Forensic photographers are often part of the investigation unit that arrives at an accident or scene of a crime. Their primary task is to take sequential photos of the scene, which will later aid the investigation. A keen eye for detail, exceptional photography skills and training in forensic photography is what you need to get this job.
1. What Do Forensic Photographers Do?
- Analyzing the scene in order to determine a suitable sequence of imaging
- Setting up and operating high resolution cameras and other photo-imaging devices – This involves adjusting camera settings and selecting proper shooting angles
- Making permanent visual records of an accident or crime scene – This involves developing and processing the photos, and arranging them in a chronological order
- Giving expert evidence in criminal proceedings or tribunals
- Safely maintaining all photographic records
2. Work Environment
Although forensic photographers work standard hours, 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday, there is an element of irregularity in their work schedules. Crimes and accidents can occur at any time of day or night, so they must be always prepared to visit the scenes. For this reason, some employers have these photographers working on a shift basis.
The work environment is also quite unpredictable. One day you could be photographing a motor accident on the highway and the next a murder scene in an uptown neighborhood. On the job, forensic photographers wear safety clothing, such as gloves and booties.
The average annual salary for forensic photographers is:
4. Entry Requirements
To become a forensic photographer, you must have an understanding of:
- Crime scene processing
- Crime scene investigation
- Evidence technology
- Police photography
To obtain this knowledge and make yourself the perfect candidate for the job, pursue at least an associate degree in forensic technology. Before selecting a college, it is important to ensure the program it offers has extensive coursework in forensic photography. Examples of colleges offering such programs include:
Some employers may consider hiring experienced commercial photographers with no training in forensic photography and enroll them in internal training programs.
5. Important Qualities
The skills and abilities you need to succeed in forensic photography include:
- An outstanding ability to pay close attention to small details
- Excellent organizational skills
- Strong technical photo-imaging skills
- A high level of emotional intelligence to stay focused when imaging victims of crime
- A superior grasp of the principles of photography
- Good communication skills
- A good level of physical fitness
- The ability to work with minimal supervision
- Good eye-hand coordination
- Good analytical skills
- Good practical skills
- An interest in justice administration
6. Career Advancement
After working for at least three years, obtaining a forensic photography certification from the International Association for Identification (IAI). Certification will not only improve your competence, but also enhance your career progression prospects.
IAI also offers membership opportunities, which you can grab to access other professional development resources such as industry seminars and training workshops.
You can also pursue advanced courses, such as a master’s degree in forensic science, to heighten your advancement prospects.
With vast experience and advanced credentials, you can advance to become a supervisor or the head of forensic photography in a law enforcement agency. You can also move into self-employment and establish a photographic studio.
7. Job Opportunities
The employers of forensic photographers include:
- Federal law enforcement agencies such as the FBI
- State police departments
- Private forensic science labs
- Private detectives
- Law firms
- Photographic studios
Some photographers also work on a freelance basis.
Crime shows such as CSI have increased the popularity of crime-scene professions, including forensic photography. This, coupled with the increasing use of forensic evidence in criminal proceeding, will drive employment growth in this field.
So if you’re a photography enthusiast with an interest in crime investigation, this could be the perfect job for you.
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