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passport photos

How to Take Your Own Passport Photo

SmarterTravel

After paying $15 to have an awkward photo shoot in a CVS aisle, only to have my passport photos rejected twice—once for being too dark and once for being too bright—I decided there had to be a way to take your own passport photo. As it turns out, snapping your own passport photo is easier, cheaper, and much more convenient than going to a “professional” (a.k.a., the cashier at your local drugstore).

Websites to Help You Take Your Own Passport Photo

  • The U.S. State Department: Bureaucracy has moved into the 21st century, and even the State Department wants to help you take your own passport photo by offering a free photo cropping tool that will size your photo correctly so that you can print it yourself.
  • MyPassportPhotos.com: If you don’t want to deal with printing your own passport pictures, or if you need a passport or visa photo for another country (which may be a different size than the U.S. passport photo), MyPassportPhotos.com does everything for those who want to take a passport photo at home, including printing and mailing your photos directly to your house. You can also pay extra to have your photos checked to make sure that they will be approved.
  • Passport Photo Booth: For those wondering, “Can I take my own passport photo?” there’s an app for that. Passport Photo Booth (iOS | Android) helps you with the photo composition needed for passport photos, showing you exactly where to pose within the frame. You can e-mail or save the image for free, or pay extra to have your passport pictures printed.

Key Passport Photo Requirements

If you’re planning to take a passport photo at home, make sure that it will meet all of the State Department’s passport photo requirements:

  • Passport pictures must be in color, not black and white.
  • Passport photos must be “sized such that the head is between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches (22 mm and 35 mm), or 50 percent and 69 percent of the image’s total height from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head.” (Click here for a passport photo composition template.)
  • Passport photos must be “taken within the last 6 months to reflect your current appearance.”
  • Passport photos must be “taken in front of a plain white or off-white background.”
  • Passport photos must be “taken in full-face view directly facing the camera.”
  • When taking your own passport photo, make sure that you have a “neutral facial expression and both eyes open.”
  • Your passport picture should be “taken in clothing that you normally wear on a daily basis.”
  • “Uniforms should not be worn in your photo, except religious clothing that is worn daily.”
  • When taking your own passport photo, “do not wear a hat or head covering that obscures the hair or hairline, unless worn daily for a religious purpose. Your full face must be visible, and the head covering must not cast any shadows on your face.”
  • “Headphones, wireless hands-free devices, or similar items are not acceptable in your photo.”
  • “Eyeglasses are no longer allowed in new visa photos, except in rare circumstances when eyeglasses cannot be removed for medical reasons.”

To inform how to take your own passport photo, the State Department provides some examples of passport pictures that are and are not accepted. Check them out here.

How to Take Your Own Passport Photo

  • When taking passport pictures, get a neutral background. If you don’t have plain white walls to pose in front of at home, tape a piece of plain white poster board behind you to create a clean backdrop.
  • It’s important, when you take your own passport photo, to check the lighting. You can’t have any shadows in your passport photo, so taking it in natural daylight on a sunny day works best.
  • Get help: Selfies won’t be accepted as passport pictures, so you’ll either need to use a tripod if you want to take your own passport photo, or ask a friend to snap your picture.

More from SmarterTravel:

Caroline Morse Teel has more travel tips than how to take your own passport photos. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for advice and inspiration.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2018. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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