Getting to Higher Ground: Elevated Forensic Photography

Know how photographs make you look ever slightly more attractive when you lift the camera just a bit higher than your head and angle it downward? Forensic photography has it’s own version of offering a similar kind of unique perspective — and it’s termed elevated photography, mostly because it’s precisely that: getting to higher ground in order to photograph a given subject when you’re on another platform.

So why does snapping something at a higher height offer anything different and useful? Very simply, it’s a technique used to photograph large and expansive items that are a little bit outside the general photographic proportions: we’re talking bedsheets stained with blood, where you might want to see the whole pattern; or even large expanses of carpet.

Get camera-ready and have that fresh roll of film in-hand, because we’ve put together three pieces of equipment that will help you get the edge on your next forensic photography session.


1. Boom-bastic: the only camera attachment you’ll need.

Specifically known in photography as a jib, the boom is a device which looks like a crane. It has a camera on one end, and a counterweight with the relevant controls on the other. When you’re operating the jib, it looks like a bit like a see-saw — the balance is located close to the counterweight so that the camera can move freely around in an arc-like motion. Cinematographers (experts involved in motion picture photography) use the same device when they’re making the big-budget Hollywood blockbusters we’re used to seeing every summer.

It’s a pretty safe way of getting high shots with the freedom to move a great distance both horizontally and vertically, without the need to get up there and move the camera yourself. There are a few downsides though: since the operator can’t see the view finder, usually it’s down to taking quite a few test shots to achieve the most useful picture. It’s pretty perfect to implement, though, when you’re in a more confined place (and there’s no real room to stand on anything) like a bathroom or a bedroom.


2. Don’t walk under them: the 6ft bi-fold ladder.

Sometimes, the simplest approach is probably the best. Need to jump up to a raised place? Just find the nearest ladder you’ve got. It’s as simple as taking a walk down to your basement and preparing your photographic gear. At the crime scene, an investigator might also use a scaffold or a taller ladder than one that extends to six feet in height. In the past, investigators were known to photograph scenes on fire truck ladders — which of course, lengthen up to forty or fifty feet.

Employee safety is, fortunately for forensic photographers everywhere, taken more seriously these days.


3. Planking welcome: climbing up something taller.

It’s back-to-basics when photographers look for something to climb. When a ladder or a jib is unavailable, they’re forced to get a bit creative. An elevated position can work as well as anything else, after all. It might be the landing between staircases or the rooftop of a building next door — really, the possibilities end where the imagination gets a bit, well, lazy. In some situations, the larger crime lab vans come to the rescue — with specialised roof platforms that are in-built to support a keen photographer.

We’d advise fixed, stable locations over anything that can move or sway (discounting the hyper-extendible ladders, of course), when you’re trying to get the perfect shot.


Your Turn: Envision another way to compose the perfect elevated picture? Are you a forensic photographer with additional tips and tricks we haven’t mentioned? Share it all here.



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