Photographs, printing and forensic engineering: from pixels to proof!

Photographs, printing and forensic engineering: from pixels to proof!

Exploiting all material evidence to reconstruct an accident or a loss means above all observing, investigating, recording. So here we are. From its first foundations to the definition that we know today, forensic engineering uses all scientific methods to bring together the elements needed to complete an investigation.

All types of investigations have one commonality… Photographs! Here, there are no Instagram filters, no blurry selfies, no random framing; what we want are clear images that can be interpreted, analyzed and ultimately be the key that unlocks the answers.

What could be more logical than starting our new infographic series on the world’s greatest inventions with printing and photography. Yes, without them, there would be no forensic engineering… nor an infographic explaining it to you!

To document through photography, thou shalt not forget

In forensic science, what does it mean to document exactly? This means taking notes, making sketches, measurements, listing the names of witnesses and above all, taking photos. And in this context, it’s like icing on a cake, there’s never enough! Photography is essential in the data collection process because it provides direct and irrefutable evidence.

And each photo is important, hence the need to think about what we want to show in advance. After being taken, it is not a matter of piling photos up in the cloud. They must be classified to facilitate their analysis and study throughout the investigation.

As Confucius said: a picture is worth 1000 words, and in the context of forensic engineering, it is also worth unfailing credibility in court! Poorly documented photos, or photos that do not correctly represent the hypothesis, don’t make much of an impression.

The evolution of forensic science in images… and inventions!

  • Gutenberg’s press: 1450
  • The first camera: 1816
  • The first digital camera: 1975
  • The first inkjet printer: 1976
  • 3D printing: in the 80s
  • Inventions lead investigation one step further: drones, surveillance cameras, etc.

Spoken words fly away, written words remain

When we think of Gutenberg, we think of the printing press, of course. And yet, the benefits from his invention were not just used to print pamphlets! As a political exile, young Johannes Gutenberg left his native Germany in 1440, and it was in the city of Strasbourg that he began to experiment with what would soon be called printing. Ten years later, he returned to his country of origin and his hometown – Mainz – to present his printing machine – the famous Gutenberg press – quite simply a revolution.

Revolution: is not too strong a word to describe a process which:

  • Allowed better circulation of scientific work from different disciplines;
  • Facilitated exchanges between people of science, the sharing of ideas and discoveries;
  • The correction of errors, regardless of geographical and temporal constraints;
  • Has promoted the advancement of knowledge and scientific progress.

When you think of the innovations since the printing press, including digitization, the transition from oral to paper may seem modest. But don’t forget that the fundamental principle of sharing unmodified information remains essential to the processing of forensic files. Thanks to WHO? Gutenberg!

No photos, no forensic engineering evidence!

The work of the forensic engineering investigator would not be the same without photography and printing. Because documenting is one thing, but very often, it is in the least obvious elements that we find the answers! The very things that remain on images forever… almost.

Combined with notes, sketches and testimony, photography offers an overall vision of the scene of a loss, and several valid avenues to explain it and therefore narrow the scope of the investigation.

Sometimes photographs are not perfect, the context of the scene, the weather conditions or the light can hamper their quality. But the objective of the forensic investigator is always to take the best possible photos, and to document the scene to achieve the most precise reconstruction possible.

At the end of the day? Not millions of followers, but reliable and recognized forensic engineering services, and a file completed and resolved.


  • The first digital camera weighed 4 times more than a modern digital SLR: at that time, saying “lift the photo” was more accurate than saying “take the photo”!
  • The largest printer in the world measures 12 x 50 meters while the smallest printer in the world measures 2.5 x 5 x 28 cm: we wonder if the paper is bought in the same place for both…


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