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Home >Criminal Investigation & Forensics > Crime Lab > Lab Services > Footwear and Tire Impression Photography

Footwear and Tire Impression Photography

*Just the Basics: This is an overview and is meant to be a refreasher for those who have already taken a crime scene photography class. A basic crime scene photography class is offered by the Maine Criminal Justice Academy.

Crime Scene Photographs

Because of the evidentiary value of footwear and tire mark impressions, it is important to know how to take proper, examination quality photographs. There are several types of crime scene photographs. The first being an "overall" photo of the scene, then a "mid-range" photo, then a "close-up" photograph of the evidence (usually with and without scale). In this way, the evidence is related to the remainder of the scene. This is general crime scene photography.

Examination Quality Crime Scene Photographs

Examination quality photographs are different then general crime scene photographs. Examination quality photographs are photographs of the evidence taken in such a way as to allow for a forensic examination. Because the Latent Print Section does a direct, natural size comparison between the known shoe/tire and the unknown, crime scene impression we need the crime scene photos to be of a certain quality and be taken a certain way.

The following are the criteria needed in order for the Latent Print Section to perform a full forensic examination and analysis of an impression at a crime scene.

Digital Cameras

The use of digital cameras for footwear and tire impression photographs seriously limits the conclusions that can be drawn during a forensic analysis. The image becomes too pixelated when it is enlarged to natural size. We have also witnessed a lensing effect when digital cameras are used for footwear and tire impression photography. This lensing distorts the image when enlarged to natural size. Therefore it is best to remain with traditional silver-based photography when taking photographs of footwear/tire impressions.

Examination Quality Crime Scene Photographs (click links to see examples):

  1. The camera HAS to be on a tri-pod.
  2. The camera (film plane) HAS to be parallel with the impression.
  3. There HAS to be an appropriate scale in the photograph that is at the same depth (on the same plane) as the impression (an appropriate scale is a measuring device such as a ruler or tape measure. A pen, quarter, dollar bill, etc. are NOT appropriate scales)
  4. The impression needs to fill the frame of the photograph.
  5. Take multiple photographs using a flash at different locations and different angles around the impression. Use your flashlight to determine the best angle of light that gives the best contrast in the impression.