Beneath cover-up tattoos: possibilities and limitations of various photographic techniques
The goal of this study was to investigate the usefulness of various photographic techniques in visualizing previous tattoos under cover-up tattoos.
Material and methods
Ten volunteers with 11 known cover-up tattoos were examined using different photographic techniques: A Canon EOS 6D full-frame digital single-lens reflex camera used in conjunction with a SB600 off-camera flash system and an extension cord; and a Leica M8 digital imaging system camera in conjunction with two different infrared filters (715 nm and 850 nm) and a Metz CL-45 handle-mount flash. A Lumatec Superlite 400 forensic light source was used along with the Canon EOS 6D as a third system.
The best results for black cover-up tattoos were achieved with the full-frame digital single-lens reflex camera in conjunction with the off-camera flash system and, for colored cover-up tattoos, with IR-photography at a wavelength of 850 nm. The Lumatec Superlite 400 light source did not provide better results for conventional photography than those obtained with flash lighting.
In nine out of eleven cover-up tattoos, the previous tattoos could, at least, be partially visualized. The quality of the visualization depended on the color, pattern, density, and quality of the cover-up tattoo as well as on the photographic technique. None of the examined photographic techniques could satisfactorily image the previous tattoo if the cover-up tattoo was large and black, especially not if it was densely inked.
Depending on the color of the cover-up tattoo, a full-frame digital single-lens reflex camera in conjunction with a SB600 off-camera flash system (for black cover-ups) or infrared photography with flash lighting and an 850 nm filter (for colored cover-ups) proved to be the best of the investigated techniques to visualize a previous tattoo under a cover-up tattoo.
KeywordsCover-up tattoo Forensic photography IR photography Forensic light source Lumatec Superlite 400 Identification
Compliance with ethical standards
Informed consent and permission for publication of photos were given by the volunteers.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
- 1.Deter-Wolf A, Robitaille B, Krutak L, Galliot S (2016) The world’s oldest tattoos. J Archaeol Sci Rep 5:19–24Google Scholar
- 4.Brähler E, Hofmeister D (2009) Verbreitung von Tätowierungen, Piercings und Körperhaarentfernung in Deutschland. IOP Publishing Physics. Web: http://goo.gl/9iE01H. Accessed 21 Oct 2017
- 7.Tampisch HJ, Brandau K (2014) Tattoos und piercings in Deutschland. IOP Publishing Physics. Web: http://aktuell.ruhr-uni-bochum.de/mam/content/tattoo-studie.pdf. Accessed 30 Oct 2017
- 9.Birngruber CG, Görner N, Ramsthaler F (2016) Über den Wert von Tätowierungen zur Identifizierung Verstorbener am Beispiel gerichtlicher Leichenöffnungen im Institut für Rechtsmedizin Gießen. Arch Kriminol 237:13–24Google Scholar
- 10.Birngruber C, Ramsthaler F, Kettner M, Verhoff MA (2011) Superimposition ante- und postmortaler Bilder von Tätowierungen zur Identitätssicherung – ein Fallbericht. Arch Kriminol 227:48–54Google Scholar