Terry Vitacco Photography

July 22, 2012


Autopsy shots, exposed brains, photos of suicide victims – these are not your everyday portfolio photos. But these these and other shocking photos were included in the images COD Photo Club members saw when guest speaker Thomas Doggett, CSI,  showed images from his portfolio at a recent College of DuPage Photo Club meeting.

“Very little of what I do is like CSI on TV,” said Officer Thomas Doggett, Crime Scene Investigator.  “Crime scene photography is a lot like photojournalism,” explained Doggett. “You try to tell a story to people that are not there.”

“97 percent is routine and boring, not like TV.”

“We shoot video and stills that have to paint the picture so people who are not there get a good idea of what happened.”

In the course of his work, Doggett investigates domestic batteries, criminal damage to property; traffic crashes, and does surveillance. (He has photographed an outlaw biker house, drug buys, protestors, as well as a perpetrator who used a pen camera to shoot up women’s skirts…) He also photographs death investigations, photo line-ups, meet and greets, awards, displays, sex offender registration, training, public relations, and maintains a photo lab.

“If you have a nosy personality, this job is for you. Everyone has to share with you.”

“I’m a nosy person,” he admitted.  “I get to see what’s going on. I get behind the tape.”

Thomas Doggett

Thomas Doggett Crime Scene Investigator

When asked if he gets upset when he sees so many unfortunate situations and tragedies, he said,  “It doesn’t bother me because I have had so many calls. It no longer seems personal. We call them a cool call.”

“You never know what case you’re going to get,” he says.

Forensic photographers need a good grounding in police methods and conventions, and a sound understanding of anatomy. They must be able to methodically record the original scene and the initial appearance of physical evidence without the photograph appealing to the emotions of the jury or in any way prejudicing the case.

They must also keep detailed records of exactly where photos were taken, the type of camera and lenses, what stock the picture was taken on, and whether flash or artificial lights were used.

“I have to take wide, medium, close and extreme close-ups,” he says. Referring to one of the shots of brains he showed the group, he said, “You’re going to be close.

You’re going to smell it.”

Close-up shots of bullets used in crimes include a dental scale, to show the bullet’s size. He also photographs bullet holes. “They need to see the angle of trajectory of the bullet.” He uses gray backgrounds so he can color correct the images of the small items he photographs.

Other details of his daily work he revealed included the fact that 90 percent of his photos are shot as J-pegs, but if the shots are to be used as evidence he also shoots RAW images for comparison.  For students interested in entering the profession Doggett explained, “To be a CSI, you need to be a policeman first.”

Near the end of his presentation, Doggett advised the Photo Club in jest,

“Don’t steal at Kohl’s. Their video is awesome.”

If anyone is interested in future Photo Club events, email the club at codphotoexclub@gmail.com.