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CRIME SCENE

PHOTOGRAPHY
By
DATULNA B. MAMALUBA, JR., RCrim.
Learning Objectives
Identify the four elements of crime scene
documentation.

Identify and explain four recurring problems
associated to crime scene photography.

Identify and explain the purpose of the three
basic types of crime scene photographs.

Explain the proper use of the video camera
in crime scene documentation.
Crime Scene Processing Activities
The six crime scene activities and their basic
order are:
Assessing
Observing
Documenting:
Searching
Collecting
Analyzing
Notes
Photos
Sketches
Reports
Documenting
Documentation of the crime scene is the most
critical element of scene processing
Documenting
There are four key elements in crime scene
documentation, they are:
Notes
Photographs
Sketches
Reports

Each is important in its own way. Each supports
and adds to the value of the other.
Crime Scene Photography
Crime scene photography seeks to establish
a visual record of the condition of the scene
and the items present in it.
This record should lead the viewer from the
overall perspective to the details of specific
objects.
Although simple in concept, there are
recurring problems associated to crime scene
photography.
Recurring Problems in Photography
Crime scene photography has four recurring
problems that detract from its value. These
are:
Identification Issues
Orientation Issues
Confusion Issues
Incomplete Documentation Issues
Any one of these issues can detract from the
viewers understanding of the scene.
Identification Issues
Identification issues involve creating
photographs where the viewer is lost in the
scene.
Photographs are taken of items and the
photo fails to illustrate what it is in the
picture.
Or the photo documentation fails to
illustrate why the photograph was taken
in the first place.
Identification Issues
What is this?

What was the
photographer trying to
capture?
Orientation Issues
Orientation issues involve creating
photographs where the viewer is lost in the
scene or has no orientation.

Photographs are taken of an object with
no scene reference (e.g. Where is it in the
scene?).

Photographs are taken in which
orientation is not clear (e.g Which way is
up?).
Orientation Issues
What surface is
this?

Which way is up?
Confusion Issues
Confusion issues involve creating
photographs where the viewer is unclear of
which item is being photographed or which
photo came first.
Photographs show the scene in altered states.
Photographs show multiple similar items
with no way to distinguish one from the
other. This is particularly true when
photographing small objects like shell
casings and bloodstains.
Confusion Issues
Which photograph was first?
Is the coffee cup an alteration or the
original state?
Photo logs help prevent this issue.
Incomplete Documentation Issues
Incomplete documentation occurs when
the crime scene team fails to capture
pertinent scene details.

Too few photographs are exposed.
Critical areas of the scene are forgotten.

Methodical scene processing techniques
help eliminate this issue.
Crime Scene Photo Log
A crime scene photo log helps eliminate
many of the issues discussed.
It is a written record of photos, detailing:
Administrative data.
What time the photos were taken and in
what order.
What they show.
Other pertinent details as deemed
necessary.
Crime Scene Photo Log
Case #: 02-01-0045 Date: January 13, 2002
Camera Used: Nikon F2a Time: 1830-1940 Hrs
Film Type: ASA 400 Scene: 3567 Wayland Dr.
Photographer: SA Brown Film Roll #: 1
Time Photo
#
Depicting Distance Remarks
1830 1 Overall of master bedroom from
NE
13 28mm
1832 2 Overall of master bedroom
from SE
12 28mm
1835 3 Overall of master bedroom from
SW
15 28mm, from hallway
1837 4 Overall of master bedroom from
NW
12 28mm
1840 5 Evidence establishing of shell
casing
7 Placard #1, 50mm
1842 6 Evidence close-up of shell casing 6 Placard #1, 55mm
macro


Types of Crime Scene Photographs
There are three basic types of photographs
used to document every scene. These are:

Overall photographs

Evidence establishing photographs

Evidence close-up photographs
Overall Photographs
Overall photographs are exposed with a
wide angle lens or in a fashion that allows
the viewer to see a large area in the scene.
Their function is to document the condition
and layout of the scene as found.
They help eliminate issues of subsequent
contamination (e.g. tracked blood,
movement of items).
Overall Photographs continued
They are typically taken by shooting from
the four corners of the crime scene.
These four photographs will often capture
the entire scene.
If not, additional photographs from an
appropriate vantage point can be taken as
well.
Crime Scene
Shooting the Four Corners
Photo # 1
Photo # 2
Photo # 3
Photo # 4
Photo Number 1
Photo Number 2
Photo Number 3
Photo Number 4
Overall
Photo #1
Overall
Photo #2
Overall Photograph Example
Overall
Photo #3
Overall
Photo #4
Overall Photograph Example
Evidence Establishing Photographs
Evidence establishing photographs are
typically exposed with a 50mm lens.
Their function is to frame the item of
evidence with an easily recognized
landmark.
This visually establishes the position of
the evidence in the scene.
Evidence Establishing Photos continued
They are the most overlooked
photograph in crime scene work.
The evidence establishing photograph is
not intended to show details, simply to
frame the item with a known landmark in
the scene.
The close-up and the evidence
establishing photograph go hand in hand.
Use of the Establishing Photo

Where is this item in
the scene?

The blue background
by itself might indicate
a number of locations.
Evidence Establishing
Example
Evidence Establishing
Photograph
Evidence Close-up Photographs
Evidence close-up photographs are
exposed with a "macro" lens (50mm, 55mm
or 105mm).
Their function is to allow the viewer to see
all evident detail on the item of evidence.
You have to get close and fill the frame with
the evidence itself.
They are taken with and without a scale.
Evidence Close-Up Example

Taken both with and
without a scale of
reference.

Get close and fill the
frame of the camera.
Evidence Close-Up Example

Very important when
taking photos of small
items, whose detail
may affect another
analysis.

Ensure a good focus,
make the picture
sharp.
Photograph Methodology
Document the entire scene in-situ as soon as
possible using overall photographs.
Photograph all fragile evidence as soon as
possible.
In the documentation stage, photograph all
known evidence using evidence establishing
and evidence close-up photos.
As items are discovered in later stages, return
and document them fully, including additional
overall photographs if needed.
Photograph Methodology continued
Create photographs that fully demonstrate
the results of additional examinations (e.g.
latent prints, bloodstain pattern analysis,
trajectory analysis).
Always use a film roll reference card on the
first shot of each roll to demonstrate admin
data.
Always use a crime scene photo log.
Camera Control Issues
Quality photographs require that the
investigator:
Know their equipment and be practiced in
its use.
Understand basic camera control, which
includes:
Physical control of the camera
Light
Focus and Depth of Field.
Physical Control of the Camera
Good photography starts with a stable camera.
At shutter speeds 1/60th of a second and
higher, the investigator can hold the camera.
Use a two-handed grip.
At shutter speeds of 1/30th of a second or less,
a tripod is necessary to stabilize the camera.
Some close-up work will result in better photos
when you use a tripod at any shutter speed.
Controlling Light
Good lighting is a must and is often missing in
crime scenes.
The best advice is to use fill-flash techniques.
This reduces shadows and ensures sharp detail.
Watch for over exposure when taking close-up
photographs with fill-flash.
Diffuse the flash with bounce lighting, a
diffuser, or by using off camera flash
methods.
Controlling Focus and Depth of Field
Focus is a function of the photographer, know
what kind of focusing ring you have and
practice with it.
In smart cameras you may have to turn off
auto-focus features to get the proper focus
point.
Understand how to use the f-stop to create
appropriate depth of field. In overall and
evidence establishing photos, good depth of
field is a must.
Aperture f 3.8
Focus set at Placard 1
Aperture f 8
Focus set at Placard 1
Controlling Depth of Field With f-Stop
Poor Depth of Field Good Depth of Field
Video Photography
Video is a functional supplement to crime
scene documentation, but does not replace any
documentation product.
There are problems encountered in crime scene
video, requiring certain precautions:
Turn off audio unless intending to narrate.
Dont move, pan or zoom the camera too quickly as
this results in abrupt motion and bad focus.
Unless in sunlight always use a video strobe, never
use a flashlight to illuminate the scene.