All About Forensic Photography Careers and Schools

Forensic photography isn't a snap. Besides photography skills you'll need experience in investigative police work.

forensic photographer with detectives at crime scene

A forensics photographer might already be a working police officer or investigator, transitioning to this position, or may be a civilian photographer.

Either way, expert knowledge of not just photography, but investigative police work and crime scene investigation is necessary.

Forensic Photographer Careers

Forensic photographers use photography to support evidence in a legal case in a court of law. They usually work for police departments, a coroner's office or sheriff's department providing the following services:

  • Taking photographs of evidence and accidents or crime scenes
  • Using digital imaging to enhance images like fingerprints
  • Being present at a coroner's examination, taking pictures for detectives

Being a forensic photographer requires more than basic photography skills. They need to know precisely how the picture they take can accurately, or inaccurately, reflect the scene, and attention to detail is imperative.

Forensic Photographer Education

There is no specific certificate or degree required to work as a forensic photographer and eligibility requirements can vary from employer to employer. However, as much experience as possible in police work, forensics, crime scene investigation and photography can make an applicant more competitive.

Degree programs in forensic science, law enforcement, criminal justice, crime scene investigation or criminology and additional courses in photography can help set you apart. 

Certification

The International Association for Identification (IAI) offers a certification for forensic photographers that have:

  • At least three years of photography experience
  • 40 hours of classroom photography courses from a college, police academy, FBI academy, IAI training course or related institutions
  • A current job in the forensic science field where forensic photography is one of his/her duties

Salary and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median national annual salary for forensic science technicians is $52,840, while photographers earn $28,490.

Forensic science technician employment is expected to grow at a slower than average rate through 2022. The BLS also predicts job growth for photographers will be slow—4 percent through 2022.

Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.