Place your infant so that they are lying on their back on a sheet that is either off-white or plain white. When you take a picture of your baby from above, especially, you want to make sure there are no shadows on the face of your child. Taking a picture of your child while they are sitting in the car seat while the seat is covered with a plain white or off-white sheet could also prove to be helpful.
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When applying for the first passport for your child or baby, there are a lot of things you need to think about.
There are several steps involved in the process, such as gathering the necessary documents and scheduling an appointment. However, the step that may feel the most challenging to you is taking a photo for your child’s passport. It’s not like you can just tell a wriggling newborn who can’t yet hold up their own head to “sit up straight and look at the camera.” They won’t know what you’re talking about.
But don’t stress — it can be done. We have got you covered on everything from the official guidelines for passport photos to pointers and advice for taking pictures of your baby.
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IN THIS POST
- Official U.S. passport photo rules
- Doing photos at home vs. at a store
- Tips for taking at-home photos
- Additional tips and tricks for getting the perfect photo
- Other countries have different requirements
- Bottom line
Official U.S. passport photo rules
The official rules for general passport photos state the following:
- Photos must be recent and in color.
- No filters or selfies.
- Background must be plain white or off white.
- No eyeglasses, headphones or hats.
- The image of the face must be clear with eyes open.
When it comes to infants, the official rules also state that it’s okay if a newborn or infant’s eyes aren’t completely open, but the child should be facing the camera with no other person in the photo. On the U.S. State Department website, you can take a look at which types of baby and toddler images will and won’t be approved.
Images where a baby’s hand is covering their mouth, the baby has a pacifier in, the child is sticking out their tongue, the photo is blurry or the face image is shadowy/unclear will not be accepted. Photos can’t be grainy, pixelated, digitally altered or damaged in any way.
The passport photo size should be 2 x 2 inches (51 x 51 millimeters), and the image of the child’s head must be between 1 to 1 3/8 inches (25 to 35 mm) from the bottom of the child’s chin to the top of the child’s head.
Doing photos at home vs. at a store
You have the option of taking a photo of your child for their passport at a location that specializes in doing so, such as a FedEx store, CVS, or Walgreens, or you can do it yourself at home. Post offices and public libraries are examples of official establishments that are able to take your photo in addition to processing your passwork paperwork for an additional fee.
Locations that offer passport photo services are typically aware of the specific dimensions that are required for the photos (but always take them with you to be sure). They will typically have a few pointers to share with you on how to get your baby to look at the camera and how you can hold your infant so that they can take a picture without you being in it. You could even be asked to sit with the baby on your lap while wearing a white sheet over your head. Depending on the child’s age, some establishments will drape a white sheet over a stroller or car seat and allow the child to remain seated in the vehicle.
However, when I took my baby to be photographed at 2 weeks old, he refused to open his eyes because the lights were so bright in the store. So, we had to make do at home.
Some shops offer to size and edit the photo that you take at home for a small fee, especially if, after several tries, they aren’t able to successfully photograph your baby.
Tips for taking at-home photos
You might decide that DIY-ing your baby’s passport photos at home is a bit easier than getting them done elsewhere. If so, here are some tips.
- Place the baby on a white sheet — this way, the background is the correct color. If you have a toddler, you can place the sheet over a high chair and take the photo while they sit.
- Stand about four feet away from your baby to snap the photo — just make sure you aren’t creating a shadow on them.
- Use the right lighting — taking the photo in natural daylight is best. Use lamps as necessary. Just try not to shine a bright light directly into your baby’s eyes or from above your baby, as they’ll usually close their eyes. Avoid light that creates shadows on your baby’s face.
- Use a toy to grab their attention — don’t make them laugh too much, just make sure their eyes are open and looking at the camera.
- It helps if two adults are present — one adult can take the photo and one can use a toy to focus the child’s attention.
- Use an app or digital editor for compliance — tools like Passport Photo Software or 123 Passport can help you re-size and crop your photo if needed. The U.S. Department of State even has its own cropping tool. Remember, photos with filters or that have been digitally altered will not be accepted, so only do what’s required when editing.
- Bring photos to a shop if you’d rather not DIY crop — most stores can help you crop the photo as needed for a small fee.
Additional tips and tricks for getting the perfect photo
- Use a white, rolled-up towel or pillows under your infant’s neck or around their head under the white sheet to keep them looking straight ahead.
- Take lots of photos, then narrow it down.
- Turn off the flash if your baby’s photos are ending up with a red eye effect.
- Sheer curtains or white sheets can help diffuse light and shadows.
- Crop and print out a few different photos. This way, if one photo is rejected, you have others as a backup.
Other countries have different requirements
These tips are largely for U.S. passports, so if you need to get your baby a passport for another country, carefully read the rules.
My son has both a U.S. passport and a passport from Spain. Luckily we could use the same photo, but we had to crop it to a different size for each country’s passport requirements. If you are applying for a passport in more than one country, gather all the information needed to help you get the correct photo for each.
Getting your infant or toddler’s passport photo can be tedious — but it also makes for a good laugh.
In my case, getting my son’s photo took two trips to a store, about 100 outtakes at home, some tears (my son’s, not my own), a spit-up situation and one baby outfit change. But now, seeing my 10-month-year-old take his 15th flight with four countries under his belt makes that precarious photo-taking adventure well worth it.
Infant Passport Photo
No matter how old your child is, if you intend to fly with them to a different country, they are required to have a passport that is valid for the United States.
For reasons that should be obvious, taking a photo of a baby to include in their U.S. passport application can feel like an overwhelming task. We will provide you with some helpful advice on how to take a perfect photo of your baby to use for their passport on your own.
It is very important to be aware that the requirements for a passport photo for an infant are significantly less stringent than those for adults and children who are older. Specifically for infants, it is acceptable for them to have their eyes closed and their mouths open, as well as other facial expressions that are not natural (e.g. grimaces, smiles, yawns). To be clear, the baby’s face should never be covered by their hands, toys, or anything else. This is a very important safety precaution.
Baby passport photo requirements
Technically, the photo for a US baby’s passport should meet the same requirements as that for adults. Your baby’s passport photo should:
- be colorful, with a natural contrast
- be of good quality and not damaged in any way
- be sharp (no single pixels visible)
- reflect the natural color of the skin
- be printed on good quality glossy or matte photo paper
- be 2×2 inches or 51×51 mm in size
- show the baby’s entire face in frontal view
- be as up-to-date as possible
- show the baby’s face evenly illuminated on both sides
- show the baby’s face occupying 70-80% of the picture
Tips on how to take a US baby passport photo
Now that you know the basic baby passport photo requirements, you can take a passport photo of your baby at home. This will help you save time and money, without the need to wait in line with your infant at a photo booth or drugstore.
Positioning the baby
The easiest way to take a perfect passport photo of your baby is to lay him on his back on a white sheet, making sure there are no shadows on his face, and simply take a photograph from above. You can also roll a towel (shape it like the letter ‘U’) and place it under the sheet to support the baby’s head.
If using a car seat, you’ll need a pillow or towel to place under your baby’s head to support it. Place a white blanket, sheet, or any white-colored piece of clothing (without creases or wrinkles) over the car seat. Pull the cloth taut over the seat and use clips to keep it in place.
You can also use your hands to hold your baby, but make sure they’re not visible in the photo.
Best time to take the passport photo
The best time of day to take your baby’s passport photo would be daytime, and ideally, when your baby is after his nap, so he’s rested and not grumpy. In the case of newborns, you can take their passport photo when they’re asleep since it’s acceptable for their eyes to be closed. This way, the baby won’t be stressed, won’t fidget, or cry, making it difficult to take an acceptable photo.
TIP: Make sure your baby is rested, fed, and that his diaper is fresh. If you’re taking the photo while your baby is awake, try to be creative and entertain your infant to make him look at the camera. You can attract his attention by holding up a toy, singing, or just being entertaining. You as the parent know best what catches your baby’s attention!
The best place to take the passport photo of your child
In a moment, we will discuss the lighting, but for now, let’s concentrate on the location of the photograph that will be used for your child’s passport. Taking photographs for your child’s passport should, of course, be done in a well-known setting because this will ensure the highest level of security. Choose a location in your home that is already familiar to your baby; doing so will increase the likelihood that you will have a more positive disposition and experience less irritability.
Lighting in your baby’s passport photo
When taking a photo for a United States passport, lighting is extremely important, and obviously the same is true for photos taken for newborn passports.
In an ideal scenario, each and every passport photo ought to be taken in natural lighting coming from a number of different directions in order to have the face nicely and uniformly lit. Keep in mind that the photograph cannot have an exposure that is either too bright or too dark. You can diffuse the light in the room by drawing the curtains until it becomes soft and less intense. This is something you can do if the room is too bright. If, on the other hand, you only have one window, you can generate an additional source of light by draping white blankets or sheets over chairs that are evenly spaced on either side of the window so that the blankets and sheets reflect the light.
If there is no way for you to let in sufficient natural light, consider installing lighting in the ceiling. Place your infant on a smooth, white surface directly under the light source, and make sure that the camera is held in a position that is perpendicular to the infant’s face.
TIP: Try to avoid using flash, because it may scare your baby, and also create an unnatural looking, overexposed photo with unnecessary shadows.
Positioning your camera
The rules are straightforward: the camera has to be positioned so that it is perpendicular to your child’s face, and there must be some distance between the camera and the top of your child’s head. Your baby should be able to look squarely into the lens of your smartphone or digital camera. This means the device shouldn’t be tilted in any way. Keep in mind that the ‘parallel’ rule is very important in this situation, as your baby’s passport photo must show his face from the frontal view and must be taken with the baby facing directly toward the camera. You can mount your camera or smartphone on a tripod and adjust it so that it is perpendicular to the top of your child’s head to take pictures of them. Make sure the camera is fastened to the tripod in a way that is both secure and appropriate! If you are unsure of how to complete the task, there are a lot of tutorials available on YouTube that you can use as a guide.
- You can record your baby and find a good moment in the video when he’s looking directly at the camera – pause the video and take a snapshot.
- Leave a significant amount of space above your baby’s head in case the photo needs cropping.
- If you’re worried about your baby’s appearance changing and him not looking exactly the same way he did in his photo from a few months ago, don’t worry – a baby’s US passport is valid for several years. You don’t have to retake your baby’s passport photo every time his appearance changes, otherwise you’d be taking a new photo every month!
- Pay attention to the camera focus. You don’t want to take a photo with a blurry face or with the focus on some other part of the body. If you are using a phone, tap on where your baby’s head is on the screen to lead the focus to your baby’s face.
- The “live mode” in the camera takes many shots one after another, and may help if the baby is moving or moody. Then just pick the one that is the best.
- Because babies tend to fidget and move around, and the photo must be high quality, it would be helpful if you used a fast shutter speed of at least 1/200 to avoid blurring.
Printing baby photos for U.S. passport
Congrats, you’re at the last step of the process – printing the baby passport photo that you’ve just successfully taken! With our photo tool you can easily get digital images of your baby sent straight to your email that you can later print at any drugstore or photo printing center, or order ready printouts to be shipped to your home.
If you decide to print the photo(s) yourself, you’ll need to make sure that they’re printed on high quality photo paper. Prepare a 4×6 inch photo template with Passport Photo Online and print your pictures at any photo department, store, or studio for the price of a simple photocard (very often it costs less than 30¢).
There’s another option, if you don’t want to leave the house and want to enjoy a professional service, try our full service that includes a digital file and a printout conveniently sent to your preferred address.
Our verification process and money refund guarantee
All of the infant’s photos uploaded to our app go through a meticulous photo verification, first by our AI system and then by a human expert. The purpose of this verification is to make sure that baby’s photos are 100% compliant with the official US standards regarding passport photos. However, if for whatever reason your photo doesn’t get approved by the passport authorities, we will issue you a double refund