounding area.
The far range photography should also tell about the details of the location of crime scene. So it should consist a photograph telling about anything common which is around the crime scene such as any highway or any apartment or any school etc.
Also called evidence-establishing.
The function of mid-range photographs is to photograph evidence with an easily recognized landmark i.e. LOCATION FIXATION.
The mid-range photographs establishthe relative position of the evidence in the scene and any item’s surrounding it.
The photograph is not intended to show details, butsimply to frame the item with a known landmarkin the scene.
These photographs should tell about the approximate distance between any evidence or its landmark.
Also called comparison or examination photographs.
These photographs allow the viewer to see all evident details on the evidence.
This photo should be close and fill the frame with the evidence itself.
They are taken with and without a scale.
It is extremely important that photographs of this type are first taken without a scale of reference and then with a scale of reference.
- The scale is used as a point of reference when the size of an item is significant. The photographs are taken using scale as a measuring device.
- It is possible to determine the size and dimension of the object within the image.
- Forensicscales contain circles that will appear to elongate if photographed from an improper angle.
- An ABFO SCALE is a type of forensic scales used for reference. It is an L shaped scale.
- The scale must also be present at the proper plane in order to be of the greatest benefit.
- Regardless of the perspective or range taken,each photograph taken at a crime scene should be documented on a photo log.
- A photo log is a permanent record of all information pertaining to documentation by photographs.
The photo log consist all the information such as:
- Title and information block consisting ofdate/time/case number/agency name
- Photo equipment used
- Numerical ordering of each photo taken
- Brief description of each photo taken
- Direction facing for each photo taken
- Approximate distance from subject matterin each photo taken
- Shutter speed, aperture setting, and ISO for each Photo
POINTS TO REMEMBER WHILE PHOTOGRAPHING
- Always use a photo placard on the first shot of each roll to demonstrate administrative data.
- Always use a crime scene photo log.
- Photograph all fragile evidence as soon as possible.
- Try not to capture the photographer or other any personnel in the photographs, if possible.
- Close-up photos should be taken with and without a scale of reference.
- Be sure that the scale is on the same plane as the item of evidence being photographed.