Forensic Photography as it Relates to Paranormal Investigations.
Many parallels can be drawn between the art of forensic photography and photography utilized for paranormal investigations. The purpose for this quick guide is not to make anyone a photojournalist, but to attempt to explain some of those similarities and techniques so that they may be of aid to the paranormal investigator. As everyone has differing cameras and various knowledge of the more advanced settings, I will not discuss cameras or camera settings. My primary focus is to talk technique.
When photographing any scenes, the aim should be to record a maximum of useful information, which will enable a viewer not in attendance to understand where, and how the scene is laid out and any contributing factors to the shot. The term “scene” refers not only to the immediate locality, but also to the adjacent areas where important acts occurred or may occur. Overlapping photographs should be taken of the exterior of the scene to show its locale in relation to the rest of the neighborhood. Place the camera on a tripod or hold it steady at eye level so the horizon line is constant for each shot. The photograph can be cut and pasted together to create a panoramic view of the scene.
When photographing the interiors of room, utilizing a 35mm camera or it’s digital equivalent, use a normal lens (45mm to 55mm) in stead of a wide angle lens. Wide-angle lens’ creates distortion, especially when close up photographs are taken. (the distance between objects appears to be greater than it actually is).
The camera should be held with a vertical format and overlapping photographs should be obtained. A vertical format insures that the scene will be observed from the top of the walls to the floor. Once again, a composite photograph can be created. Once the initial overlapping photos have been taken of any particular area, it is not necessary to repeat the process for this area. At a minimum the photographer wants 3 exposures of a photographed area. For example, I am photographing a chair located in the corner of the room. I would take three photos of the same chair from the same location. This is done for a couple of reasons. A. to ensure at least one good photo, B. to capture anything that may be unobserved to the eye at the time of the photo, and, C. for comparison purposes to rule out ambient variables. When taking primary overlapping photo’s it is important that the photographer resists the temptation to change the zoom setting on the camera. All overlapping photos must be taken using a consistent perspective. To do other wise defeats the purpose of creating a panoramic photo.
By performing the aforementioned steps, the investigator has developed a base line for future photos. From here any additional photos will have a point of reference with the initial ones and all photos will depict any changes to the environment or items, which may have been moved from their original positions.
Videotaping scene's has become common practice, however, it should never replace still photography. Common errors committed when videotaping a scene include panning the camera rapidly, poor focusing and lighting and improper use of the zoom feature of the cameras. The cameraman should describe on tape each room and view of the scene during their initial shots. Common practice for both photography and video, is to stand at the primary entrance to the room/area and photograph left to right, or vice versa prior to entering. Once the photographer has developed a comfortable routine and become accustomed to this technique it will become second nature.