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How To Become A Crime Scene Photographer: Career & Salary Information
For the longest time, photography has been seen as a hobby. That is, until it became a sought-after vocation in which many chose to hone their skills and turn it into full blown professional careers. Photography covers a large expanse, from sunsets to family portraits, and even to crime scenes. Let us look at the niche career of a crime scene photographer.
To become a crime scene photographer, you would first need some form of basic understanding of photography. While this particular field of photography doesn't run on passion alone, you would need to receive a bachelor's or associate degree in photography, forensic sciences, or criminal justice.
Let us take a deeper look at this camera-clicking career, and how this can make use of a unique combination of creativity and investigation.
What Is A Crime Scene Photographer?
A concept that is carried throughout life is the capturing of special moments, moments that would be otherwise fleeting. We take pictures of the moments we want to preserve, that we want to keep in its raw form, to always have and always remember.
While not as sentimental or poetic, a crime scene photographer seeks to achieve the same outcome at crime scenes. Crime scene photographers seek to capture the crime scene before it is contaminated, either by people (and even law enforcement officials) or the weather.
It is therefore paramount that crime scene photographers are on the scene as soon as possible. They play a vital role in capturing evidence at the scene as it stands so that the scene may be recreated if needed. With a keen eye for detail, they are required to capture things that may seem normal, but to a trained eye, is actually out of place or vital evidence.
Although vital in its own right, the role of a crime scene photographer is a subfield within the branch of the role of crime scene technicians. Such photographers have very specific training that they are required to complete, and these skills and training are often obtained by the crime scene technician and falls into their scope of work.
As law enforcement officials and forensic experts, a crime scene photographer plays a great role in the process of criminal justice.
What Does A Crime Scene Photographer Do?
From individual objects to entire scenes, crime scene photographers aim to capture every aspect of a crime scene so that no evidence may be missed. They record the setting of the scene before any evidence is collected for analysis by the forensic team.
Taking photographs of a crime scene is not nearly as simple as it may seem. Because this can serve as evidence in a court of law, crime scene photographers need to make sure that each image is captured with a scale, a marking, or a ruler to make sure the objects are scaled to size in reality.
They are required to capture what others may miss, making their observation skills superior to others.
Physical evidence is preserved through the photographs, and in some cases, they may even capture video footage of the scene.
As a member of the law enforcement team, a crime scene photographer will need to communicate and collaborate with other members of their team, ensuring the scene remains uncontaminated and allowing investigations to begin promptly.
Being a crime scene photographer is not about capturing the optimal sunset shots. In fact, crime scene photographers often don't have set working hours. They operate outside of a 9-5 role, and much like law enforcement officers, they may work shifts and be on call, required to head to a crime scene as soon as one is reported.
Steps To Become A Crime Scene Photographer
Step One: Obtain The Right Qualifications
Starting with a passion of photography, you may find yourself seeking a way to feasibly pursue this passion. This passion, coupled with a high school diploma or a GED, is a sure way to set you on the path to becoming a success in this extremely specialized field.
You will then need to work towards obtaining a bachelor's degree in forensic sciences or criminal justice, with coursework directed towards forensic photography.
Step Two: Get A Foot In The Door
Since crime scene photographers, and crime scene technicians are technically law enforcement agents, you may be required to complete training at a police academy and land a job within the police force. On some occasions, jobs for crime scene photographers are usually hired internally, so you would need to already hold a position within law enforcement.
Step Three: Earn Certifications
Crime scene photographers are required to obtain an International Association for Identification which requires three years of professional photography experience, 40 hours of industry specific training such as course training or field training and be currently working or have past experience as a forensic investigator.
Step Four: Break Into The Industry
Once you have all the boxes ticked and all the requirements fulfilled, you can then begin actively pursuing a role as a crime scene photographer.
What Degree Do You Need To Be A Crime Scene Photographer?
You would need, at the very least, an associate degree or bachelor's degree in forensic sciences or law enforcement, with courses that are focused on photography.
What Is The Average Salary For A Crime Scene Photographer?
With crime scene photographers falling under the field of crime scene technicians, the average annual salary provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is for the role of crime scene technician, and the average annual salary was $61,930 in May 2021.
What Makes A Good Crime Scene Photographer?
To thrive in this field, you will need to have a keen sense of seeing things that may not always be visible to others. You will need to have a knack for taking detailed crime scene photos that can be used as evidence in court and may sway a jury and judge, one way or the other, on the fate of your fellow man.
How Does The Crime Scene Photographer Support The Prosecutor?
A crime scene photographer has a unique ability to transfer you onto the scene of the crime without ever having to leave where you are. In court, this can help the prosecutor present damning evidence about any accused party.
As a way of not just looking at analyzed evidence, but at so called raw evidence, the images captured by the photographer plays a great role in the criminal justice system.
If there are no witnesses present, decisions will need to be made purely on evidence. Crime scene photographers allow for the evidence to be analyzed while maintaining its origin in the forms of images.
Do Forensic Photographers Get Paid Well?
While salaries are completely subjective and whether a salary is good or bad depends greatly on the lifestyle one may hope to maintain. Crime scene photographers earn $61,930 on average per year according to the BLS.
What Skills Do You Need To Be A Forensic Photographer?
From critical thinking to outstanding communication skills, these are just some of the skills needed for success in this role.
You would also need to demonstrate superior photography skills to effectively capture the scene, as well as other evidence to the correct scale.
How important is forensic photography?
It is as important as the eyes are important to see. Crime scene photography plays a paramount and integral role in a crime investigation. Evidence would hold no ground if it wasn't for the photographer showing the role of each piece of evidence at the scene.
If you ever think you'd like to turn your fun hobby into a wonderful and extremely interesting career prospect, then perhaps crime scene photography is for you. Granted, there are varying degrees of the crime scenes you will see, some extremely gruesome, and others not. But the role of the crime scene photographer is important for the entire criminal justice system.
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