- INTRODUCTION TO INVESTIGATIVE
- By Ron Azzarello
- Part of the PI's tradecraft is recording information that can be used.
Photography is an indispensable tool of the licensed private investigator.
Learn how cameras work before you consider shooting video. If you do not
have your own outfit and know how to use it, you have little value to an
agency owner. What good is it for an agency to give you basic platforms,
if you cannot control them in the dark? Fots confirm what you observed
and what the video recorded. You do not get a second chance. For example:
- 1. Permanent, accurate, unbiased record of something specifically
- observed; or
- 2. Capture a detailed appearance of something that may later reveal
- details that were not observed at the time the fot was
- Learning how to shoot professional quality fots will allow you to record
professional quality video. As a record of observations, fots serve:
- 1. To recall to the investigative mind, details of what was seen;
- 2. To explain what was seen to someone else, perhaps in court.
- Heat causes unpleasant color shifts. Keep your camera shaded while
on the job. Refrigerate and face your stock film. Stand your video cassettes
on end, not flat on it's side. Beware of AC's affect on lenses, film and
video tape heads. Negatives belong to and are copyrighted to the agency,
but the photographer is identified and acknowledged in the report with
the time, date, direction, camera, lens and film. The agency gets the glory,
the photographer gets the blame.
- Never throw away spoiled or out-take negatives. Somebody may remember
you took four fots at the scene. If you only produce two, you may be accused
of suppressing evidence. Editing an original tape without a lawful court
order can be much worse. Learn to use one camera and camcorder very well.
You will get better fots and have gained valuable experience for recording
video and gainful work -- value.
- FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES
- An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Good fots are obtained
by knowing how to use good equipment in a professional manner. Purchase
a quality camera/video outfit to gain substantive experience if you want
to sustain a PI career.
- A camera can be compared to a human eye. Both allow reflected light
to enter a dark chamber from the front and pass through a lens. Both have
light sensitive areas behind the lens. In the eye, it is called a retina;
in a camera, this is called film. A device called a lens controls the amount
of light transmitted into the dark chamber. In the eye, it is the iris
muscle. In a camera, it is called an aperture diaphragm. Both the camera
and an eye must be focused or the image will be blurred. In the eye, the
lens is autonomically controlled by your brain. In a camera, the lens focuses
the image on the film through the iris diaphragm. You control the output
by knowing how to use the camera. You and your camera can function automatically,
but the camera should not be relied upon to automatically provide useful
- You will take sub-rosa fots under less than ideal conditions at long
ranges indoors and out. You will take the equivalent of portraits, sport
action, and architectural fots in uncontrolled situations. The more camera
controls, the more versatility. Economy compact models offer no lens attachments,
few settings, and camera controls are fixed for "typical" conditions.
PIs rarely encounter anything typical. (Ask gil)
- HOW CAMERAS WORK
- Cameras have a lens to collect and focus light reflecting from the
subject, and a light sensitive film surface to record it. If lens-to-film
distance is variable, you have a choice of focus settings for close or
distant subjects. A viewfinder allows you to aim the camera and shows the
limits of your image. The shutter controls the moment you take the fot
-- quality cameras give a choice of timed settings to help control exposure.
An adjustable lens aperture alters image brightness. It is linked to the
shutter to control the exposure.
- SINGLE LENS REFLEX CAMERAS
- SLR's have a centrally placed dome that houses a glass pentaprism.
This allows you to see the image formed by the lens when you look through
the eyepiece at the back of the camera. Seeing the actual image formed
by the lens is important for extremely accurate viewfinding and focusing,
- allowing you to preview the precise effect of situational conditions
to the vast range of available accessories. With video, you need an auxilary
nine inch monitor because the viewfinder is too small. Set the camcorder
on a fixed mount within your surveillance vehicle and view the
- The lens aperture is set between the glass elements of a lens. It can
open or close, to brighten or dim the image, by rotating an external ring.
Reducing the size of the aperture has a unique optical effect. It increases
the range of objects at different distances that can appear sharp at one
focus setting. This band of sharpness is called depth of field. The aperture
control is scaled in f numbers. Every SLR camera lens has an aperture ring
marked in the internationally agreed f number
- series: f2, f2.8, f4, f5.6, f8, f11, f16 & f22. The widest aperture
is the lowest number, but it is the smallest aperture that provides the
deepest depth of field. Automatic SLR camera lenses may have an A or green
dot that lets the camera chose the f stop.
- DEPTH OF FIELD
- Aperture affects depth of field, the distance between the nearest and
farthest parts of a scene that appear sharp at one focus setting. A lens
set at f2.8 focused for a subject ten feet away records sharply from about
9.5' to 12'. But change to f16 and depth of field will extend from 6' to
18'. By choice of aperture and careful focusing, you can localize detail,
picking out objects at one distance only, or make everything equally detailed
from the near foreground to the far distance. Each time you change aperture
you have to compensate for the extra brightness or darkness of the image
by setting shorter or longer times on the shutter.
- SHUTTER CONTROL
- Duel mode AE SLR cameras prioritize either, f-stop or shutter speed,
through a focal plane shutter. The shutter controls both the moment of
exposure and its duration. The best shutter speed depends on the degree
of camera or subject movement -- whether you want a blurred subject or
- freeze motion. Shutter settings affect the amount of light reaching
the film. Brightness, film sensitivity, and lens aperture choices are important.
Shutter speed in a good camera is integrated into an electronic circuit,
controlled by the camera's internal exposure meter. See light as the film
- Advanced camera shutter speeds may vary continuously from 1/4000 to
several full seconds. When you shoot slower than 1/60 of a second, support
the camera firmly to avoid camera shake and stop subject's motion. Purchase
stabilized SLR camera lenses and camcorders. Faster moving subjects require
faster shutter speeds to freeze action. The angle a subject is moving in
relation to the camera affects results. For a fast moving subject moving
at right angles to the camera, prioritize a faster shutter speed to stop
action, perhaps 1/125, so the depth of field will be greater.
- The smaller the aperture, the greater the depth of field. Shoot fast
film through a long lens with shutter-priority no lower than 1/60 of a
second. Stop down the lens and check actual exposure through the lens before
- The purpose of the lens is to gather light and direct it to film. Often,
you shoot the subject from far away. A telephoto lens magnifies a subject
so they appear closer than they really are. Telephoto lenses are long focal
length lenses. The longer the focal length, the larger the image on the
film. Telephoto lenses are generally divided into three types -- short
(85 to 135 mm), medium (150 to 300 mm) and long (500 mm or more). A 1000
mm lens will magnify a subject by twenty; that is a subject 1000' away
would appear to be only twnety feet away in the film image/viewfinder.
- Lenses are designated, and priced, according to the maximum f-number
to which they open. A lens that opens to f1.4 is called a one-four lens.
Lenses that open wider than f2 are called fast lenses. Slow lenses are
generally those with a maximum aperture of f4. On some lenses, the designated
maximum aperture is a half stop number. For example, f1.8 allows more light
to pass through than f2, but not twice as much light, as f1.4 permits.
Similarly, f3.5 is a half stop between f2.8 and f4, it allows more light
to pass through than f4, but not twice as much. A zoom
- lens is a variable focal length lens. By internal shift of their elements,
zooms vary their focal length. This variance is called range.
- Zooms are popular, cost more, and eat up more light than a fixed lens,
but they are versatile. Because of their flexibility and convenience, zoom
lenses dominate the market. Many zooms are capable of focusing at very
- A normal 50 mm lens attached to a 2X converter will make it a 100 mm
telephoto lens. A 2X converter will require opening the lens two more stops
and it will reduce the sharpness of the lens being used with it. The autofocus
lens (AF), made for newer SLR cameras, is operated by a small motor, either
in the body of the camera or in the lens itself. (USM, ultra-sonic-motor
lenses are faster to focus)
- EXPOSURE CONTROL
- Exposure is the product of the intensity of light falling on film,
controlled by lens aperture and the length of time this intensity of light
is allowed to act, controlled by shutter speed. To determine
- correct exposure, meter the brightness of a scene. Relate the information
to film sensitivity and set some combination of aperture and shutter speed,
so the film receives neigher too little nor
- too much light. Modern cameras contain a meter that measures the light
reflecting from the subject, and advanced models computerize the meter
to aperture and shutter adjustments electronically. Learn to anticipate
-- practice prevents critical mistakes.
- Given average conditions, exposure reading with a typical center-weighted
camera meter gives a high percentage of successful fots. Average conditions
means the scene contains roughly equal areas of light and dark detail,
lit mainly from behind the camera. Some scenes will fool the meter. The
scene may have extreme CONTRAST, very dim light or important areas much
brighter or darker than the surroundings. When reading a difficult scene,
decide what part you want to record and take advantage of your camera's
features. Shooting against bright lights like the sun creates technical
problems, be alert to flare, contrast, AND exposure errors. Taking properly
focused fots at night is a minor challenge for those that practice their
- MANIPULATING FILM SPEED
- Labs treat the ASA rating given to film as a standard for recommended
processing. Dim available lighting often forces you to use film as if it
had a higher rating. You must tell the lab to compensate by special processing.
Speed manipulations are useful in difficult lighting, but
- they may produce side effects. Uprating film speed and extending development
means the film performs faster, but it is more grainy and contrasty. Uprate
when faster shutter speeds, smaller apertures in poor light, or extending
the effective range of your flash is needed. Treat all fots on a roll of
film the same way when you manipulate a film's speed rating.
- The amount you can change the ASA setting and still obtain acceptable
results depends on the film speed. Great manipulation is possible with
B&W film. E-6 processed Ektachrome provides both proofs and slides
on the same run and has warmer colors pushed beyond 1.5 stops. When your
- light meter fails to respond in dusk or night fots, replace the previously
exposed film with a fresh roll of faster film. You may have to set a much
higher ASA rating until it reads a workable shutter speed. Uprated films
require extra development or pushing. Many processing labs offer this modified
service. Avoid confusion by marking the film end with its revised ASA rating
using a grease pencil when it is removed from the camera.
- To uprate film, turn the ASA setting control to a higher figure. If
you double the film's stated ASA you are going to expose the film as if
it were one stop faster. Three times normal speed equals a one and a half
stop increase. SLR cameras have a special compensation dial for different
degrees of uprating. There are limits to push processing film. Go beyond
acceptable limits and contrast and color is unacceptable. With B&W
film - X4 uprating; for color negatives - X2. Some films are made to be
pushed. Practice technique, you must know the fot ramifications before
you risk results on a real subject when you receive legal consideration
from a client in return for a professional service. Clients do not pay
- LOW-LIGHT TRIAL EXPOSURES
- For best results, use your camera's exposure meter to calculate settings.
Because it is difficult to measure scenes where the subject matter consists
of dim reflections, practice bracketing exposures and push processing your
film using the lenses and cameras you own. If you do not own a good camera
outfit and you really want to work as a licensed investigator, you should
plan to purchase quality, albiet an older professional outfit, and practice.
Without camera experience you have little value.
- Practice taking fots at home. Interiors at night with below average
and bright lighting, close-ups from a distance and indoors during holidays
without a flash. Use appropriate film, practice bracketing the exposure
settings, set the shutter speed at 1/60th of a second and push the film
- speed. Shoot at no less than 1/60th a second or you will not freeze
the subject's motion. Longer lenses require a faster shutter speed, so
expect to get closer to your subject at night, and use a fast fixed lens.
- Practice outdoors at night. Subjects under and near outdoor lights;
walking out of shadows into brightly lit street scenes, dimly lit parking
lots, and out of a nightclub; beneath entrance signs and
- silhouetted in front of a closed shop's window. Subject lit by street
lights and their vehicles in moving traffic; subjects lit by campfires
or in the stands at football games played at night; tennis matches, race
tracks, and inside bars; subjects lighting up a cigarette by a bic or match
light, under moonlight selling crack cocaine on the street, getting out
of a car lit up by the vehicle's interior courtesy light or under a porch
light kissing goodnight. If you know where your subject will be at night,
go there the day before. Measure the distance and you will not have any
problem setting your focus at night.
- Practice indoors in public places, too. Subjects in airports, parking
garages, shopping malls, basketball, bowling, wrestling, or ice hockey
games, circuses, stage shows, ice shows, swimming pools, restaurants, hospitals,
and churches. Practice under fluorescent, mercury-vapor, sodium-vapor,
and tungsten light. Artificial light profoundly effects and distorts film
color in different ways, you must know what to expect to control your workproduct
and lay a proper legal Being able to confirm the truthfulness and veracity
of your observations with a fot may be your only affirmative defense in
court. Especially when you blow the video.
- THREE VISUAL CUES TO DEPTH
- There are three physiological functions of the eyes that occur when
viewing a scene with both eyes in three dimension:
- 1. Convergence, two eyes converge differently and the focal length
- the eyes change.
- 2. Accommodation, autofocus of the eyes in the near field of view.
- 3. Retinal Disparity, one eye sees a slightly different view because
- your eye gap.
- Counter productive in perceiving depth in a print or TV monitor, neither
convergence nor accommodation of eyes change as they scan near and far
objects recorded on a flat image. The retrinal images in both eyes are
identical. The scene is flat and the brain accepts this fact. An enhanced
sense of depth results from only viewing a point with one eye
- (Leonardo da Vinci).
- DETERMINE YOUR DOMINANT EYE
- Depth effect is best with the dominant eye. Point at a distant object.
Without moving finger or head, close one eye; and then the other, the one
with the unchanged focus is your dominate eye. Please practice keeping
both eyes open while using your camera.
- AN INVESTIGATIVE TOOL
- How much better is the task of establishing a common and accurate understanding
of a particular setting or an object when investigative discovery is documented
on video accompanied by fots. It is this quality that makes investigative
photography valuable, and cameras/camcorders another comprehensive investigative
appliance, like a computer. Fots allow clients, courts, and juries to get
an accurate and lucid understanding of situations. Fots may be stored indefinitely
and be available when needed. They provide a visual record of a crime scene,
liability incident, and related objects. You can put fots into your computer
and print them with your Formal Report that accompanies the videotape,
HI-8mm video tape if you plan to provide quality edits.
- Trial courts determine the admissibility of photographic evidence.
Judgment is based upon legal precedents that have considered some of the
following points of law:
- 1. The object pictured must be material or relevant to the point
- 2. Fots must not appeal to the emotions or tend to prejudice the
- or jury.
- 3. The scene or object represented must be free from distortion
- CANNOT be misrepresented.
- Any enhancement of the original film, as originally processed, without
a court order, opens a pandora's box of legal ramifications. It is better
to practice, take back-up fots to confirm what the video recorded, take
extra fots to get results incase you have an unguarded moment (we all have
them), and do not provide client's with excuses why you did not get that
million dollar shot that they paid you to get.
- Copyrighted by --
- Ron Azzarello, licensed investigator C88-640
- ALLIANCE Surveillance & Investigation A88-275
- PO Drawer 1095, Dunedin, FL 34697-1095 USA
- 1-813 736-6775
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