This section is from the book "Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography", by J. B. Schriever. Also available from Amazon: Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography.
600. Photographic records, for use as evidence in court, are accepted in the majority of states, as well as in many foreign countries. It is vitally important that those persons connected with court proceedings be well informed upon the methods of making photographic records which are to be used as evidence. Not only must the photographer who intends to cater to this particular class of work, but also every lawyer, know the methods employed and the manner of securing such records.
Photographic Distortion. It is a common statement, that "a photograph cannot lie;" but, as many photographers know, it is possible to misrepresent the appearance of a view by the use of an improper lens. For example, we may distort a subject considerably by using a lens of short focal-length. An object which usually appears perfectly normal if photographed with the average lens including a medium angle, will, when photographed with a wide-angle lens, show the objects nearest the camera to be larger in proportion to those in the distance. This is but one of the many ways in which the camera may not hold strictly to the truth, yet if it is known what kind of a lens was employed the observer will secure an accurate rendering of the scene and be able to interpret it in a truthful light.
602. In order that a lawyer or judge may intelligently treat with a case where photographs are to be introduced as evidence, it is essential that he be thoroughly informed with reference to the manner of securing photographs. He will then be able to tell in an instant whether the photograph was made with a wide-angle lens, or whether there has been a truthful rendering given of the scene or of the object photographed.
Photographs As Evidence For Damage Suits. When photographs are introduced in court as evidence it is essential that the photographer produce full and complete information regarding the methods he used in proceeding to secure the negatives. For this reason a notebook should always be carried by the photographer, and in this book an exact record made of each and every exposure. The first, and perhaps most important, item to be given consideration is the date and the time of day that the exposure was made. This should be given in exact hours and minutes, as a few minutes one way or the other might make the photographs of absolutely no value. Next in importance is the kind of lens, its focal-length, whether wide-angle, normal-angle or narrow-angle; also whether a rectilinear lens or an astigmat was used.
A Complete Record. Another item of importance, which should receive attention in some particular cases, is to make a photograph of a scene, and then, leaving your camera on the tripod in the exact position from which the exposure was made, take another camera and photograph the whole scene, including the camera which made the print in question and the scene photographed by it. The two photographs shown in court will of themselves tell much of the story, and do it far more effectively than with the one print.