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Forensic Science Communications October 2003 – Volume 5 – Number 4
Standards and Guidelines
General Guidelines for Photographing Footwear Impressions
Scientific Working Group on Imaging Technologies (SWGIT)

Version 1.1 June 5, 2003
Introduction | Recommended Equipment
Procedure for Footwear Impression Photography


The purpose of this document is to describe the proper method of photographing footwear evidence by qualified personnel.

It is recommended that digital cameras not be used for capturing footwear evidence until research identifying the minimum resolution required to record these impressions is complete.

Recommended Equipment

  • Professional camera, minimum 35mm, with interchangeable lenses, manual override for exposure and focus, off-camera flash and remote shutter capability, and tripod mount

  • Macro lens capable of 1:1

  • Dedicated electronic flash with extension cable for off-camera operation

  • Remote shutter release

  • Tripod capable of various angles and positions

  • Artificial light sources (e.g., floodlights, flashlights)

  • Leveling device

  • A variety of black-and-white and color negative film

  • Appropriate scales

  • Photographic log

  • Reflector

  • Device for blocking ambient light

Procedure for Footwear Impression Photography

A typical standard operating procedure should include the following:

  1. Locate the visible impressions to be photographed.

  2. Photograph the overall view of the area with identifying markers for each impression using appropriate lighting.

  3. Photograph the midrange view of the impression area with the identifying marker.

  4. To photograph a close-up view:

    1. Mount the camera on a tripod with the film plane parallel to the impression.

    2. Light the impression to bring out the maximum detail. Multiple exposures using various settings (bracketing) and lighting techniques may be required.

    3. Photograph with and without scale. The scale/identification tag should be placed adjacent to the impression without obscuring detail and be at least the length and width of the impression.

    4. If the impression is processed (e.g., with fingerprint powder or chemicals), re-photograph after each process.

  5. Prepare the photographic log or worksheet according to agency policy.