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What You Need to Know to Become a Forensic Photographer

What You Need to Know to Become a Forensic Photographer

Forensic photography involves recording visual evidence for the law enforcement. This CareerStint article will enlighten you about what you need to know to become a forensic photographer.
Buzzle Staff
Did You Know?
The written test for forensic photography certification consists of 100 multiple-choice questions related to digital imaging, lighting and color theory, lenses, filters, and many more. The practical test consists of compulsory and optional assignment submissions.

Forensic photographers click pictures at crime scenes in order to record evidence in legal cases. They work with the police and the photographs they click are a solid proof used in courts. These visual records help investigators decode and decide how the crime had taken place. The job involves paying tremendous attention to detail, since the evidence has to record minute details of the crime/accident, including, photographing blood spots, fingerprints, footprints, tire marks, etc. In the write-up below, you will get an idea of how to get into forensic photography.
Job Description

  • To click and record pictures of every little detail at the crime scene.
  • These details include the pictures of the room where the crime took place, the victim, injury marks, blood, every object present in the room, etc.
  • In the event of an accident, the tire marks, footprints, blood, body parts, every object near the vehicle, the inside of the vehicle (car seats, dickey), etc., need to be recorded.
  • The photographs need to follow a high, preset, technical standard and must be of excellent quality, since they are going to be used as court evidence.


Educational Qualifications
  • Ideally, there is no 'set' or 'mandatory' degree required to become a forensic photographer.
  • People who have started their career as a SOCO (Scene of Crime Officer) or CSI (Crime Scene Investigator) can directly get an entry into forensic photography at a later stage.
  • For this purpose, you will require good grades in GCSE and an A+ in science or math.
  • If you plan at a very early stage to enter this field, you will need to have a degree/course in photography, that includes all the aspects of photography skills, including digital imaging, lighting, and other technical concepts.
  • You can then obtain a forensic photography certification. However, 3 years of working experience is a prerequisite for this purpose.
  • You can also opt for other degree courses in forensic science, crime scene photography, biomedical, crime investigation, criminal justice, and advanced imaging courses.
  • A number of forensic photography schools are also available, where you can take admission to secure a job in this field.
Other Requirements
  • Your job involves you to witness horrifying sights and deal with scary objects everyday.
  • You are therefore, expected to be courageous, ignore them, and concentrate on your work.
  • Your tools would include heavy cameras (possibly), tripod, digital cameras, lights, lenses, etc., you should know how to handle them all.
  • Also, understand the hazards associated with crime scenes and equipment.


  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), forensic photography jobs, as of 2013, are likely to fetch an annual pay packet of more than USD 26,000.
  • The projected job growth is not very remarkable, however, it is estimated to be around 4% until 2022.
  • Freelance photographers who work with independent detective agencies and for private investigators may earn more or less, depending on their contracts.

Work Environment

  • The working conditions vary of course, you will mostly be working onsite, to photograph crime scenes.
  • You will be subject to an erratic schedule and late night shifts too.
  • You should be ready to work in harsh weather conditions and far-off places.
  • You need to demonstrate courage, and not squirm at the sight of blood or dead bodies.


  • The International Association for Identification (IAI) also requires that you complete 40 hours of classroom training in photography courses, in college, forensic schools, or the police academy.
  • Apparently, most forensic photographers begin their career as CSI or SOCO, both of which you will require formal training with the law.
  • After gaining sufficient experience, they can branch out to learning about digital imaging and the intricacies of forensic science.
  • That said, you also have special training modules set up in-house by the law or by private forensic service companies.
  • Your training will include assessment tests, practical tests, and other examinations related to photography and forensic science.
  • After training, you will be recruited by the police force, and after gaining sufficient experience, you can branch out independently.

Things to Remember

  • With regards to your certification and training, you do not need to be a member of IAI or any other organization.
  • The Forensic Photography Certification Board has the right to deny certification, on the grounds of violation of IAI (or similar) code of ethics, improper behavior, unethical conduct, criminal record, etc.
  • You will need to be alert 24X7, for paying attention to detail is very vital for this profession.
  • You will need to have very good communication skills as well.
  • You may be called to testify in court, therefore, pay particular attention to every little detail at the crime scene.
  • You have a number of jobs for this field even outside the law enforcement.

If you are not scared of gory crime scenes and the related components like blood, cut hands, human flesh, bullets, dead bodies, etc., and if you have an excellent hand for photography, this is the most lucrative career for you. It is a field that is observed to have fewer volunteers than others, so you will not face much competition. So if you are up for it, just go ahead! Good luck!