Forensic Photographer: Job Description and Training Requirements

Sep 25, 2019

Forensic photographers work with law enforcement and produce a photographic record of crime scenes. To begin a career as a forensic photographer it is necessary to complete a degree in photography, or to have a high school diploma and complete some courses in forensics and photography.

Essential Information

Forensic photographers work with law enforcement to record and preserve evidence in a criminal case. These photographers create records of crime scenes that police officers and investigators can use to determine how a crime occurred. Like other types of scientific photographers, these professionals often need to complete a degree program in photography, which may include a specialization related to scientific photography. A high school diploma with related forensics and photography coursework may also suffice for some positions.

Required Education Some coursework in forensics and photography or a completed degree in photography
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* -6% for all photographers
Median Salary (2018)* $34,000 annually for all photographers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description

Photographers who work with law enforcement must be knowledgeable on the various types of equipment used in forensic photography, such as infrared or ultraviolet light, to select the appropriate imaging tool to collect photographic evidence. The photographer uses the tools and processes to develop clear images for law enforcement to analyze a crime scene. Individuals may also prepare the photographs that are used in criminal court proceedings.

Forensic photographers also capture images of victims and their injuries, which medical examiners use to determine a cause of death. Forensic photographers may be required to testify in court proceedings to explain the photographic enhancements or techniques used in the collection of evidence.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the annual median salary for photographers in general in 2018 was $34,000. Also, employment of photographers in general is expected to decline by 6% between 2018 and 2028.

Training Requirements

The BLS reports scientific photographers may need to obtain a degree to qualify for a position in this field. However, some law enforcement agencies, such as in Virginia, may hire forensic photographers with a high school education and completed courses in photography, processing and forensics.

A degree program can offer courses in different approaches in photography including photojournalism, scientific photography or commercial photography. Students may learn all approaches in the field, but specialize in scientific courses for a career in forensics. In a degree program, students learn lighting techniques, shutter speeds, camera mechanics, digital imaging and the use of color in photography.

Forensic photography workshops train students in the procedures for collecting evidence, the proper method to photograph a crime scene, photographing fingerprints and the use of chemicals at a crime scene, such as luminol. Workshops can also include instruction in the software programs used to process forensic photographs.

Forensic photographers need to be able to maintain focus at crime scenes and ensure the entire crime scene is properly photographed, with sufficient lighting to identify items within the scene. Education requirements vary, but may include a degree in photography or a related major, or a high school education and applicable coursework.

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