Forensic Anthropology Internship Series Ep.7: Forensic Photography

So basically, all the parts about forensic Anthropology/ pathology are done. Yet, in a medical examination department, other types of forensics are also as important.

This time, less talk about forensic photography, or known as taking crime scene photos.

Again, being a crime drama maniac like me, I recall in one of the NCIS episode of the Tony and Ziva era (not sure which season though), Tony sometimes used the camera that is for taking crime scene photos to take snapshots of Ziva. Do you think it is appropriate to do that in reality? Can they just delete the useless ones from the memory card?


We met the chair/ chief forensic photography of the department during our stay (he is super nice!) and he gave us a series of lecture on taking forensics and crime scene photos. In order to make the photos legit to use on court, there are series of protocols and formats the photographer has to follow. These are all indeed tried to re-present the scene and some of the items from the scene that would help families and victims to find out what happened. For instance:

  • Photographer has to take photos perpendicular to the object.
  • He/she can use a ladder if needed to
  • Photos should be taken with a grey, or white background (the best); never use red background as it is too irritating and mixed up with the color of blood.
  • If it is from autopsy—immediate from the body, cleaned background is required, e.g. with clean towel, cloth, and gloves
  • Scale should be placed nicely
  • Should not have too much reflective surface/ gloss on the photo, thus the angle of using a flash is really crucial.

Photoshop is basically a trend these days, someone might just go and edit the photos and use that for court evidence. The forensic photographer says that there is a series of code hidden in each photo that allows experts like them to check if the photos have been altered. Also, the photo should take in RAW format is also because of this reason.

Also, can the photographer take whatever photos they want with the camera, and delete the unwanted ones? Or, could the photographers delete any mistaken photos (for example, those with wrong format etc.)? The forensic photographer says no to both scenarios. He explained that the attorneys and prosecutor may ask why the names of the photos are not in sequences. And photographer has to show them those are because technical mistakes. Mistaken photos should store in a file indicating the technical problems are found in these photos. For the second question, the forensic photographer explains that photographers could not use the camera for taking forensic photos to take any pictures that are not case related, such as selfies. So the situation from NCIS could not happen in real life.

There is another kind of forensic photography that is to take photos with a high speed camera. The high speed camera is really amazing. It helps demonstrate the progression and the travel of the bullet, as well as the how the force of the projectile hit the target. That said, it means we have to go to the gun range, which happens there is one in the facility.


Yup, that’s me putting the paly-doh on death row! And he is the forensic photographer, Lenny 🙂


This is the work of a high speed camera from another group. So cool, right?

The more obstacles the bullet has to get through, the less would the last obstacle would break. Though it is simple physics on energy transmission, seeing it by my own eyes makes it totally different. Our group played with balloon and play-doh. The projectile has enough energy to break the play-doh into pieces. For the balloon, because it is “fragile”, even reduced amount of energy would be able to get it burst. I felt bad for the play-doh splashed on the black background in the studio.

Previous Episodes:

Forensic Anthropology Internship Series : Prelude

Forensic Anthropology Internship Series Ep.1: Getting to the Bones…

Forensic Anthropology Internship Series Ep.2: Two Lives in One Body…

Forensic Anthropology Internship Series Ep.3: Bone Donation

Forensic Anthropology Internship Series Ep.4: Two Cases (and bone overgrown on the skull)

Forensic Anthropology Internship Series Ep.5: Gunshot and Projectile Trauma

Forensic Anthropology Internship Series Ep.6: Forensic Concerns Behind the Bodies..