Legal & Forensic Photography

Photography & Imaging for Forensic Studies and Court Exhibits

Forensic photography (sometimes referred to as forensic imaging) is the art of producing an accurate reproduction of a disaster or accident scene for the benefit of a court or insurance company. It is part of the process of evidence collecting. It provides investigators and litigators with photos of places, items, and conditions involved in the event. Pictures of accidents show broken machinery, or a car crash. Pictures of construction defects show the defect and the damaged caused. Forensic photography involves choosing correct lighting, accurate angling of lenses, and a collection of different viewpoints. Scales are often used in the picture so that dimensions of items are recorded on the image.

Forensic photographers capture images mainly in color, but also in black and white. These photos may be digital or captured using conventional film. While film can yield a higher resolution, they are usually converted to digital images for use in reproduction or presentations. This conversion is carried out by a process called scanning. This scanning must be done on special film scanners, such as a Nikon film scanner, that will scan the image in a very high resolution producing a digital file suitable for enlargement and printing.

Digital images have an automatic date and time marker embedded within the image file. This is called EXIF metadata. This metadata contains information about the image file itself including items such as date and time the image was created, camera and lens used, focal length used, aperture and shutter speed, ISO and GPS position if the camera has the ability to connect to a GPS receiver. (our Nikon D200 camera has this ability). This metadata provides a very secure means to verify and authenticate the image.

Column construction for the HOV lanes on the 110 Freeway in Los Angeles. Photo is part of a collection of images acquired during the construction for documentation purposes.

Other types of imaging in forensic photography are aerial photography and laser scanning. Aerial photography can be color or black and white. Color is normally used for oblique, non scalable images while black and white is used for high resolution images that can be scaled and used for accurate three dimensional mapping (Photogrammetry). This mapping may be presented in a digital form for use a  in a computer drafting program (CAD) or as a hard copy map showing lines of equal elevation (contours) and spot elevations.

Laser scanning is a relative new technology and allows for direct field scanning of an object that will produce a very precise and accurate three-dimensional digital image on which accurate measurements can be taken. This technology is very effective for analyzing physical structures such as buildings, bridges, dams, slopes and other man-made features where a failure has or might occur.

Fred Henstridge Photography has the equipment, skills, and experience to obtain all forms of forensic imaging. Our basic photography is carried out on an in-house basis. We have access to aerial imaging and laser scanning through our various strategic partners in the engineering, surveying, mapping, and photogrammetry and geospatial industry. As a California, Nevada, Arizona, Oregon and Colorado licensed land surveyor Fred Henstridge has over 45 years of professional experience in obtaining and analyzing these forms of forensic images. We have specialized experience in the fields of transportation, construction, and general civil engineering.

Aerial photo of new construction site where erosion to an adjoining housing tract was suspected. For a ground view of this site please click here.

Like forensic photography, Court and Legal Exhibits require high resolution, detail, sharpness, and embedded EXIF metadata. Pictures as evidence must be:

  1. Fit for court
  2. A true record
  3. Untampered

The images must be clear and usually have scales. They serve to not only remind investigators and litigators of the scene but also to provide a tangible image for the court to better enable them to understand what happened. The use of several views taken from different angles helps to minimize the problem of parallax. We can prepare images for inclusion in Power Point presentations and for large-scale enlargement for mounting on poster boards.

In many instances photographs taken by non-experienced forensic photographers of defects at site inspections or destructive testing, regardless of trade, are substandard in quality, inadequately labeled and not historically documented. Thus, when the non-expert- i.e. attorney, insurance adjuster, client, judge, or jury views them they need a great deal of testimony to guide them through the issues.
One of the largest causes of actions against builders are foundations

Having an adequate collection of photos and other images in a timely manner will assist the investigators or litigators in selecting the ones that will best assist them in telling the story. These images must be clear, sharp, of a high resolution, diversified, and authenticated.

Turn around time can be critical to the investigator or litigator. Fred Henstridge Photography maintains a separate and secure FTP (File Transfer Protocol) site that can be accessed via you Internet browser. This site is password protected and each individual client will have a unique password protected site. We can upload image, slide shows and Power Point files to site from anywhere in the world where we have Internet access. This allows the client to immediate access and viewing of the images and slide shows. We believe this can be a major benefit to our clients.

The small additional cost for quality photography will be more than offset by the benefits derived from images that are timely, authenticated and properly labeled.



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