How to Become a Crime Scene Photographer

Find out how to become a crime scene photographer. Research the education and training requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in crime scene photography.

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Do I Want to Be a Crime Scene Photographer?

Also known as forensic photographers, these professionals are employed by police departments and other agencies to capture visual evidence. Their photos are used to analyze and prepare reports about a crime and may be submitted as evidence in court cases. Coming into close contact with often violent crimes may be disturbing for some individuals.

Job Requirements

Crime scene photographers typically begin their careers with an associate's or bachelor's degree in photography or forensic science and then gain some experience in those fields. Optional certifications are available. The following table outlines the main requirements for crime scene photographers:

Common Requirements
Degree Level Associate's degree*
Degree Fields Photography, forensic science*
Certification Voluntary certification is available**
Experience 1-5 years of photography experience*
Key Skills Attention to detail, critical thinking ability, excellent written and verbal communication***
Computer Skills Photo editing software****
Technical Skills Expertise with digital and traditional cameras, lighting equipment, camera filters and lenses, film-developing equipment***

Sources: *October 2012 online job postings, **International Association for Identification, ***O*Net Online, ****U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Step 1: Study Forensics and Photography

Education requirements vary by department, but an associate's or bachelor's degree in photography, forensics or criminal justice is often preferred. Students may supplement their degrees with courses or certificate programs in forensic photography. Aspiring forensic photographers should learn about scale, resolution, lighting, viewpoints and angling to create photos that can serve as hard evidence. They should also be well versed in legal proceedings so that their photos meet any court requirements.

Success Tip:

  • Complete an internship. Crime scene photography internships are rare, but students may contact organizations that perform this work, including police and fire departments and forensics labs. Interning or volunteering with these agencies may help photographers become familiar with crime scene processing. Students can also strengthen their skills through a photography internship at a company or media outlet.

Step 2: Enter the Field

There are several avenues to becoming a crime scene photographer. Some agencies hire trained law enforcement personnel, such as police officers or crime scene investigators. These positions typically have higher education or on-the-job training requirements. Others look for candidates with several years of professional photography experience and offer on-the-job training in forensic photography.

Step 3: Earn Voluntary Certification

The International Association for Identification and the Evidence Photographers International Council offer certifications for crime scene photographers. Candidates may have to meet education and field experience requirements and complete written/practical exams.

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