When I first started my career in forensics I didn’t recognize the importance of certification. My assumption was that my education, experience, training, and work spoke for itself. I was confident in my ability and didn’t think that having a certification would make me a better photographer. Later I changed my mind, and I believe that there are three things that show the value of certification.
Self Assessment: Having confidence in one’s work is great, but how do we know that our self-assessment is accurate? How do we know that we meet the standards of our profession? How do we determine that our level of knowledge and skill is what our field requires? By meeting the requirements and standards set by a valid certification program, we know that we are doing a competent and professional job.
Professionalism: It’s all too easy to approach our day-to-day duties as routine. We’ve photographed hundreds of crime scenes, hundreds of pieces of evidence, hundreds of fingerprints, footwear impressions, etc. We can become stagnant and do everything with a bit less professionalism than we did when we first started. Certification requires that we present each assignment with everything done right and in a professional manner. By meeting the standard for each assignment in the practical exam, we show that we have the skill to nail each and every photograph that we take.
Courtroom Testimony: Sure, we can meet the requirements to testify about the photographs we take without much difficulty. And, with a given amount of education, training, and experience, we can testify as an expert in the field of photography. But having the certification shows the presiding judge and the jury that you have gone beyond these and voluntarily been tested and met the requirements for certification. Court qualifications are met more easily and the weight of your opinion and evidence is increased.
Career: When I started in forensics, it was rare for an agency to require a college degree. Now it’s common. In fact, many agencies offer extra pay for those certified in their discipline, or make it a requirement for some positions or for advancement. In the future, I expect certification to be required for most forensics positions as well as for courtroom testimony.
There are many more points that can be made about the value of certification. Eric Johnson and I have developed a five day workshop titled, Forensic Photography and IAI Certification Prep Course. If you are considering seeking the IAI Certification in Forensic Photography, our course can help you prepare. If you just want to hone your skills in forensic photography, our course can help you with that as well.
PS: Photography is a part of virtually every forensic discipline. Our course, and this certification, are beneficial to all forensic professionals!