I received an email from a new Private Investigation Agency owner looking for some suggestions on still cameras. I responded to the new agency owner with some things to consider when purchasing a camera. I am actually very thankful for the question because it got me thinking of the importance of a good camera for a private investigator. Before you buy or upgrade cameras consider reasons why it would be important to purchase a high end camera. The reason I present might not be the one you expect.
The evolution of my digital cameras
It was 7 years ago when I purchased my first digital camera. The camera was a Kodak Easy Share CX7300 , with 3.2 mega pixels and I purchased it for over $250 dollars. I think it came with an instant printer which I thought was pretty neat. There wasn’t much of a zoom function on the camera and the viewing screen on the camera was pretty small. It wasn’t a great camera but I think at the time digital cameras were just starting to pick up steam and be a mainstream item. At the time I had this camera I was purchasing 256MB and 512MB memory cards for the camera. I don’t know if they even make memory cards that small anymore. I only used this camera a few times for investigative work for some scene investigations and pictures of individuals I took statements from.
A few years later I purchased a Kodak EasyShare Z712 IS digital camera for a little over $300 dollars. This camera had a 12X zoom, a large screen to view/preview pictures and was 7.1 mega pixels. The quality of the pictures were great and I continue to use this camera for family pictures when I need a small camera. Even though I originally purchased this camera for family pictures, I found myself using this camera quite frequently for work. I was photographing scene investigations, claimants, witnesses and vehicles.
Then after I purchased my iPhone I noticed that the picture quality was amazing and found myself using my iPhone to take pictures when I didn’t have my still camera available. With of all the applications available on the iPhone I was able to crop the picture as needed right on my phone.
This year I purchased a Canon Rebel T3i for a little over $800 after taxes and some accessories. This camera shoots 18 mega pixels and has more functions then I can wrap my head around. The lens that comes with the camera does not have much of a zoom, so a better lens is something I plan on getting in the future.
I am not a professional photographer by any means at all, but I do know what I need from a camera. The functions of a camera that are important to me are view finder size, zoom capabilities, durability and perception. You can see the significant difference in view finder size and size of these cameras. The professional camera has more options in regards to lenses.
PERCEPTION OF YOUR BUSINESS
Even though all the cameras I mentioned can take a great picture for scene investigations, accident investigations, or claim investigations, etc..,not all of these cameras give you the impression of professionalism or give a better impression to the client.
I spoke with a close friend of mine who is a private investigator who told me several months ago that he took scene investigation photos with his iPhone. My friend felt that the quality of the pictures were great and he didn’t feel the need to spend a ton of money on more expensive equipment. To some degree I agreed with him. Fast forward a couple of months later and he arrived on the scene of a serious accident and he needed to take pictures. He told me at that time he felt very unprofessional and that the people on site had not taken him very seriously. He stated while on the scene he felt a bit silly taking pictures with his phone. After speaking with him it got me thinking about perception and how investigators are viewed. I think of police departments and law enforcement investigators and the equipment they use. How would a law enforcement official look if he was taking crime scene photos with his iPhone?
Yes I know, a camera doesn’t determine how good of an investigator you are in the field, however sometimes that is not what matters in business. Perception is important not just to your clients but to the people you interact with during your investigation. I believe a good camera creates a positive perception for an investigator.
Marketing benefits for investigation companies.
I enjoy researching companies and seeing the different things that are incorporated in to their websites. Some websites are very detailed with what equipment they use (typically the smaller firms), while other larger nationwide companies focus on other aspects that may be important to their client base. With that being said, showing pictures of your equipment (including your camera) may give your company extra clout to potential clients. I know a variety of private investigation companies that specifically list the equipment of their investigators to provide piece of mind to their clients.
Thank you for taking the time to read my perspective on this topic. I hope this is helpful in some aspect of your career or business. If you have any thoughts on this topic you would like to add, feel free to comment. I am sure others reading this would appreciate it.