Using Video to Record the Crime Scene

Steven Staggs
© 2014 from the book Crime Scene and Evidence Photography, 2nd Edition

Videotaping is valuable for showing an overview of the crime scene and should be considered in major cases. While video cannot replace still photographs due to its lower resolution, videotaping does provide an easily understandable viewing medium that shows the layout of the crime scene and the location of evidence. Video tapes of crime scenes are not often used in court, but they are valuable illustrations for explaining the scene to other investigators and are often used to refresh the memory of those who were involved in processing the crime scene.

Video tapes are considered evidence. You should record only one scene on a video tape and the original video tape should not be edited.

Crime scene videotaping techniques

When videotaping crime scenes, you should start the videotape with a brief introduction presented by an investigator. The introduction should include the date, time, location, type of crime scene, and any other important introductory information. The introduction should also include a brief description of the rooms and evidence that will be viewed in the videotape. The investigator may want to display a basic diagram as an illustration during the introduction.

Following the introduction the recording is paused and the microphone is turned off. This will prevent any distracting sounds from recording on the video tape during the taping of the scene. Begin videotaping the crime scene with a general overview of the scene and surrounding area. Continue throughout the scene using wide angle and close up views to show the layout of the scene, location of evidence, and the relevance of evidence within the crime scene. While videotaping, use slow camera movements such as panning, and zooming.

Creative Commons License Using Video to Record the Crime Scene  Copyright: © 2014 by Steven Staggs. Copyright for this article is retained by the author, with publication rights granted to the Crime Scene Investigation Network. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License which permits unrestricted noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction, provided the original work is properly cited and not changed in any way. Based on a work at

About the Book

The information presented in this article is from the book
Crime Scene and Evidence Photography, 2nd Edition © 2014 by Steven Staggs.

Crime Scene and Evidence Photography, 2nd Edition is designed for those responsible for photography at the crime scene and in the laboratory. It may be used by law enforcement officers, investigators, crime scene technicians, and forensic scientists. It contains instructions for photographing a variety of crime scenes and various types of evidence. It is a valuable reference tool when combined with training and experience. Crime Scene and Evidence Photography is also a helpful resource for students and others interested in entering into the field of crime scene investigation.

Crime Scene and Evidence Photography, 2nd Ed may be purchased from the publisher.

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About the Author

For the past 30 years Steven Staggs has been a forensic photography instructor and has trained more than 4,000 crime scene technicians and investigators for police and sheriff departments, district attorney offices, and federal agencies. He is also a guest speaker for investigator associations, appears as a crime scene investigation expert on Discovery Channel's Unsolved History, and provides consulting to law enforcement agencies.

Steve has extensive experience in crime scene photography and identification. He has testified in superior court concerning his crime scene, evidence, and autopsy photography and has handled high profile cases including a nationally publicized serial homicide case.

Steve is the author of the Crime Scene and Evidence Photographer's Guide, a field handbook for crime scene and evidence photography, which has sold over 40,000 copies and is in use by investigators in more than 2,500 law enforcement agencies.

Steve retired in 2004 after 32 years in law enforcement, but continues to teach forensic photography and crime scene investigations at a university in Southern California. He is the President of Crime Scene Resources, Inc. and Webmaster of the Crime Scene Investigator Network, the world's most popular Crime Scene Investigation and Forensic Science website (

Article submitted by the Author
Article posted: September 26, 2104