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Are all Forensic Photographers SOCOs?

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 16 Jul 2016 | comments*Discuss
 
Scene Of Crime Investigator Officer

Q.

Are all forensic photographers SOCOs or are they employed separately? I'm only 17 and want to become a forensic photographer but have been told I am unable to unless I work as a SOCO or forensic anthropologist.

(Mr Kristan Tarr, 17 September 2008)

A.

While most forensic photographers will have worked in a scene of crime officer (SOCO) role, or be working in this role as part of their forensic photography duties, there is alternate scope for someone who feels a passion for photography and forensic science but doesn't want to work as a SOCO. Still, you are right to be told you must work as a SOCO in the sense that specific training in crime scene photography usually occurs after a person has already been chosen as a SOCO or crime scene investigator (CSI).

Although training in photography is essential, the majority of forensic photographers will begin their careers as a CSI or SOCO. The reason for this is to allow the individual to learn about and understand forensic science as a discipline as well as teach them the skills needed to understand and investigate crime scenes and the legal process.

Try to think of forensic photography as a niche, subfield of the SOCO career role. You would receive specialised training after working in the role, which means that your chances of excelling in a forensic photography role are enhanced through SOCO work, although it's not imperative.

Keep in mind that you can also choose to work independently as a contractor for forensic photography services or you might want to work within a police unit. Other forensic photographers will work in areas such as law or with private firms.

There are alternate, niche areas of forensic photography to consider as well, such as presentation of images to a jury. So, while forensic photography is somewhat of a specialty in the SOCO or CSI roles, you can still specialise even further. The photographs taken at the crime scene are sometimes difficult to understand and interpret for a person on a jury. By putting these into an appropriate, sequential and understandable format, you can make it easier for a jury to make sense of the images. Someone who specialises in the visual presentation of forensic photographs should also hold a good command of English because accompanying text may be included in the visual presentation. Your computer knowledge would similarly need to be strong, given that you would use special imaging software to aid your presentation.

If you really dislike the role of a SOCO, you might need to ask yourself what aspects of forensic photography are appealing. It's an important question to investigate because the two are so closely linked. It's wonderful that you are thinking about your future career. Your ambitions and motivation now will help you to do well in any career that you choose, whether that is forensic photography or perhaps a related area of work.

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