How to Become a Crime Scene Photographer (A Complete Guide)

The main role of a crime scene photographer is to capture the harsh reality of crime and collect accurate evidence to help the jury.

Are you ready to handle such grimmest moments? The door to crime scene photography is open to you next.

To become a crime scene or forensic photographer, you need to get a high school or bachelor’s degree in forensic science, photography or related background.

Then, complete an internship, get a certification and build a strong portfolio. 

Today, I’ll give you the ultimate career guidance to become a crime scene photographer.

Know all tactics to get a strong portfolio as a trump card for your dream job.

What Is a Crime Scene/Forensic Photography?

Crime scene photography is documenting evidence and collecting as much information related to crime with a protocol lens.

It’s also called Forensic photography. Forensic photographs tell details about every piece of evidence.

These document photographs help investigators to identify the crime’s objective. Also, it helps a jury visualize the crime scene that no longer exists. 

However, crime scene photography isn’t about artistic photography style.

It’s all about shooting the scene with closeup, middle or wide-angle shots to identify all details related to the crime. 

As a crime scene photographer, you must be an expert in using scale and alternate light sources for visualizing micropatterns (like fingerprints, bloodstains, shell casing, victim’s injury and so on.)

Related Reading > How to Earn Money as a Photographer.

What Does The Crime Scene Photographer Do?

What does a Crime Scene Photographer do
Photographer Capturing Crime Scene Evidence

 

According to CrimeSceneInvestigatorEDU, the ultimate goal of a crime scene photographer is to produce tangible images suitable for a court of law.

But, it’s not like clicking some shots and going home. 

There’s a variety of tasks you need to do within forensic photography. Additionally, you have to collaborate with the investigator team as well. 

Now, let’s see the activities you need to do as a crime scene photographer.

01. Securing the scene

At first, the photographer ensures that the place is secured perfectly. 

In general, police officers secure the place where the crime took place. Otherwise, any reallocation will destroy the accuracy of the evidence.

02. Evaluating the condition

It’s time to understand the overall scene. You need to walk through that place carefully to find out what actually happened. 

After that, check the light sources, weather conditions and set the cameras properly for shooting

03. Shooting the scene

You have to capture the entire scene with various angles and shots.

Generally, you should take close-up and wide-angle shots that shows a link with the crime evidence. 

The very first step is to take a photograph of the general view of the surrounding areas. 

04. Take the measurement 

You need to take important measurements before entering that secure place.

Such as, it can be the distance between the victim and the exit point of the room. 

05. Capture the body of the victim

Then, you need to photograph the victim’s body in 5 different angles. 

Typically, five different angles are 

  • Straight overview, 
  • Foot-to-head shot, 
  • Right-to-left, 
  • Head-to-foot and 
  • Left-to-right.

According to the Forensic Science Bureau, you need to photograph a person(victim) with the following rules:

  • Take a full frontal body photograph(including shoes)
  • Take a full frontal face photograph.
  • Take a mid-range photograph to show the location, injuries, identifying characteristics and so on.
  • Take a close-up angle of each injury or area of evidence.

06. Photographing the evidence

Here, you need to take photographs of every piece of evidence at right angles, with and without scale for clear visualization. 

Also, use markers to indicate each piece of evidence. Then, you need to take photographs with marks as well. 

It’ll clearly represent the actual evidence without any alter or edit. 

07. Use of special imaging technique

As a forensic photographer, you need to have technical knowledge of photographic principles. 

All these related skills are needed to do micro photography and identify patterns, fingerprints, footprints and so on.

You can watch this full video to introduce real-life crime scene photography.

How To Become A Crime Scene Photographer (Step-by-Step Guideline)

Switching to crime scene photography seems easy. 

But, you will be a competent photographer after taking some standard degrees, certifications and skills. 

So, here are 6 steps to follow for the qualifications and degrees and other requirements you need to achieve your forensic photography goal!

01. Gain Knowledge in Forensics Science

There’s no specific educational degree considered mandatory for a forensic photography job. Depending on the type of agency and organization, education requirements can vary.

But, an advanced educational background has a high chance of a better job and higher salary.  Let’s see the common degree that want in a job requirement:

  • High School Degree or Diploma

The minimum requirement for a crime scene photographer is a High School or a diploma degree in photography, processing and forensics.

About 7% of forensic photographers have a high school or diploma degree. 

Some law enforcement agencies, like Virginia, hire a photographer with a degree from high school or a diploma.

  • Bachelor’s Degree in forensic science, criminal justice, photography, or a related field

A bachelor’s degree is the most common degree for a forensic photographer.

About 51% of photographers have a bachelor’s degree in forensic science, photography, criminal justice and related fields.

Common major subjects:

  • Photography(27%)
  • Criminal justice (23%)
  • Communication (8%)
  • Fine arts (6%).

 

  • Masters’, Associate and other degrees:

Some forensic photographers have an associate degree (35%), Master’s (5%) and other degrees (2%).

  • For Non-background applicant: 

If you are a non-background applicant in forensic science, still you have a chance to qualify.

Here, you may need to do a photography basics program while pursuing a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree. 

Additionally, take degree programs, workshops and courses including photojournalism, scientific photography or commercial photography. 

02. Having Specialized Training in crime scene photography

Gaining more practical knowledge related to forensic photography will set you apart.

You may get online or offline training courses including photojournalism, scientific photography or commercial photography. Enroll in these courses

Here, you’ll learn lighting techniques, shutter speeds, camera mechanics, digital imaging and the use of color in photography.

You can have a workshop that offers students to learn several techniques, such as

  • How to collect evidence
  • Photographing fingerprints 
  • Use of chemicals at a crime scene, such as luminol.
  • Proper strategy to photograph the overall crime scene, evidence, victims and other objectives
  • Instruction in the software programs used to process forensic photographs.

Note: If you have no certain degree related to forensic knowledge, it’s the mandatory step you need to complete.

03. Get Certification in Crime Scene Photography

While you have a proven professional forensic photography certification, you’ll easily qualify  in this competitive sector.

Well, there’s a well-known institution that offers certification. 

Most forensic agencies and organizations ask for a certification from the International Association for Identification in their requirement. 

You can get this certificate only when you meet the following criteria:

  • Employment in the field of forensic photography 
  • Must have 3 years of experience in photography or digital imaging.
  • Proof of completion of at least 40 hours of photography courses or college coursework
  • Two letters of endorsement with the application

04. Gaining practical knowledge during the internship

Build strong knowledge and skills in forensic science investigation by completing an internship. 

However, many organizations offer specific training after joining a crime scene photography job. But, you can take an internship as a game changer for this competitive sector.

Internships are a great way to get your foot in the door. So, don’t miss that step.

It may take 3-6 months to intern under a forensic lab, police department, or federal law enforcement agency.

Apply these sectors for requesting an internship and jeep patience. 

05. Build a strong portfolio

You should have a strong portfolio to showcase the best of your photography skills. They must be related to crime scene investigation.

You can prepare your portfolio both online and offline. After taking courses and workshops, you’ve already learned  to show the best of your crime scene photography skills.

In your internship, you’ll also get some practical experiences to handle the situation. So, here you must have to capture the best photographs in a crime field.

Now, showcase photographs with the following tricks.

  • Add at least 10-15 photographs in the separate sections.
  •  Now, tell a story below each photo.
  • Visualize the photography skill with highlighted sentences, as an example
    • Light setting
    • Camera and Lens setting 
    • Aperture / Depth,
    • Iso exposure, and so on.
  • Must add special image techniques to prove the technical photography knowledge.
    • Ultraviolet photography,
    • fingerprint documentary images.

06. Finding a job

As you know, the forensic sector is much more competitive as well as a growing sector in recent years.

Applying for a job in any discipline in forensics will give you advantages. Don’t stick to one discipline.

Another powerful strategy is to work with agencies who are looking for freshers. It’ll higher your experience level and make you set apart from the average.

Well, now you are already holding a professional certification, internship and strong portfolio. Just apply for the job as much as you can. And, it’ll take patience and persistence. 

The job opportunities sector for Crime Scene Photography

  • Police Department 
  • Coroner’s offices
  • Sheriff’s Department 
  • Ambulance service
  • Crime laboratories 
  • Law enforcement agencies, 
  • Private forensic services companies, 

Crime Scene/ Forensic Photographer Salary and Job Outlook

When it’s crime scene photography, the salary can depend on several factors.

The type of organization or agency, location, experience, skill, education requirements and so on.

According to the FBI, crime scene photographers’ salaries range between $70,426 and $84,293 per year.

Another statistic on November 27, 2023, shows the median salary is $58,932 annually for crime scene photography in the USA

Take a look at a forensic photographer’s salary based on different locations in the USA.

Crime Scene Photographer Salary In USA (November 27, 2023)

State/City Average salary (Annually)
California $65,002
Texas $57,930
Florida $55,985
San francisco $73,665
San jose $73,960
Los angel $66,163
Washington $63,228

 

The U.S. BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS has given a perception of forensic technician growth.

Mainly, they haven’t specifically categorized forensic photography from the actual forensic department.

However, it is mentioned that 13% of employment will grow in 2022-2033. The job opening for forensic technicians is about 2300 annually.

It can be said that forensic photography is a competitive sector as always.

You must have to prepare with a higher degree, courses, certification, and years of experience to get a job easily! 

FAQ

How do I become a Forensic Photographer in the US?

You can become a Forensic photographer by following these powerful steps:

  • Do high school or diploma, or pursue a bachelor’s degree in forensic science, photography and other related field
  • Enroll in similar online or offline training courses, workshops  
  • Get the International Association for Identification to make a strong portfolio.
  • Complete an internship under any agency, police department, or forensic lab.
  • Make a strong portfolio with the best criminal scene photographs.
  • Search for a job and keep patience.

How much do forensic photographers make in the US?

Forensic photographers earn $58,932 annually for crime scene photography in the USA. But, depending on several factors, the salary range can vary. 

Such as organization types, location, year of experience, skill, degree requirement and others. 

Analyzing most 15 and 70 per cent salaries, forensic photographers’ salaries range between $50,616 and $80,840 per year. Forensic photography earns $27.79 per hour in the USA.

What is the best major for forensic photography?

There’s no specific major subject you need to study for forensic photography.

However, obtaining a high school diploma or Bachelor’s degree related to forensic science background will give you a high chance to qualify.

Crime scene photographer’s major subjects are Photography(27%), Criminal justice (23%), Communication (8%), and Fine arts (6%).

However, About 51% of photographers have a bachelor’s degree in forensic science, photography, criminal justice and related fields.

Final Words 

In most cases, crime scene investigators (CSI) play the role of photographer during investigation and documentation.

 So, there are not so numerous job openings for specifically crime scene photography. 

Again, Police departments, the FBI, and organizations select persons from their sectors . 

Though it’s a competitive sector but is not impossible to qualify.

Having a strong portfolio and internship will increase your chances of getting your dream job as a forensic photographer. 

Happy crime-solving!