If you’re getting your first passport or need to renew, learning how to take a passport photo properly will make the process a little simpler! Find 6 tips to nail your photo on the first try.
How to Take a Passport Photo: The Basics
- Follow all passport photo requirements
- Have a friend/family member take it or use a service
- Make sure it’s a great photo with extra attention to detail
The process of getting or renewing a passport is a bit of a hassle, but hopefully, there’s an amazing trip waiting for you at the end of it!
If you’re wondering how to take a passport photo that meets all the requirements and makes you look your best, you’re in the right spot.
Meeting all the passport photo requirements might seem like a daunting task, but the requirements are actually pretty simple. We’ll walk you through them and explain each one in this guide.
When it comes to learning how to take a passport photo, you’ve got 2 options to choose from first. Who’s taking the photo?
Will you have a friend or family member take the photo for you? Or will you use a passport photo service at one of the accepted facilities near you?
As you’ll soon learn, selfies aren’t an option for passport photos, so you’ll need to choose one of these 2 options.
If you’re not sure your buddy or brother is cut out for the job, you can go to a nearby post office, local government office, or library to have your photo taken for a small fee around $10-$15 instead.
Once you’ve figured out who’s taking your passport photo and learned the basic photo requirements, you may want to take a few steps to look extra-photogenic in it.
We’ll share some tips for taking a great passport photo without using filters for enhancement below!
What Are the Passport Photo Requirements?
Passport photo requirements may vary by country, but take a look at the general photo requirements for the United States below.
If your photo doesn’t meet the minimum requirements, you’ll have to resubmit with a new photo. That lengthens the overall process – not a good idea when you’re counting down to your trip!
Recent and Accurate
Your passport photo needs to be recent, taken within the last 6 months in order to be accepted. The reason? Agents need to be able to confirm you’re the person in the photograph.
Don’t sweat small changes to your appearance that might occur over that 6-month period, like growing/cutting your hair, dyeing your hair, getting filler, or shaving/growing a beard.
However, bigger changes to your appearance will warrant a new passport photo.
If you’ve lost a lot of weight, gotten extensive plastic surgery, or undergone a gender transition, you’ll need to update your passport photo to match your current appearance.
Size and Format
Your passport photo must be 2 inches x 2 inches in size (51 mm x 51 mm) or 600 pixels x 600 pixels. Your head should be centered in the shot with plenty of empty space around the sides to allow for cropping.
The size of the file must be at least 54 kilobytes (KB) and no more than 10 megabytes (MB).
Submit digital photos in the .JPEG format to ensure you’re meeting all the photo submission requirements.
If you’re bringing a printed photo in, it should be on glossy or matte photo paper. Don’t staple or physically attach your photo to your application.
Your passport photo must be a color photo. For digital photos, it should have 24 bits per pixel in sRGB color space.
If that sounds like Greek to you, don’t worry. Your digital camera probably does this automatically when not on a black and white or filter setting.
No Selfies or Filters
Selfies won’t fly (pardon the pun) for passport photos since people typically contort their bodies to get the right angle for self portraits. Have someone else take your photo.
Don’t use filters, and if your camera automatically uses a beauty or blurring filter, make sure to toggle that setting off. Filtered, altered photos won’t be accepted for passports.
If you wear glasses, you’ll have to remove them for your passport photo. This is true even if you wear them every day and will be wearing them when you arrive at the airport!
Glasses can hide or conceal portions of your face, making it more difficult for agents to confirm it’s you in the photo.
Take them off for your picture unless you have a doctor’s note explaining why you can’t remove your glasses.
Plain White Background
Your passport photo should be taken with you standing in front of a white or off-white background. The background should be totally clear without shadows, lines, or texture showing.
A white, monotone background keeps the photo unimpeded by background visual “noise” and keeps you the central focus of the image.
6 Tips to Take a Great Passport Photo
It’s easy enough to ensure your passport photo meets all the requirements, but if you really want to take an amazing photo, you need to check out these tips.
1. Make Sure You’re Centered
Your head should be directly in the center of the 2×2 passport photo so it’s the focal point of the shot. Your head size should be anywhere from 1″ to 1.4″ with this photo size.
Make sure there’s plenty of empty space around the sides and top of your head to allow for cropping. You don’t want too much empty space on any one side of the photo.
2. Get the Lighting Just Right
Shadows, underexposure, and overexposure can all ruin a passport photo or result in it being denied. Focus on getting the lighting just right to ensure your photo comes out great!
Diffused, natural lighting works really well for passport photos. You don’t want harsh overhead lighting that casts shadows on your face.
If you’re having your picture taken at a facility, they’ll be able to provide good lighting that keeps shadows and exposure issues at bay.
3. Go For High-Contrast Makeup
A recent TikTok trend involves getting heavily made up for passport photos and people who’ve tried it love the results.
Heavy contouring, a full-coverage base, and stand-out eyes with well-groomed brows and darkened lashes are the basics of this passport photo trend.
Passport makeup is a lot like stage makeup – you cake it on and use more contrast than you normally would to ensure it “picks up.”
High-contrast makeup like this shows up really nicely in passport photos without looking overwhelming. If you do a basic, minimal nude makeup look, you might find that it doesn’t really translate in the small passport photo.
4. Dress for the Occasion
Very little of your outfit will be shown in your passport photo, but confidence speaks volumes and you’ll always take a better photo when you’re feeling yourself.
Wear clothing that you’d wear on a day-to-day basis – don’t arrive in a tux or ball gown – but pick something that fits perfectly and accentuates your favorite features.
There are some things you can’t wear for passport photos, including:
- A uniform or clothing similar to a uniform
- Hats/head coverings that aren’t religiously significant
- Headphones or earbuds
You can, however, wear jewelry, visible tattoos, and facial piercings as long as they don’t obscure any part of your face.
5. Take Off Your Glasses
Glasses might be an integral part of your life and look, but they can’t make an appearance in your passport photo. It’s not a slight to corrective lenses – it’s the requirements!
Removing your glasses can have the added benefit of not having to worry about reflections or glare in the photo.
If you tend to get indentations or redness on your nose from glasses, consider taking yours off a bit before the photo is taken so the spots have time to dissipate.
Contact lenses are fine to wear for a passport photo, but don’t wear colored lenses that change your eye color or iris size.
6. Relax Your Face
For a great passport photo that will be accepted without issues, you’ll need to make sure you’re in the correct pose and facing the right way.
Face directly toward the camera without turning your body and ensure your entire face is within view. Try to maintain a neutral face expression without smiling or frowning.
But the neutral expression you’re supposed to pull off for an acceptable passport photo may not be your most flattering pose. What then?
In that case, the U.S. Department of State says it’s okay to slightly smile – just keep your eyes open and mouth closed.
If you’re getting a passport photo for a young child or baby, it’s next to impossible to snap a photo with a neutral expression – just do your best and know that the department will understand the difficulty.
Is My Passport Photo Acceptable?
If you’re not sure that your passport photo fully meets all the requirements, it’s easy to check online. You can use the Passport Photo Tool to submit your digital photo file and have it checked for potential issues.
This tool allows you to submit an existing .JPEG file and run a quick check for size, composition, pose and expression, lighting, attire, and more indicators.
If your photo triggers an error message, pay attention to what it says. Error messages are based on image parameters and can tell you what needs to changed in your picture.
- “Background may not meet our requirements”: Make sure your background is white or off-white and plain with no detail, shadows, or texture
- “Image overly compressed”: Your photo needs to be higher resolution and saved as the largest file size without any editing
- “Expression may be unnatural”: Submit a new photo with your eyes fully open and a closed mouth
- “Head size or position may be incorrect”: You may be standing too close or far away from the camera, taking up too much or not enough space in the frame
- “Overall image quality may be poor”: Your photo might be out of focus, grainy, or low resolution and you’ll need to take a new photo to submit
- “Lighting or exposure may be incorrect”: Your photo may have been underexposed, overexposed, or harshly lit with shadows on your face
- “Internal server error”: You may need to log out, clear your cookies and cache, and try again with the same photo
Frequently Asked Questions
Have a few more questions about how to take a passport photo? Check out the most frequently asked questions about passport photos to learn more.
How can I take a good passport photo at home?
All you need to take a good passport photo at home is a friend or family member to take it, a smartphone or high-resolution camera, and a plain white or off-white background to stand in front of.
Make sure your head is centered in the shot and don't stand too close or far away from the camera. Look directly at the camera and try to keep a neutral expression.
Can I take a passport photo with my iPhone?
Yes, you can take a passport photo with an iPhone and crop it to the proper size with a passport photo tool afterward.
Your photo needs to be high resolution, clear, and unedited. Don't use filters, editing tools, or apps to take enhanced photos.
How can I get a 2x2 passport photo at home?
After taking your photo and cropping it with the U.S. Department of State passport photo tool, you can print it on glossy or matte photo paper at home.
If you don't have a photo printer or color ink, stores like Walgreens and Rite Aid will print 2x2 passport photos for $10-$15.
How do I take a 2x2 picture on my phone?
You can take a square photograph to ensure the dimensions are right or take a normal photo and use the crop feature to make it square.
Select the square aspect ratio under the crop feature if needed, then crop it to the proper dimensions (600 pixels by 600 pixels) for a passport photo.
Does Walgreens do 2x2 passport photos?
Yes, Walgreens will take your passport photo and give you 2 properly-sized 2" x 2" prints. They use tools to analyze the photos and ensure they meet U.S. government requirements.
So, Are You Ready to Take Your Passport Photo?
Learning how to take a passport photo isn’t difficult, but learning how to take a good passport photo can be!
As long as you make the requirements your first priority, you can relax and spend a little time finessing your appearance and the shot to get the best possible passport photo.
Your passport photo could carry you through the next 10 years (when it expires), so taking extra steps to ensure a photogenic shot will definitely be worth it.
If you’ve got a smartphone with a good camera, a digital camera, or a passport photo facility nearby, you can take your passport photo as soon as you’re ready.
It’ll bring you one step closer to a memorable trip abroad!