Career as Forensic Photographer
Photographing dead bodies for identification purposes or during an autopsy isn't generally a career in itself but is part of the duties of a morgue or autopsy technician. To become a morgue technician, you must have a degree, along with knowledge of autopsy methods and forensic photography, among other qualifications. If you enjoy the photographic aspect of the work, consider further training as a forensic photographer.
The morgue technician works closely with the medical examiner and pathologists. He might photograph faces of the deceased for identification purposes. Forensic photographers document autopsies, as well as evidence in suspicious deaths. That includes photographing a murder or accident victim at the scene of a crime or incident. During an autopsy, the forensic photographer positions the body at the direction of the pathologist, photographing organs or wounds. In criminal cases, the photographer documents other types of evidence, such as tears or bloodstains on the victim's clothing. The photographs taken can appear at a trial as evidence, so the forensic photographer must know the correct light sources and film for various types of images. Each photograph must include a reference scale, along with identification such as case number and name of the deceased.
Use of Imaging
In addition to photography, morgue technicians might assist the medical examiner in performing some diagnostic imagery on bodies, such as dental or skeletal X-rays for identification purposes. Technicians also preserve tissue evidence on radiographs or slides. The technician needs digital imagery skills, as these techniques are increasingly used in the field.
Physical strength is required for morgue technicians, as you must be capable of lifting heavy bodies -- literally "dead weight." Technicians also clean and maintain the morgue, keep records, order supplies and release bodies to funeral homes. Technicians are responsible for inventorying the late person's personal effects and maintaining evidence collected from corpses. When bodies come into the morgue, technicians tag them and place them into special refrigerated rooms. You must also possess a valid driver's license, as picking up or delivering bodies is often part of the job.
Education and Salary Range
Minimal educational requirements for a morgue technician include an associate's degree in biochemistry, physiology, mortuary science or a similar scientific field. Since crimes occur and people die around the clock, hours can vary. Depending on the actual job title and experience, the salary range for a morgue technician ranges from 23k annually to mid-30k. Because morgues are operated by public agencies or hospitals, full-time employees receive health insurance and are enrolled in pension plans or employer-sponsored retirement plans.
Advancing Your Career
Becoming a forensic photographer means working beyond just the morgue setting. Your photographs of accident or crime scenes become part of a criminal or civil case's evidence. Keep up with technological advances in digital and other forms of photography by taking college level or law enforcement academy courses in this and related subjects, such as image analysis. You can receive certification from national and international forensic organizations via written and practical testing.
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