crime scene photography

Not Taking Enough Crime Scene Photographs

By: Joseph Giacalone

It is often said that a picture paints a thousand words and crime scene photography is no different. Crime crime scene photos tell the story of the horrific events that transpired that day in extraordinary detail. They are irreplaceable.

A common error in homicide investigation or for any crime scene, is not taking enough photographs. Today’s forensics requires every “I” to be dotted and “T” to be crossed. It’s the little things that often make or break the case. However, the mindset of the crime scene photographer is often to take the required minimum number of photos. Today’s technology has made taking and recording photographs even easier. The rule for taking crime scene photographs should be more is better.

I understand that the more photographs you take, the longer your Photographic Log will be. However, these photographs are an invaluable resource for trial preparation or for a cold case investigator. Photographs are the only link on how the crime scene appeared on that day and can be powerful examples of demonstrative evidence in a courtroom. Unlike crime scene sketches, photographs can also provide insight to the behavior of the perpetrator. For instance, did the perpetrator do something that wasn’t required to commit the crime? Was something at the scene unusual? These are all questions that can be answered and documented by photographs.

For cold case investigators, crime scene photos allow them the chance to not only “revisit” the crime scene, but to examine them for something that may have been missed during the initial investigation. I have experienced and benefitted from this myself, so I am a strong proponent for taking as many photographs as possible. One insignificant detail in a crime scene photo allowed us to place the suspect at the crime scene. We were successful in challenging his alibi based on one photograph taken thirteen years earlier.

Crime Scene Photography Tips:

    • The proper way to document a scene is: Photograph, Sketch, Search and Collect
    • Each piece of evidence must be photographed without a scale first and then with a scale – placing a scale alters your crime scene
    • Take photos from left to right – don’t forget to look up
    • Indoor crime scenes: the first photograph should be of the entire home from the street, then the front door, entrance way, foyer, etc. Walk your viewer through the scene with pictures
    • Don’t take photographs with investigators standing in the crime scene
    • Ask EMS personnel to remove any equipment they brought with them before taking photos
    • The case investigator must obtain a copy of the Photographic Log for the case folder

Taking photographs at a crime scene is a job that should never be taken lightly. It is even more important then securing the actual evidence. Evidence can be damaged upon recovery or even lost. Crime scene photos are a permanent record of the evidence, how big it was and where it was located.