4 things you may not know about baby passport photos

When it comes to taking passport photos, there are a lot of rules that seem like common sense: take a color photo, don’t wear sunglasses, and face the camera. But what a lot of people — especially new parents — don’t always realize is that taking a baby passport photo can create some unforeseen challenges. Here are a few things you should keep in mind when taking a passport photo of your infant or toddler:

1. You can’t be in the photo with your baby. Even if your face is out of frame, you can’t have hands, arms or any visible body parts holding your baby up. This means that you’ll have to find another way to keep your baby supported, especially if you have a newborn. The U.S. Department of State website suggests laying your baby on a white or off-white sheet on his or her back, or covering a car seat with a sheet and propping the baby up that way.

2. Don’t stress about keeping your baby’s eyes open. While adults and young children must have their eyes open and facing the camera, it is acceptable for infants, especially newborns, to have their eyes partially or even fully closed.

3. Childhood growth doesn’t count as significant change in appearance. The State Department does require you to apply for a new passport when your appearance has changed dramatically, but the normal aging process of children under the age of 16 is exempt from this rule.

4. Watch out for shadows. If you are taking a passport picture of your child from above with the baby on his or her back, it can be easy to cast an accidental shadow over the baby’s face, which can lead to your photo being rejected. Using a flash can help minimize overhead shadow, but an even better way to reduce shadow is to have two additional light sources: one on either side of your baby. Having light from multiple angles is the best way to achieve a child passport photo without shadow.

Ultimately, you know your baby and the best way to get him or her to sit still for a passport photo, but keeping these tips in mind should help make the picture taking process go more smoothly.

Photo: Happy Baby by jeremysalmon licensed under Creative commons 2

5 reasons you might find it easier to take a child passport photo at home

Getting acceptable child or baby passport photos for a  can be nearly impossible under the best of circumstances—which you’re far more likely to have at home. Being able to take your time and catch that golden moment on your own terms may make a lot more sense than using a booth or other solution, once you consider these five problems:

1. Your child must be looking at the camera

Perhaps the simplest reason to avoid public photo booths for getting a passport photo of a younger child: paying attention to the camera can be extremely difficult, especially once you see the other problems you’re going to face with a child or baby passport photo.

2. Your child can’t have a distorted expression

Any expression that might count as distorting facial features will get your passport photo rejected… which means that, if you make a funny voice or face to get your child to pay attention, and they start laughing, you might need another photo. If they’re crying because of a loud noise or because you’re getting visibly frustrated, you’ll need another photo. And it gets even harder.

3. Pacifiers and similar tools aren’t acceptable

If you’re thinking you can keep your baby content for its photo with a pacifier, think again – they aren’t permitted in passport photos. You’ll need to get that perfect face without any help. This can be extremely difficult if things go awry in public.

4. If you’re in the picture, it will be rejected

It can be very difficult to adhere to the other rules on this list without holding your child upright and pointing them in the right direction, but if you can be seen doing so, your child passport photo won’t pass inspection. Props and other tools for doing the job are unacceptable as well; this can make the task very, very difficult to get done in a booth, or indeed anywhere in public.

5. The distance and angle must be right

As with any passport photo, there are rules about the proportion of the shot to be taken up by your child’s head in their photo. Too much or too little, and your submission will be rejected. This can make things quite tricky given all the other rules, especially with photo booths or other tools configured for adults.

Photo: child by delicategenius licensed under Creative commons 2

5 important points for passport photos

When it comes to passport photos, the smallest details can lead to rejection. It’s easy to understand that you should be facing the camera and clearly visible, but the goal of a passport is to eliminate any possibility of misidentification — which means no obfuscating or confounding factors are allowed, period. Here are the top points to keep in mind as you take your photos:

1) Avoid headgear of all sorts

Prescription glasses and religious headgear worn every day are the only exceptions — and if you’re comfortable taking a photo without either, it’s still going to be better. This also includes a variety of items for child photos, including pacifiers. Scarves and other items that might obscure your lower face are no good, too.

2) Your head should be a certain size in the picture

Passport photos are 2×2 inches, and of that space, your head from chin to the top of your hair should be between 1, and 1 and 3/8 inches. Anything smaller or bigger will catch you a rejection. For digital photos with less specific sizes, your head should be between 50% and 69% of the total height.

3) Neutral expressions only

You don’t have to look soulless and dour, but you can’t be distorting your facial features with an exaggerated face, either. This can make baby passport photos very tricky.

4) No extra people

Not a single pinky of another person can be in a passport photo — this includes your hands holding up your child for their photo.

5) No touch-ups

If your camera has built in red-eye removal, that’s fine, but any touch-ups outside of that will catch you an instant rejection. Any and all usage of photo editing software is banned, including the use of red-eye tools from exterior sources.

These aren’t the only rules, but they’re the ones people most commonly run afoul of. You might also want to be wary of other mistakes: using old photos, wearing uniforms or camouflage without a religious reason, using low end digital cameras and phone cameras with terrible image quality, and bizarre lighting can all disqualify your photos.

Basically, ask yourself: is there any conceivable way any human being could possibly have trouble with this? If so, fix it.

Photo: Passport by Tony Webster licensed under Creative commons 2

4 details to keep in mind when taking your own passport photos

So you’ve decided to take your own passport photos; maybe it’s more convenient for you, maybe you’re worried about getting good baby or child photos in a booth, or maybe you just can’t find anywhere to have them done near you. Whatever the reason, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind to make sure your photos come out looking good — and pass inspection.

1) Angle

If you’re taking a selfie, you’re going to want to be extremely cautious about the angle of your picture. Do a lot of experimenting to find out the best possible angle to meet passport requirements — even a slight angle on your picture can get it tossed out during inspection. For this reason, it’s probably best to have someone else taking your picture, but even then, do your homework and experiment to get things right.

2) Lighting

If you’re working with a modern digital camera, this probably won’t be too big of an issue — just take the picture in a bright, evenly lit space, and you’ll probably be fine with automatic settings. If you’re using a camera phone or older camera, you’ll want to be a lot more cautious. Experiment with settings, lighting angles, lighting types and so on, and figure out the best one to clearly present your face without unnatural shadows or other problems.

3) Accessories

It’s best to not have accessories of any kind in your passport photos. They’re often going to lead directly to failure at the inspection stage, and for little to no benefit — no one looks great in a passport photo, it’s just the nature of the beast. Go for comfortably neutral and accept that most of us have passport pictures that look functionally identical to mug shots.

4) Focus

Absolutely do not send in passport photos with bad focus — it doesn’t take much blurring at all to render your pictures completely useless for passport purposes. Remember, much of the goal here is to make it so that someone who looks a lot like you can’t use your passport convincingly — that means crystal clear photos with a perfect frontal view of your face. If you’re using a camera phone and can’t get the focus right for the appropriate framing, you might need to use another one or invest in a digital camera.

Cameras to use for your passport photograph

So you are dressed and ready to take your passport photograph. You just need the right equipment to capture that picture. Now, in the day of cameras being built in nearly everything, you probably have a camera on hand. However, that doesn’t mean you should be using it. Here is a helpful guide as to what sort of camera you can and should be using.

Cell phone

Most people have cell phones and almost all of these phones have a camera. Should someone use it for their passport photograph though? It depends. If your smartphone is a recent model, from the last three or four years (such as a recent iPhone or Samsung Galaxy), it should be suitable, and you’ll get excellent quality photos. But the back facing camera should be used (never use the front camera) and the flash should be turned off. All effects on the phone should be turned off as well. If your phone is an older model, with a poor quality camera, you’d be best to ask to borrow a friend’s camera or smartphone to take your passport photos.


A tablet can also be used for passport pictures. Again, you’ll want to use a relatively recent model, as the resolution and megapixels of older models are not of a high enough quality to produce the desirable result. For the best results, get someone to take the photo for you.

Digital point-and-shoot and DSLR

These are great cameras to use for your passport photos, as they make it easy to see what you are capturing and the quality is high. Generally speaking, you want to turn off the flash, especially if someone has glasses on. Instead, you want lighting fixtures to provide the light. A flash can overexpose the image, so try to avoid using it.

Film cameras

Film cameras are not generally a desirable choice, simply for the fact that it is not possible to know if the photograph is of a suitable quality until after it has been developed.

4 obstacles to overcome to get your baby passport photo

Getting a baby passport photo sounds simple enough, but there are just enough complications and rules that getting one which passes muster can feel like a completely impossible task. Before you commit to taking your own photo in a booth, make sure you understand the challenges you’ll be trying to tackle in a limited time at a public location.

1) You can’t be in the photo

This is perhaps the trickiest one to overcome under most circumstances. You can’t be in the picture; even if you’re mostly off frame, if you’re there at all you risk having your baby passport photo rejected. This is one reason it can be especially difficult to use self-service photo booths to get a baby photo done; often, you’re not dealing with nearly enough room, opportunity, or simple peace to resolve issues without getting in the way.

2) No pacifiers or other items in the way

Anything that might obscure your baby’s face will get their passport photo rejected; this includes toys, pacifiers, a variety of hats and other headgear. If your child needs these items to keep quiet and peaceful during their photo, it’s going to be quite tricky to get one that works.

3) Your baby needs to be looking at the camera

This sounds extremely simple, and it would be, if not for the other necessities around passport photos. Getting a baby to look at something specific without pulling an expression or otherwise invalidating the photo can be quite nearly impossible without a lot of time, patience, and luck.

4) No distorting facial expressions

That means no crying, no big smiles, no abject shock, and none of the expressions you might expect a baby to have from a busy area where you might find a self-service passport photo booth. That makes the flexibility of being able to take your photos on your own schedule and submit them online of vital importance for keeping the endeavor frustration-free and feasible.

Get through these four challenges, and you’re set. But you might find it a lot easier to do from home.

Frequently asked passport questions

If you are traveling soon and need quick information on your passport, passport photos, or anything else related to your travels, you are in the right place. Let’s go over some of the frequently asked questions when it comes to passports and passport photos.

What is a passport?

A passport is a government document for travel, issued by the country where a person lives to prove a person’s citizenship.

What does a passport do?

A United States passport is proof of citizenship, which permits you to re-enter the United States after a trip outside of the country. But a US passport doesn’t mean automatic permission into every country. Sometimes a visa is necessary; however, many countries allow American citizens with a passport to enter without a visa.

How long is my passport valid for?

10 years. The majority of US passports given to adults, defined as people over 16 years old when the passport is issued, are valid for a decade, while any passports issued to those under 16 years old are valid for five years.

If I print my own passport photos, what kind of paper should I use?

Passport photos must be on quality paper, with a glossy or matte finish.

Can my passport photo be in color?

Yes, passport photos have to be in color. Photos in black and white will be rejected.

How recently does my photo need to have been taken?

If you’re submitting your own passport photos, it should be within the last six months. Be sure it shows your current look.

What size should my photo be?

All passport photos need to be 2 x 2 inches.

I wear eyes glasses – are they fine to have in the picture?

If you wear the glasses every day, you can wear them in your photo. But make sure there is no reflection coming from your glasses in your picture.

Am I able to wear a hat?

No hats are allowed in passport pictures.

Hopefully these answer some of your own questions about passport photos, but if you still have specific concerns, be sure to check your government website.

Photo: What? by Veronique Debord licensed under Creative commons 2

3 reasons to embrace help with your passport pics

If you’re getting ready to get your passport for the first time, or update an older one, you might have read a lot about how finicky officials can get when determining whether a photo passes muster or not. Nothing’s worse than having a photo bounced back for some minor error when your trip’s only a week away. You’re going to want to make sure you’re getting yours handled properly, vetted for quality, and edited appropriately, for these reasons and more:

1) Photo booth passport photos often fail inspection

This might come as a surprise, since these photo booths are, after all, marketed for passport photos. But it’s a sad truth that many photos from these booths fail to pass inspection for any number of reasons: lighting, distance, angles, haircuts and expressions — the list goes on and on.

2) Faster fixes

Passport photo inspection isn’t typically lightning fast, which means that if you do end up sending a photo that can’t pass muster, you might be finding out about it far too late to salvage your trip. By working with a third party that knows what’s going to get your photos rejected and commits to helping you resolve those issues as soon as possible, you make it far more likely that everything’s in place by the time you’re supposed to be leaving the country.

3) Kid passport pictures can be tricky

You think getting your passport photos done in a booth was difficult? Wait until you have to get a picture of a baby or toddler looking directly at the camera, without an expression, without a pacifier, and without anyone else in the frame. It can be a real nightmare, and a lot of parents go through failed photo after failed photo before they manage one that clears. With the help of PasPic, you’ll be able to take your time getting exactly the right photo, then have it properly vetted by experienced personnel in a timely manner.

So skip the booth and pass on going 100% DIY, just this once. Some things are far easier with a bit of help, and passport photos are one of them.

Photo: Help! by GotCredit licensed under Creative commons 2