Dean O'Brien's Blog

Crime Scene Investigation Photography with Keith Smith at Coventry University

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As part of our University course here at Coventry we were given an insight into some real crime scene photography today.  Keith Smith (brother of Paul Smith my lecturer) who is a real life Crime Scene Investigator came in to tell us about his job and set us a few tasks.  Keith started off by telling us about his job and what it involves.  Backed up with a slide show we were given a real insight into the day to day life of a crime scene investigator.

After the slideshow we were presented with a series of scenarios which tested our photographic skills.  We had to shoot everything from footprints in sand to fingerprints on a bottle under ultra violet light.  Keith supplied us with all the correct clothing including all-in-one disposable jump suits and latex gloves.

One of the tasks involved me having make-up applied so that I appeared to have a black eye.  This was then photographed using different exposures.  By over exposing the bruised area it make the injury fade in the light.  However if we deliberately under exposed the bruised area this made the injury look more severe.  Keith explained that these images taken cannot be adjusted in software like Photoshop afterwards as it would be like tampering with evidence.  Therefore every shot which he takes is bracketed, in other words  taken twice at different exposures.  Keith also has to write down a description in a note book of every shot which he takes.  He went on to say ‘There is nothing artistic about the photographs which I take.  It is all just documentary work.  I am just recording the facts.’

As for the technical side of things the same rules of photography seem to apply.  Its all about the light and where it falls.  To get detail of the footprints in the sand plenty of shadow detail was needed.  So it was a case of trial and error and moving the light source around till the correct amount of detail was obtained.

On reflection this looks like a great job with great television dramas to back it up.  However, the reality is somewhat quite different.  You are on call a lot of the time and the moneys not great.  What you do get is a really interesting job that is a break from the norm.  I dare say the fact that you may have helped put away some ruthless criminals is also an additional bonus.  Personally its not the type of path which I would like to follow.  What I did get from today was a great insight into an area of photography which I knew very little about.

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Written by Dean O'Brien

November 15, 2010 at 5:12 pm

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