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Crime Scene Photography: Importance and Strategies

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sciences
Wordcount: 2483 words Published: 23rd Sep 2019

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Crime Scene Photography


The reason for this research paper is to examine the importance of crime scene photography to a crime scene. The purpose of crime scene photography is to record, and document evidence found at the crime scene to be used for legal purposes. Since crime scene photos are at times used in the courtroom it is vital that the forensic photographer know what he or she is doing. If the forensic photographer lacks the knowledge of what it takes to get an accurate photo, then that can potentially hurt a case. The rules of what should be known by the forensic photographer is also discussed in the paper. One of the first known cases to use crime scene photography is the Jack the Ripper case. The Jack the Ripper case is explained in this paper and the paper also details how the Jack the Ripper case was able to help forensic science. The final topic discussed in this paper is the legal protocols that should be done by the forensic photographer.

     Keywords: Jack the Ripper, photography

Crime Scene Photography

 When a crime occurs and there is a crime scene, one of the first things that must be done is to take pictures of the actual crime scene to make sure the initial state of the crime scene is captured without any movement to the scene. It is vital for the initial condition of the crime scene to be captured, because that will help investigators in their search of finding answers to what occurred at the crime scene. It is also vital that the condition of the crime scene is captured immediately because that will help later on when the images are taken to court. Crime scene photography is vital to crime scene investigators because it is supposed to show accurate depictions of a crime scene before any manipulation to a crime scene. The crime scene photos can be looked back at by investigators and the photos could answer questions that need to be answered. This paper will elaborate on the importance of crime scene photography to a crime scene and the court room.

Rules of Crime Scene Photography

 The reason of crime scene photography is to record, and document evidence found at the crime scene too be used for legal purposes. If photographs are going to be used for legal purposes then that forensic photographer needs to make sure that he or she takes a good and accurate photographs. When it comes to crime scene photography, there are certain rules that need to be done to ensure that a crime scene photography comes out properly. One of the first things that need to be done before a crime scene photo cam be taken is the crime scene needs to be secure.  If a crime scene is not secure then that could show contamination and that will causes problems legally.

Camera Settings

The photographer needs to take a picture of how the original state of the crime scene is. It is essential that the forensic photographer take an initial picture of the crime scene in order to show that the scene was not contaminated in anyway. The crime scene photographer should also be aware of the weather conditions where the crime scene is at because camera settings need to be adjusted to weather conditions. The camera settings that need to get adjusted is the flash, aperture, exposure, shutter, ISO, and the depth of field Gouse, Karnam, Girish, & Murgod, 2018).A crime scene photographer should always start off with a wide-angle shot first when he or she is at a crime scene and then follow that up with close-up shots. The reason why wide-angle and close-up shots are necessary is because it shows all the evidence that is at a crime scene. A wide-angle shot is essential to a crime scene photograph because that will show the body of the deceased individual as well the area around the body. A close-up shot is also important because investigators need to know at where in the body was the victim killed at, for example, if it was on the head or in the chest. A 35mm camera with close-up lens is good to use to get the photo of the fingerprint because it can show specific details (Gouse, Karnam, Girish, & Murgod, 2018).

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All the forensic photograph shots taken of the body wide-angle or close-up must be taken as quickly as possible, and also multiple photos of the scene must be taken. All the photos taken at a crime scene must also go in order so that when investigators go back through the pictures nothing is missed, and all the angles of the crime scene are able to be seen. The type of death scene will determine what type of lighting and film will be used (Gouse, Karnam, Girish, & Murgod, 2018).The main things that should be seen in crime scene photos include the victims, the location of victims found, any injuries seen on the victims as well as any conditions (Gouse, Karnam, Girish, & Murgod, 2018). A crime scene photograph should also be shot at right angles so when anyone is going back to look at the photographs, it can be interpreted what is being shown. Another thing that forensic photographer should do when it comes to crime scene photos is that there should be two photos taken of each shot. The first photo should show the original condition of the crime scene, and the second photo should have an evidence marker or place card. The place card/ evidence marker is a reference so when investigators are going back to look at the crime scene photographs they know what they are looking at.

Jack the Ripper

 Crime scene photography goes all the back starting from the 19th century. The first known case where crime scene photography was used is the Jack the Ripper case. The Jack the Ripper case first came to light during August 31 and November 9 in 1888 (Fisher, 2018, p. 9). Between those to dates there were five murders discovered to have happened in Whitechapel London. Crime scene investigators did not who was the person doing the killings, so they decided to name the suspect Jack the Ripper. Jack the Ripper was said to only attack female prostitutes, which was determined when the victims were found. Jack the Ripper would kill people and dismember them (Fisher, 2018, p. 9). One of the similarities, when it came to all the murders involved in the Jack the Ripper case was that the all the women murdered were found to have their throats cut; that was Jack the Rippers signature thing to do when he killed his victims.

How the Jack the Ripper Case Helped Death Scene Investigation

 One of Jack the Rippers murder victims was Mary Kelly. Mary Kelly was the female shown in one of the first cases where forensic photography was being used. Photographs were taken from the crime scene that showed Mary Kelly’s dismembered body and the act of Jack the Ripper. In the crime scene photo, Mary Kelly is seen laying on a bed, and her body is cut open with blood everywhere including on the bed. The death photo of Mary Kelly caused by Jack the Ripper was the first-time crime scene photography was shown to the public (Flanagan, n.d,). The crime scene photo of Mary Kelly helped show the initial condition of her body when she was murdered. The case of Jack the Ripper case has helped impact the field of death of investigation is it is known as the first usage of death scene photography. The Jack the Ripper case helped progress the field of Forensic Science, because unfortunately Jack the Ripper was not found, and police knew that in order to catch criminals like Jack the Ripper there would need to be new investigative techniques used. The usage of death scene photography is one way that the Jack the Ripper case helped improve investigative techniques.

Purpose of Death Scene Photography

 As mentioned previously, death scene photography has been used since the 19th century, and the reason for that is because in order for crime scene investigators to evaluate a crime scene, they need to know how the initial state of a crime scene is. Photographs is a method for documentation for investigators as well. Documentation is essential when it comes to death scene photography because the body changes by the minute, so “detailed photographs of the entire scene and surroundings are critical to the evolution of the investigation” (Karagiozis & Sgaglio, 2005, p. 126). As time goes by the body will start to change, and it does not matter if it is only for a few minutes. The body does change as soon as a person is deceased. Another reason why doing death scene photography is so important is because it will be useful in court to attorneys. In court, the use of crime scene photos is something that is used often. When crime scene photos are chosen to be in court, only the ones taken at a crime scene that prove and disapproves an argument are chosen. However, it is still important for crime scene photographs to be taken as soon as possible and if anything changes on the body of the deceased. The crime scene photo is used to show the court what occurred at a crime scene, so it is important for the person taking the photograph to show everything at the crime scene.

Different forms of Forensic Photography

 Depending on environmental conditions, certain types of photography should be used. The different forms of photography include black and white, color, ultraviolet and infrared. A forensic photographer should know each form of forensic photography, because each type of photography serves a special purpose. When it comes to U.V photography and infrared photography, these types of photography should be used to show images that might not be visible to the human eye. Some examples of evidence that can use infrared and U.V photography include fingerprints, injuries that show bitemarks, and latent footwear (Wright & Golden, 2010, p. 64). Infrared photography is vital because certain things are not visible to the human eye. Infrared photography is used specifically for forensic odontology. Infrared photography shows certain specific details that forensic odonatologists need when analyzing. Black and white photography is mainly used when a forensic photographer uses a film camera. Black and white photography shows more color and contrast than most color photography.

Legal Photography protocols

 One of the main reasons that forensic photography is important to a crime is because it can later be used or put as evidence in the court. The crime scene photographs shown at a crime scene can show the Judge and jury what had happened at a crime scene. In a court room, the crime scene photographs must been seen as accurate and fair. The crime scene photo must be an accurate depiction of what happened at the crime scene, which is one of the reasons why the original condition of the crime scene must be shown. If the crime scene photographs shown in a court room is challenged and said not to be fair or accurate then that can be used by an attorney and the photographs can be thrown out. If the photographs are thrown out of a court room, then that can shift the course of a verdict (McMicken, 2016).

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 Every forensic department should have a Standard Operating Procedure also known as SOP. The Standard Operating Procedure is protocols that should be done by each department beginning from the time the crime scene photograph is taken, to its being delivered to a custodian for processing, them to investigators and attorneys. The purpose of the Standard Operating Procedure is to make sure that the proper procedures are done and when the photographs are presented in court, they won’t be challenged. If the Standard Operating Procedures are not followed, an attorney can say that the proper procedures were not followed when it came to the evidence. The crime scene photographs are considered to be a part of evidence, so it is vital to crime scene investigators that the photographs are properly handled (McMicken, 2016).


The purpose of the crime scene photography is to get an accurate depiction of the crime scene. The picture of the crime scene must be done immediately as soon as investigators arrive because as time goes on, the body of a deceased individual changes and the initial condition of the body needs to be documented. Crime scene photography dates back to the 19th century and has been used even in this current day of age to evaluate and help solve crimes. The type of death scene that has taken place will determine which lighting and film type should be used to capture the photographs. The forensic photographer must know that there are different form of forensic photography and they must know which one to use because each crime scene is different from one another. A forensic photographer must have knowledge of what he or she is doing in order to get an accurate and fair crime scene photograph. Overall, Crime scene photograph has been a useful tool in helping investigators in the field of forensic science.


  • Fischer, B. (2018). Reporting on the Ripper. History Today, 68(9), 8-11. Retrieved from https://saintleo.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=trut&db=a9h&AN=131166589&ehost-live
  • Gouse, S., Karnam, S., Girish, H., & Murgod, S. (2018). Forensic photography: Prospect through the lens. Journal of Forensic Dental Sciences, 10(1), 2-4. doi: http://dx.doi.org.saintleo.idm.oclc.org/10.4103/jfo.jfds_2_16
  • Karagiozis, M., & Sgaglio, R. (2005). Forensic investigation handbook: An introduction to the collection, preservation, analysis, and presentation of evidence. Springfield, IL: Charles C Thomas
  • McMicken, B. (2016). Legal Considerations. Retrieved from https://www.crime-scene-investigator.net/legal-considerations.html
  • Wittmann, A. (2017, March 3). Overview of the Forensic Photography. Retrieved from https://juniperpublishers.com/jfsci/pdf/JFSCI.MS.ID.555581.pdf
  • Wright, F. D., & Golden, G. S. (2010). The use of full spectrum digital photography for evidence collection and preservation in cases involving forensic odontology. Forensic Science International (Online), 201(1), 59-67. doi:http://dx.doi.org.saintleo.idm.oclc.org/10.1016/j.forsciint.2010.03.013


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