Forgotten in its old age

by Aditya

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I realize that everyone "knows" that photographers have studios and take portraits, but I've also been interested in other careers that are open to photographers. Specifically, what is required in becoming a crime scene photographer or a media photographer (or photographic journalist?).

It seems that on television, in many cases, there is no photographic specialist working for the police department: is this an accurate portrayal? CSI comes to mind in this regard.

Also, journalism schools don't teach photography... do they?

Lastly, photographers don't make the kind of money a server administrator does.... do they?

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I have no real knowledge so I won't make this an answer... but I imagine that CSI photographers are more "investigators with cameras" than "photographers working crime scenes". When you're just interested in documenting a scene (vs making it look nice), photography is pretty easy. Getting "photographers" with "photography skills" would detract from investigation training and/or cost more. –  Craig Walker Jan 17 '11 at 18:45
    
As far as journalism goes, it really depends on where you live. The best thing to do is find someone where you live (or where you want to live) who works as a photojournalist and find out the kind of hours and assignments he/she works and for what kind of pay (if they are willing to say) and how they started. But I would imagine that a smart, young server admin could make more money than a smart, young photographer. –  David Rouse Jan 17 '11 at 22:01
    
Thanks for saying I am smart and young. I can only claim ownership of one of those qualities :) –  Mei Feb 10 '11 at 15:10

2 Answers 2

When I was at University I attended a talk from someone working for the North Yorkshire police's imaging unit. It sounded like a very interesting job, which ranged from crime scene photography, surveillance and promo work. This department was one of the largest and best in the country, and so regularly performed work for the other police departments, who presumably had their own photography capability but not to such a high level.

The forensic side mainly involved creating 360 degree panoramas of crime scenes so that officers could refer to those whilst investigating minimising the actual crime scene visits and disturbance. He didn't mention the IR & UV side of the forensics so I assume these were handled by a different department.

Surveillance was another aspect of the job. I guess it takes a certain mindset as it seemed to mostly consist of sitting in a van with a 1700mm lens (yes really!) here the goal was to be able to recognise people, not to produce high quality images. I was most surprised to find that the same photographers were producing promotional images & portraits for the press and internal use. This is much more similar to the sort of photography I do, but I would certainly enjoy the variety.

He saw the job advertised in the British Journal of Photography. I didn't offer any other tips to finding this sort of job, but I would expect I'd imagine qualifications in science to be a requirement. This would certainly be an easier avenue to pursue coming from a IT background compared to journalistic photography, which has a more established journalism school career progression. To answer your other question, yes you can study photography in journalism schools, at least in the UK. Here is a highly recommended course that I know people have done and gone on to careers photojournalism:

http://www.sheffcol.ac.uk/index.cfm?ParentID=b4ec0424-ef60-4b23-a840-b9fc6ec0300e

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Surely you go to art school to get a degree in photography and not a journalism school?

I know several Amateurs that have made the transition to becoming professional event photographers, I think it's a case of knowing the right people and being at the right place at the right time.

I've seen photography students who have asked venues for gratis work photographing concerts (sometimes as a 2nd Photographer) on the understanding that the venue can use any of their photos but they can be used to pad out a portfolio.

In some institutions I would assume it just happens that you are the person with a Camera. I don't know how the police recruit photographers I did a quick google for forensic photographer and came up with this link though:

http://www.skillset.org/photo/careers/photographers/article_3424_1.asp

While most Lead Photographers in Forensic Photography Units will usually have a strong background and qualification in photography, most Forensic Photographers start as Crime Scene Investigators or Scene of Crime Officers (SOCOs) before specialising in photography and forensic imaging. While it is not necessary to have a formal photographic education in order to gain work as a CSI, some photographic qualification (e.g. BTEC National Diploma in Photography) or previous photographic experience will often enhance the chances of selection.

AS I said I think it's just a case of being the right person in the right place and having a camera in your hands.

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You can do specific photojournalism courses, at least in the UK. These would get you much further than a degree in fine art photography from an art school! –  Matt Grum Jan 17 '11 at 18:57

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