What You Have to Know if You Need to Take Your Passport Photos?

Renewing your passport or making a new one for the first time, requires a lot of documents to be collected and most importantly a passport photo that follows the US government passport photo requirements. 

When taking a U.S passport photo (online, at a professional photographer, or in photo booths), you need to be very careful in knowing how passport photos should look, from the correct photo size to the style of your passport photo including your facial expression, and even the clothes you can and cannot wear. 

Here’s a simple guide for you on how your passport photo must look like for it to be accepted along with your passport application.


Passport Photo: essential photo requirements

The US government passport photo requirements clearly state that your U.S passport photo must have a dimension of 2 x 2 inches (51 x 51 mm) and it must be in color. Do not try to edit your passport photo or photoshop it (not even to get rid of the red-eye effect). Remember that a selfie is not accepted either. When you submit your photo with your passport application, the picture should be taken in the last 6 months.

Take your passport photos online

What should be the background in the passport photo?

In the American Passport photo, the background must follow some specific requirements. While taking a photo choose among a solid, white, plain white background

Your passport photos must follow these features if you don’t want them to be rejected. 

You can consider the idea of taking your passport photos in front of a wall completely white, with good lighting and no objects nor patterns behind you

There must be no shadows, no patterns, and no decorations of any kind that could prevent the correct result of your passport photos. 

Fun Fact: Different background colors for passport photos around the world

Did you know that not all countries require a white or plain white background for passport photos? All countries accept solid ones, which means that there must be no patterns, prints, or any other elements. 

In some countries, the background for passport photos must be light blue like in Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka, Japan (driver’s license).

In other cases, it must be light greys (or light blue) like in Germany, Uk, France, and China.

Clothes and accessories in passport photos

If you want your passport photo to be accepted, you must remember not to wear uniforms or any other type of clothes that obscures your face and the background. You can opt for casual clothing or for a professional look. You can consider wearing a shirt or a dress with a high neckline high enough to be shown in the picture. 

Wearing religious attire to take a passport photo in the US is not prohibited but it must not cover your face. 

According to the American State Department, permanent tattoos are acceptable as well.

What color should you wear for your passport photos?

Choosing the right color is not an easy task, especially if you are planning to take a picture for your passport. In order to get your photo approved and to reach the ideal contrast, we recommend you to wear clothes that have a dark tone

Just avoid wearing black or white though. Why is that? The reason for not wearing white is that it creates the so-called “flying head effect”  because white merges with the background. We also recommend you not to wear black simply because the black color disturbs the way the photo looks.  

Hat or head covering in passport photos

According to the U.S State Department, it is not acceptable to wear a hat when you take a passport photo as a general rule but of course, there are a few exceptions. If the head covering is worn for religious reasons and on a daily basis it is acceptable, but you must remember to provide a written statement. 

It is recommended not to wear a hat or head covering that obscures your hair or hairline. Should you wear a hat or head covering for medical reasons, you can submit a signed statement by your doctor along with your passport photo. 

Not every religious attire is acceptable in a US passport photo: as a matter of fact, wearing a burka, niqab, or chador is prohibited. 

Do not forget that wearing wireless hands-free devices while taking a passport photo is prohibited and may cause the refusal of your application.

Hair in passport photos

If you want your photo to be 100% acceptable, your hairstyle must not cover your face in any way. If you have bangs, for example, just pin them up and also make sure your cheeks are visible.

Remember also not to wear any kind of hair bands, hair clips, hairpins, or bowls while you are taking your photo.  

Wearing Glasses in a passport photo

According to the guidelines provided by the State Department, you can’t wear glasses when taking a passport photo. Corrective glasses and sunglasses aren’t accepted either, this means that your face should be completely exposed. 

If you cannot take off your glasses because of medical reasons (such as undergoing eye surgery), you need to submit a signed statement from your doctor.

Facial expressions in your passport photo

The guidelines of the State Department provided clear and specific requirements on how the facial expressions must be when you take a passport photo. 

When looking straight to the camera, you need to have a neutral facial expression. Do not grudge, frown, or smile showing your teeth. Just a simple neutral expression with a natural smile is enough.

Lighting in a passport photo

When taking a passport photo (especially when you’re doing it at home using online photo tools) it is important to pay attention to the lighting. When taking your photo at home, choose a spot where natural light enters through the whole: there should be no colored lighting and your final picture should not be excessively exposed nor poorly exposed. 

Another important point to pay attention to is not to have any shadows on your face: if you happen to have any in the passport photo, authorities can reject your photo and application.

Passport Photo Size

After you took the picture and you made sure it follows the fundamental photo requirements established by the American State Department, you need to adjust your image to the required official dimensions. 

The photos you will submit along with your passport application need to have a specific dimension, otherwise, they will not be accepted and you will need to redo everything from the beginning. Let us have a look at the most important requirements:

  • The defined size of the American passport photo must be 2 x 2 inches (51 x 51 mm)
  • The distance from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head has to be between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches (25 and 35 mm) when you take the photo.
  • When you upload the photo, remember that the photo can’t be taken prior to 6 months

Photo quality paper of the U.S passport photo

You can print your passport photo on matte or glossy photo-quality paper. The photo you will upload has to have a high resolution. The photo should not be grainy, pixelated, or blurry. Do not submit a photo that is damaged, has creases or smudges.

Passport Photos tips for Children

Children need a passport photo as well, whether they need to apply for it for the first time or to renew it. The passport guidelines for adults are the same for children as well. 

Taking photos for children might come as a hard task though because we all know how playful they are: that is why American authorities made some few exceptions for children and babies: 

  • Eyes and mouth can be open
  • Unnatural facial expressions are allowed (grimace, yawns, smiles)

Tips to remember for baby passport photos

When taking a passport photo for your baby or  infant, do not forget to have a look at these tips: 

  • Same size of adults’ photo: 2×2 inches (51×51 mm)
  • The distance between the chin to the top of the head should be exactly 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches (same as adults)
  • Solid and white or off white background
  • No shadows, patterns, or other elements. In the case of a little baby’s photo, the best solution is to use a white sheet or a blanket and take the picture from above.
  • The face should not be covered (no toys, hands, or other objects).
  • Avoid a hat or head covering 
  • Maintaining eyes open is not compulsory

We arrived at the conclusion of our article! There you have it: a full article on what should be the background in the passport photo and all the related information on American passport photos!

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