Investigative Photography and Electronic Imaging --
Copyrighted by Ron Azzarello
Trial courts determine admissibility of photographic evidence. If you
took the photographs, fots, you must lay the legal foundation. Judgment
is based upon legal precedents that have considered some of the
following points of law:
- The object pictured must be material or relevant to the point at
issue. Any fot that is no way instructive or of assistance to stress or
prove a point in issue may be withheld.
- Fots must not appeal to the emotions or tend to prejudice the court or
jury. Trial judges have suppressed the introduction of fots showing a
savagely mutilated body or grizzly subjects. It wasn't that long ago
that color proofs were considered prejudicial.
- Is your submission an accurate representation of the scene? The object
represented must be free from distortion and cannot be misrepresented.
Fots obtained improperly, by tilting the camera, capturing an image from
an incorrect angle or point of view, present biased distortions and
should be a greater concern than an image digitally manipulated to
reflect true colors. Insufficient light or over-exposed proofs effect
quality and jeopardizes admissibility as evidence, too. You must
understand photo-technology as a professional investigator/witness.
If law enforcement, LE, uses digital technology to get a better
understanding of the crime, why shouldn't you? How crimes were
committed, the setting, the manner particular evidence is related to
defendant or the crime is not just relevant, it is necessary. Fots are
obtained of evidence or conditions to illustrate alternative fact
issues. Criminal defense investigators take reference fots to challenge
the States' evidence, to brief lawyers, and to keep from making
redundant field trips.
LE has gone digital and so have many career PI's. Check-out Adobe
Photoshop 4.0 <> to digitally manipulate, through
image-stiching Live <> Picture "PhotoVista"
software, 360 degree panoramas of crime and personal injury scenes and
opposing defensive challenges. If you are not helping clients, lawyers,
judges, and juries get a better impression of the big picture, you are
missing an income opportunity.
Ponder "More Hits" Protection Plus, 10027 South Tacoma Way, Suite G-1,
Tacoma, WA 98499, <> They may have a digital
image tracking and processing solution to preserve evidence integrity
that has been accepted in court. They automatically calibrate for true
1:1 imaging, enhancement history, and it is compatible with other image
enhancement systems.
In the early 1970's, PI's photographed the depth of maximum crush to
determine a change in velocity (delta v) to calculate speed and the
force of impact to occupants. Limitations arose, so better arithmetic
modeling of collisions created a uniform descriptive report of vehicle
damage. VDI, Vehicle Deformation Index, was replaced by the current and
more complete, CDC, Collision Deformation Classification. Massive
injuries and high policy limits, demand PMP, Photo- grammetric Mapping
Obtaining a working knowledge of the professional standards needed for
serious investigative projects is important to your career growth. You
must first understand and then master reasonable goals with professional
tools and equipment. The camera you use must be of exceptional quality
and versatility, but not necessarily new; just rugged. Quality lenses
are better investments than cameras. Camera bodies that interchange
lenses and digital imaging cassettes instead of film is what PI's will
soon utilize.
The shutter speed controls how long the shutter remains open and lets
reflected light onto the film. Long lenses magnify camera shake, so to
work from a distance you must have a fast exposure or the fot will be
blurred, even if the subject is standing still. No matter how good your
equipment, you still must have some amount of light to reach the film,
in order to get a decent exposure.
The aperture chokes the amount of light coming through the lens. A fully
choked lens only sees through the center of the lens. However, running
a lens wide open reduces the depth of field. Each click of the shutter
speed control is equal to one click of the aperture ring. Every time you
move either control one "stop", or click, you have doubled or halved the
total amount of light getting to the film.
When handling long or mirror lenses, double or quadruple the speed of
the film by dialing in the higher setting and have it push processed.
The lab will leave the film in the developer a longer time. The image
quality changes a little, but it works. Each doubling of film speed buys
one extra stop up of either aperture or shutter speed.
I am going to assume you shoot at a professional level with consistent
quality. Master basic photo/videography skills and you can enter the
realm of capturing a quality image with more complex digital cameras and
get images introduced into evidence -- painlessly.
To understand how digital cameras record images, get to know, up front,
how much data must be captured by a digital camera for the intended
output requirements. A 35mm image on fine grain film can produce a
gigantic file when scanned with a high-relolution, high-quality scanner.
There are two methods by which a digital camera captures data. One is to
capture the image instantly using a two-dimensional charge coupled
device, CCD, sensor called an "area array." This CCD is like a piece of
film that receives an exposure and records all the data in an instant.
The second method is to "scan" the image using a single row of CCD
sensors. This kind of capture can take several minutes to record the
scene, and forbids any movement of the subject being captured.
Obviously, not for PI purposes, we usually do not ask subjects to, "Say
Area array CCD cameras have two disadvantages: First, the file sizes
they produce are limited and the cost is based on the maximum resolution
they can provide. It is expensive to produce a high-resolution,
two-dimensional CCD. Another disadvantage is that two-dimensional CCDs
are monochromatic, in order to capture a color image instantly, the CCD
must have a matrix of colored filters on or in front of it. Software is
also required to interpolate the data and create a color file. A few
camera manufactures use three separate CCDs and a beam splitter to
expose each CCD through red, green, and blue filters. This method
results in true, non-interpolated color, but increases the camera cost
to far more than a CCD capture camera of similar resolution.
How large a file will you need? A camera that can capture a 48 MB file
at 4,096x4,096 pixels costs a whopping $50,000. To rich for this
investigator to justify, consider:
- Is it cost effective to shoot with a digital camera?
- Will the camera capture a sufficient file for my output needs?
- Will the inevitable color artifacts present a problem?
- Do I want, a camera-back that fits my conventional camera, or be
Not having to wait hours or days for film processing is an advantage;
cheaper, too. Silver-based film and the processing required to develop
an image are environmentally unfriendly has caused many governmental
agencies and large companies to go digital. More important, you retail
full custody and control of the image and can not blame the lab for
There is another issue, the quality of the digital capture. Kodachrome
has a unique look that differs vastly from Fujichrome, and many PI's use
a film based on its particular qualities to improperly prejudice results
in client's favor. Since these characteristics can cause problems with
color fidelity and possibly taint admissibility, wouldn't it be easier
to achieve accurate color reproductions by avoiding film altogether?
Can you justify the cost of an expensive camera system in your business;
will you continue to make a profit? You can always rent, but you
probable would not have the software nor know how to use either
properly. One clear fact remains, the quality of the files captured with
the right digital camera system far surpasses that of film, while
providing significant advantages in the creation of images.
Analyze the technology for a moment to compare cameras and identify your
budget. Resolution is a crucial specification when evaluating a digital
camera. The number of pixels a camera can create greatly affects the
quality of the printed output. The more pixels a camera provides, the
larger the file that can be output with acceptable results. Most desktop
models produce at least a 640x480 pixel image, up to about 1,280x1,024.
The number of pixels you end up with is a most important factor in the
purchase of a digital camera. Some cameras use less than the full
resolution of the CCD to create smaller files. Digital camera
manufacturer's information about resolution is increasingly difficult to
decipher. Knowing the exact number of pixels the CCD provides along each
axis allows you to determine what size print can be produced. It also
provides data about the camera's aspect ratio, because it provides the
width and height of the CCD.
Most CCD's are manufactured with extra pixels placed on the edge of the
sensor for providing color balance, luminance, and image processing. The
total area of the CCD sensors is called the chip resolution area. The
actual number of pixels that capture the image is the figure you need to
ID. Even when given the total image resolution, you may not be getting
the real facts. Some cameras use rectangular pixels and then
interpolate, via software, to provide the rest of the information needed
to create the image. PCI, pixels per inch is different than DPI.
If you have a camera that takes pictures without film, you need a place
to store images. It would be counterproductive to run out of storage
space in the middle of a project. There are cameras being sold with no
provisions for removable media. While claims are made that a camera
stores hundreds of images, rest assured files are undergoing a lot of
nasty compression that doesn't do much for image quality.
The fist digital cameras had PCMCIA cards. Type I and II cards are flash
memory cards with no moving parts. Type III cards are small hard drives
and are the standard in high-end digital cameras. These cards can be
inserted into standard PCMCIA card readers found on many laptop and some
desktop computers. CompactFlash memory is smaller, but can be adapted to
fit PCMCIA readers. A third kind of memory, SmartMedia, is smaller,
about the size of a postage stamp and it can be adapted to PCMCIA
readers. Don't forget the cost of these memory adapters.
Standard PCMCIA memory should remain your choice because they are
rugged, Type I and II come in sizes from 5MB to 80 MB. Type III cards
max out at 520MB, which is handy on extended projects. CompactFlash can
be had with as high as 45MB, but SmartMedia cards are easy to lose or
damage and only range in size to 8MB.
If you upgrade your camera to one using different media, your existing
collection of cards, like lenses, may not be compatible with the new
camera. Some save files onto standard 3.5 inch floppy disks, but that is
a most inappropriate medium. While floppies are inexpensive, they are
slow, limited in the amount of data they hold, and they are extremely
unreliable compared to flash memory. If the camera is based on an
existing conventional camera body, such as Canon, Minolta, or Nikon,
virtually all the interchangeable lenses manufactured for that camera
will fit.
Many cameras offer digital zoom, which merely interpolates the data from
a smaller area of the CCD. It is much better to do this with software.
True interchangeable optical zoom lenses are much more important for
probative applications. Video output is an attractive feature on a
digital camera. It allows you to view your images on a standard TV or
computer monitor, turning a camera into a very nice presentation device.
The software provided with a digital camera is an important
consideration. Most camera companies supply software needed to download
their images. Some cameras ship with software that only display previews
or thumbnails of the images captured, allowing the user to acquire them
into some kind of file format, such as JPEG or TIFF. Others package
image editing software, such as Adobe PhotoDelux.
Eastman Kodak and Canon released the same version of a prosumer digital
camera that incorporates Kodak's digital capture technology with Canon
lenses. This is one of the most impressive single capture digital
cameras to be found. Built onto a Canon EOS body, the DCS 520 can
produce a 5.73MB file (1,736x1,160 pixels) while capturing up to 12
continuous frames at 3.5 images per second. The viewfinder is designed
to show a full image that is WYSIWYG, because the CCD is smaller than a
35mm frame, however, lenses do not produce a longer focal length effect.
The camera stores images on a type III PCMCIA drive, allowing the user
to store 199 images on a 340MB card. The DCS 520 has an ISO equivalent
from 200 to 1,600. Since the body is based on a Canon EOS, all EOS
lenses can be used, and all the functions EOS users are accustomed to
are available, such as TTL flash and exposure compensation. A removable
NiCad battery provides power for 300 shots per charge. On the back of
the camera is an LCD display with unique features. Like most digital
cameras, the LCD displays images captured while allowing you to toggle
through all the images previously written to disk.
Available features include time/date stamp, control over the PCMCIA card
(formatting), and tagging of specific images to aid in fast downloading
of selected images from the PC card. There is a microphone on the camera
to get you into trouble if you misspeak. Other features include an auto
white balance sensor mounted on the body, with four manual settings for
daylight or flash, and tungsten or fluorescent conditions that would
otherwise be seen as a flickering image. This camera also uses FireWire
Many digital cameras require infrared, hot mirror, filters over the lens
to improve captured file quality. Kodak placed this filter over the
actual CCD, thus eliminating the need for additional filters for each
lens. Bundled software, version 5.0 of Photoshop's acquire module,
allows proprietary TIFF file acquisition at 12 bits per color, rotates
images, names the images prior to acquiring, sets exact resolution, and
creates three sizes of proof sheets for printing.
This camera is a true SLR based on the Canon EOS, the autofocus is
lightning fast. I adore my Canon Elan II EOS, but this digital camera
costs many thousands more. I bought a second generation Elan after the
bugs were fixed -- the cost came down and will probably do the same for
the D2000. I first started with a Canon FTB QL in the 1970's, bought a
Canon AE1 programable in the 1980's, and the Elan EOS for the 1990's.
This new EOS D2000 will be my camera in the year 2000.
In the meantime, I will buy the new ultra-compact ZR Digital Video
camcorder that records to a standard mini DV cassette and fits in my
shirt pocket. It uses a .25 inch interlace scan CCD to produce digital
picture quality and also uses FireWire. It has motion and still modes.
The LCD converts into an eyecup viewfinder. As I wait for prices to
drop, I will practice with PhotoShop v 4.0 and will continue to use my
Canon Hi8mm camcorder for business applications.
BTW - Photoshop 5.0 just released at $995, by Adobe Systems. It is the
Cadillac of photo-manipulation software. If you can upgrade from earlier
versions of PhotoShop, or from the light LE version, it is a lot cheaper
-- $250. If you intend to go digital, you need to be able to explain to
a judge how and why you corrected (enhanced/manipulated) images to
reflect the actual conditions you observed when the image was obtained -
and swear to it!
Respectfully posted as a copyrighted composition-in-work and the
intellectual property of,
Ron Azzarello, licensed investigator C88-640
ALLIANCE Surveillance & Investigation A88-275
PO Drawer 1095, Dunedin, FL 34697-1095
1-813 736-6775