Picture perfect

A practical and cost-effective guide to building the ultimate crime scene photographer's toolkit

     For those using digital SLR cameras, a dual battery attachment is a worthwhile investment. The dual battery attachment mounts to the camera bottom and looks like an auto winder. These attachments come complete with their own shutter-release button and flash controls, which are particularly useful when holding the camera in portrait position. Two batteries are used which doubles the camera's time of use. Some of these dual battery attachments have an optional AC power adapter allowing the user to plug the camera into a wall outlet for unlimited shooting time.

     A set of stand-up evidence markers prove their worth at scenes with multiple items of evidence scattered about, such as a scene with multiple shell casings scattered about. These markers come in kits with numbers 1 through 50 and/or A through Z. Markers bearing numbers above 50 and alphabetical markers AA through ZZ are also available from crime scene and evidence collection product suppliers. Some of these markers even have a flat area in front of the number or letter with an "L" shaped cut out incorporating a evidence ruler.

     The last item to include in the ultimate crime scene photographer's toolkit would be a set of blood spatter rulers. These rulers, which typically come in pairs in a hard plastic carrying case, are approximately 3 feet long and are used for photographically documenting scenes containing blood spatter. These tools are also available from crime scene and evidence collection product suppliers. While 3-foot yard sticks, available at the local hardware store, will do, the photographer provides a more professional appearance with official blood spatter photographic documentation scales.

     Photography equipment is expensive. In a perfect world, the crime scene photographer would have it all, but today's law enforcers must keep a watchful eye on expenses. Keeping cost down requires scrapping the "kid in a candy store" mentality and replacing it with practicality.

     Troy Lyons is a 17-year veteran with the York County/City of Poquoson Sheriff's Office, where he spent three years in the patrol division before being promoted to the Investigations Division. He worked as a criminal investigator for 10 years before being promoted to lieutenant supervising the Investigations Division. Lyons served as the agency's primary crime scene tech for seven years, processing and photographing hundreds of crime scenes with both film and digital SLR cameras. As a state-certified general law enforcement instructor, Lyons regularly teaches crime scene processing and scene photography. He may be reached at lyonst@yorkcounty.gov

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