Crime Scene Photography

Everyone loves to take photography to keep that incident unforgettable. Such pictures are often captured to remember a pleasant event, but the fact is that this field of photocopy has its presence not only in pleasant moments of life but also in hectic times. This makes everyone wonder whether anyone would enjoy remembering the negative parts of life. What benefits does remembering past give?

Everyone does not utilise this gift of photography, but investigators do, especially the investigators of a crime scene. They use photography to find leads in a case. This article deals with the relevance of photography in the field of crime scene investigation, its acceptance in the court for proceedings, and measures to stop and control the editing of photographs which enables the court to relive a crime scene.

Introduction

When the term ‘Photography’ is mentioned in a conversation, the members there immediately start to think about pleasant moments from their past. Everyone wishes to stay in a moment filled with happiness and memorable things. But practically everyone is aware of the running time and irreversible changes. In order to retain a memory of such a pleasant day, we treasure photographs. Yes, photography is an amazing art that can pause time or capture time and relive it.

A photo does not get old or change into an unpleasant event after it is taken. Everyone loves to take a photograph whenever they go to any new place or does any amazing thing but the same thing plays an important role in the field of investigation. At times the pictures help to proceed in cases where the victim gets in trouble after having taken the photograph. Yes, the role of a photograph is very important in the field of crime investigation.

According to the rules, nothing must be changed in a crime scene before all investigations and approval are completed. However, there lies no guarantee that no officer or people may modify or indulge in changing the facts. But when a picture is taken of such a scene from all angles, it helps to lead further without any misguidance.

Photography in a Crime Scene

The recognition of photography as a unique gift to capture action and store it as a memory for future use, in the field of crime investigation was a remarkable boon that makes the investigator visualise the scene whenever needed and proceed further. Thinking of a situation where photography was not used makes the crime scene investigation hectic. Yes, the officers had to investigate without any photograph, with a mere mental recollection of the crime scene, before its introduction. But that traditional method expired due to the entry of advanced technology. There lies no guarantee for the expiration of the use of photography in the field of investigation, but to such date, this profession holds a unique position in dealing with crime. This technique not only helps the investigating officer but also the Courts to visualise the situation without a detailed explanation.   

Humans brains capture and store an image faster and for a longer time than a written statement. A single picture equals itself to several written and verbal explanations. Here arises a doubt, if a picture can explain a situation, then what about a video clip? A video recorder can capture an entire event including all conversations, actions, and more. Then, why does an investigator prefer a photograph to a video?

This preference of photos is because a video is difficult to compare as it has actions in motion. Such moving actions for easy comparison has to be paused (which impliedly becomes a photograph), and then compared with photographs. The importance of a photograph and video changes depending on the crime.

The proof of a video clip is used to prove the method of a crime while a photograph is used to find the method of crime. Thus, both balance each other. A photograph though taken from a distance or up close, the length, breadth, height, and other measurable details can be gathered by drawing a comparison. This kind of photography known as forensic photography.

Forensic Photography now utilises UV and Infrared light to capture even in dark surroundings. The use of alternate light sources helps cover even minute details such as fingerprints and other marks which lie unnoticeable to the naked eyes. The main science behind a photograph is the use of light from different angles to differentiate various levels of damages.   

Principles in Crime Photography:

Every individual has their own principles to be followed. Similarly, a photographer also has to follow certain principles. This does not mean that even a normal photograph taken within family, friends, and others should be based on such principles. If such principles are to be strictly followed, then the practice of taking selfies and the act of editing would face a deep slope. These principles are to be followed in a photograph that is to be taken in a crime spot. These are basic principles for good and accurate results. The interest of photographers to follow such principles in their personal life lies with them.

  • Once a scene is captured from different angles by the photographer, there is some possibility of alteration to the photo when it is opened in the lab for examination. To avoid such chances of misleading, a hash value must be created for the CD-ROM soon after approval by the investigating officer. Such value can be used to check the photocopy in the future if any change takes place.
  • The photocopy must contain information related to the camera’s design, model number, settings, and the date and time of the image captured. Such information may help in detecting any morphing or changes made or tried.
  • The committee or the agency that maintains the documents of photocopy and others should maintain proper records of the officers who use such photos for investigation. This process is to maintain an unaltered photocopy even after usage of it.
  • The next steps to be taken in order to avoid careless mistakes are:
  • Taking as much photograph in the crime scene and selecting the right image which is free from all negatives.
  • The photocopy must cover all places in the scene. There may be a possibility of any omitted place to lead the case in the right path. Thus, covering all the places is a must.
  • Submit the photocopy with all the necessary details mentioned above. This enables the Court to approve the photocopy as a proof for the proceedings.

Acceptance in Judiciary:

Any argument in the court lies with the advocate’s skill for sequentially expressing his contentions with proof. Earlier the court relied on written documents, eye-witnesses, and the report submitted by the investigating officer. But in the present era, the court accepts all of the above-mentioned records along with photocopy if submitted. The presence of photocopy helps the court visualise the crime scene or any other incident and come to a conclusion.

However, there are certain hurdles in accepting a photograph as evidence. Some prefer a film photograph and some prefer a digital photograph. A film photograph is a traditional method of taking photographs, where the process of editing such a photograph is hard. Digital photography is a developed form of photography where the result can be produced in a short period of time, but it is prone to easy editing and modifications. Such hurdles are, at present, crossed by following the above-mentioned principles.   

Conclusion:

Thus, we cannot conclude that photography is and will be, the latest and exclusive technology that can be used in the field of crime for investigation. Time may change for the usage of photography, but until that photography stands in a leading role. Though there are no express provisions related to acceptance of a photograph in a court as proof, the impact that the copy creates will make the judges visualise the scenario. Preference of film and digital photography changes but the unaltered fact is a must.

The principles and rules to be followed can be made even narrow so that the possibility of altering the image becomes zero and helps the investigating officer to proceed easily in the right path. Though video recording and photography are similar technology, a photograph is preferred because there are disadvantages in video recording such as unclear image due to shaking and it being a sequence of flow it is often hard to draw comparisons. Apart from such technical issues, video recording is also used as proof in certain cases.     

FAQs:

  1. What is forensic photography and explain its significance in a crime investigation?
  2. What is the duty of the photographer who takes photographs in the crime spot, either to cover the important places or all places within the spot and why?
  3. Does the judiciary accept the photocopy as a proof for proceeding further in a case, if yes with what conditions?
  4. What are the principles followed by a crime scene photographer?
  5. What is the difference between a digital photograph and a film photograph and which is preferred by Courts?

References:

1)      Importance of still photography at the scene of a crime: a Forensic vs. Judicial perspective – Richa Rohatgi and A.K. Kapoor – February 16, 2015, https://www.crime-scene-investigator.net/importance-of-still-photography-at-scene-of-crime.html

2)      Why Is The Crime Scene Photographed?… There Is Not A Single Answer!   H Singh, P Kumar, R Nanra, A Kumar  http://ispub.com/IJFS/5/1/13846

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