Aircraft Accident Photography
David M. Merckson
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Daytona Beach, Florida
Instructor: John Kuborn
January 26, 2013
In this paper I will briefly go over and describe the various types of Aircraft Accident Photography procedures and equipment used to perform those duties. I will support and also will oppose the different types of accident photography with rationalization and past data. I will go over the most prominent photography styles that are used today in more detail.
Since the beginning of flight, there has always been a need to capture the aircraft mishaps
in photography as a way to permanently have a recollection of what the scene looked like for
investigation and maintenance purposes. There are many different styles, and types of
photography performed at the accident scene. With that being said there is various types of
equipment that you need to have to perform all the different angles of photography at the scene.
The different pieces of equipment will produce many different kinds of quality photos and create
ideas of how things happened prior to the accident occurring.
To start taking photos of accidents you will need some basic equipment such as a camera,
film for some cameras, lenses, flashes, tripods, light, and batteries, etc. As a photographer you
want to take as many color photos of the accident scene you can. The color photos put realistic
life into the photos, it also will help you piece the pictures together since you will be taking
multiple pictures of the scene.
Take pictures of anything that is perishable at the scene before you take pictures of
anything else. These photos are critical to the investigation and to helping you put your photo
library all together. If you wait to take these pictures you could lose some valuable information
of what may have contributed to the accident. Some examples of what I am referring to are ice
on the aircraft, various fluids from the aircraft, human beings, the cockpits, any panel readings
that can be located and seen, rescue efforts, any fire or smoke that is seen around the plane. The
colors in the picture of the smoke will help decide what is burning.
You will always want to take more pictures than you need. You can’t ever recreate the
real deal. If you have any way possible when you first get there you should try to get aerial
photo of the accident scene. This will help everyone see a perspective of what happened at the
scene they cannot normally see from just the ground. Once you are able to take that photo try to
then move into at ground level by taking photos from a distance and the eight points of the
compass. Then after getting those pics move inward and get the close up photos you want to take
or those pictures you know everyone will say, “Boy we should have gotten one of the…”
Continue taking pictures of anything you could possibly think of that will help you later put this
The Need for Accident Photography
After you leave the accident scene from taking pictures you will then have to go back and
start to create your basic photo plan. This plan will encompass all the photos you deem necessary
important to aiding in the aircraft investigation and mishap report. You will need to put all of you
photos into sequential order of how you took them. If needed use reference items to aid in
helping decide what happened first, great method is numbering the back of each photo. You will
want to break in down into different parts, the perishables using the photos of victims, gages,
and any other perishable items. Next would be photos of the scene. You could place here your
aerial photos if possibly have, also any pictures of the aircraft that you...