Forensic Photography: A Complete Overview


The technique of accurately portraying an accident or crime scene is known as crime scene photography, often known as forensic photography or forensic imaging. The documentation of the appearance and location of the victims, bullet casings, footprints, bloodstain patterns, and other physical evidence is made possible by crime scene photography, which is a valuable tool in the collecting of evidence at the crime scene. The threshold for images of crime scenes and evidence must be good enough for them to be admitted in a court of law. The court’s judgment depends heavily on photography since the images must accurately depict the situation. The most often utilized camera at crime scenes is a digital SLR single reflex.

Forensic Photography - A Quick Review

Father of Forensic Photography

Alphonse Bertillon, a French photographer, was the first to understand that without standardization using the same lighting, scale, and angles photographs were useless for identification. He desired a technique that would ensure accurate identification to take the place of the conventional photographic documentation of offenders. He recommended using full-face photographs and anthropological studies of profiles to detect offenders. In La Photographie Judiciaire (1890), he outlined the guidelines for an exquisitely scientific style of identification photography.

According to him, the individuals need to be well-lit, photographed both full-face and in profile, with the ear showing. Bertillon argued that this style of photography should disregard the rules of commercial photographs.

His measurement method and photographic standards had been adopted and used in virtually all states by the turn of the century. As a result, Bertillon is recognised as the inventor of the mug shot.

Principles Of Forensic Photography

Generally, there are 7 principles of Photography i.e;

  1. Pattern,
  2. Balance,
  3. Negative Space,
  4. Grouping,
  5. Closure,
  6. Colour, and,
  7. Light/Shadow.

The cornerstone of thorough and precise forensic imaging is the explanation of photography’s fundamental principles. Even if it is not a forensic scene, it is important to often utilise the photography equipment. Repeating and practising basic photography techniques will keep them sharp. Practice utilising supplemental and additional equipment in a variety of settings in order to become comfortable using it in a situation where it could be necessary on location.

Photography plays the vital role in explaining the Crime scene in trials.

The following things should be done before capturing the crime scene:

Securing the scene: Once the crime has been determined, the scene should be secured exactly as it is. Any changes to the scene after the photo has been taken will serve as false evidence.

Assessing the situation: Light and weather conditions should be assessed, and camera settings should be modified as necessary.

Recording the Scene: The photographer should use wide-angle images to capture the complete scenario, followed by close-up shots to highlight how the evidence fits into the setting as a whole.

Taking pictures of the victims: When photographing the victims, it is important to draw attention to the victims’ location, injuries, and state.

Photographing the evidence: Each piece of evidence should be shot with scale to indicate size and without scale to illustrate relationship with overall scene. Photos should be taken straight at right angles, avoiding potential distance distortions for clear visualisation.

Placing Evidence Marker: Putting evidence markers in place To ensure that no one has tampered with the crime scene, the first shot of the entire scene is crucial. Photographer should capture the scene with and without the proof markers.

Use of specialised imaging methods: To find fingerprints, bite marks, and footprints, other light sources including lasers, blue or green lights, and coloured filters should be employed.

Certain factors are necessary to yield proper photographs. They are:

  • Shutter
  • Aperture
  • Camera International Standards Organisation (ISO)
  • Flash or external light source
  • Depth of the field
  • Exposure

For appropriate documentation, the following primary actions are needed:

  • Photographs should be taken in natural light or with background illumination.
  • Date and Scale of Reference: Photos of the injury to be taken with and without an evidence ruler.
  • Identification of the subject of the image is important since it must be proven in court.
  • Establish authenticity – In order to show authenticity, two things must be done. The first is to record every step taken from the moment the image is recorded until it is presented in court. The second is to trademark the captured image.
  • Procedure for the chain of evidence (COE) – In this procedure, the source, use, storage, and processing of the evidence are all duly recorded.
  • Photographic evidence protection – Computerized images that are reserved should be password- and access-protected. Images can also be kept on specialised hard drives. captured photographs should be transferred to CD-R. It ought to be kept in a cabinet with restricted access.

Types Of Crime Scene Photography

  1. Overall photography.
  2. Midrange photography.
  3. Close-up photography.

1.) Overall Photography:

Skeleton Overall Photography

Overall photography refers to the photography that was shot using the crime scene’s corners.

2. Midrange Photography:

A piece of evidence must be shown along with fixed, relative-distance elements of the scene.

3.) Close-Up photography

A closely cropped image that displays a subject (or item) up close and with a lot more detail than the human eye typically sees is referred to as close up photography.

Close-up view of the shoe print

Photography of some Specific Evidence at Crime Scene


The following tools are necessary for capturing fingerprints: 35 mm cameras with macro or close-up lenses and their accessories, as well as Gray card for optimum exposures. Because they have higher contrast and may also be utilised for latent print photography, black and white films are more favoured for fingerprints with fine details.

When photographing fingerprints in soft materials like dust, wax, clay, or grease, an appropriate cross light should be used first, followed by reflecting flashlight illumination.

When photographing porous materials, a 90° angle should be used together with adequate flashlight illumination. Fingerprints on mirrors and glass must be photographed with low oblique light angle, a scale for measuring, and a white card or cloth placed behind the object.

Transmitted light or backlighting with a diffusing screen should be utilised for sweaty prints on glass.



The first and most important step in providing an accurate position of the imprint in the scene is to take an orientation shot. To capture the tiniest details of an impression, close-up photographs must be taken using a scale positioned on the same plane as the imprint and with strong light coming from several angles. By aligning a tape measure on the same plane as the tyre imprint, the precise tyre circumference may be seen in the photographs of tyre impressions.

Shoe-Prints developed by plaster of Paris
Shoe-Prints developed by plaster of Paris

Corpse photography:

If there is a corpse at the scene, it will also be photographed post-mortem so that a record of how the body was found, what position it was found in, and the nature of its mortal injuries can be documented for later inspection. This reduces the possibility of conflicting statements at the crime scene. Photographic evidence is frequently crucial for both the prosecution and defense teams. It is also used to show investigators who were unable to attend a crime scene the characteristics of the site. The methods used to photograph crime scenes allow even the most minute information to be captured for future use.


Importance of Forensic photography of crime scene

  • Forensic photography helps to find what’s happened at crime scene.
  • It is acceptable in court of the law.
  • The photography plays a important role even at the time of proceedings in court.
  • Everything at crime scene should be photographed using different filters and techniques.
  • Photography tells a different story about a crime scene and victims.
  • It helps in reconstruction of the crime scene.


Ultimately, crime scene representation is what photography is used for in court. For the images to be useful to the investigation and admissible in court. The goal of technical photography is to convey as much information as possible about the scene or subject. The field of forensic photography is crucial to the study of crimes. One way to characterise forensic photography is as a blend of criminal psychology and visual comprehension. With the use of technological advancements and the use of visual recordings as evidence, forensic photography opens the door to justice.


About The Author

R. S. Induja student in School of Allied Health Sciences salem, Tamil nadu, India.

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