Some Do’s and Don’ts of Passport Photos

Olivia Dobrev
Last updatedJune 10, 2016

If you are applying for a U.S. passport, an important part of the process will be submitting a proper and high quality photograph. However, there are certain guidelines you need to follow when you get your photo taken for a passport. Let’s break down some of these rules, and make things easier for you:


  1. Do: Look straight ahead.Your head and shoulders should be directly facing the camera. Make sure your head is not tilted up, down or sideways.
  2. Don’t: Wear head gear.Hats, caps, scarves or any other head wear are not acceptable. Exceptions may be made for religious headwear, but make sure it does not cover any part of your face or cast shadows.
  3. Do: Neutral expression with both eyes open.Exaggerated facial expressions are not accepted. Neither are closed or half closed eyes. A natural smile is okay but neutral expressions are preferred.
  4. Don’t: Over-expose or under expose photos.Adjust camera exposure or use supplemental illumination to avoid this problem. Photos should be clear and accurately portray your skin tone,
  5. Do: Color photos.Black and white photos and filtered photos are not acceptable. The photo must be in color to show your correct skin, hair and eye color.
  6. Don’t: Blurred Images.The photo must not be blurred – either due to printing problems or due to motion blur. Make sure the picture doesn’t show visible pixels or printer dot patterns. The picture must be clear and sharp, without any visible problem.
  7. Do: Plain white background.The background must be either plain white or off-white without any visible shadows. Pictures, objects, people or any other distractions in the background must be avoided.
  8. Don’t: Shadows. No shadows must be visible in your face or in the background when you take the picture. Use uniform illumination to prevent them.
  9. Do: Head in the center.Your head must be exactly at the center of the picture. Head too high, low or towards the side won’t be accepted. Make sure the camera isn’t too close or too far from your face either as it makes your head look either too small or too large. Your head size must be between 1” and 1.4”.
  10. Don’t: Hair in your face.Push your hair back when taking the picture. Your hair should not obscure any part of your face or create shadows.
  11. Do: Square image.The length and breadth of your picture must be equal. Your image size should be 2”x2” in dimensions and between 600×600 and 1200×1200 in pixels.
  12. Don’t: Old pictures.Make sure you use a recent photo. In fact, the picture must have been taken within the last 6 months to reflect your current appearance.
  13. Do: Photo Quality Paper.You must use a high quality matte or glossy photo quality paper to print the picture.
  14. Don’t: Glare from your glasses.If you wear glasses, make sure there is no glare visible in the picture. Tilt your head slightly upwards or downwards to remove the glare. Also avoid tinted glasses. Your pupils and irises must be visible in the picture.


Next time you need a photo for your passport, keep these things in mind. And if it’s a little too much for you to handle, a good idea is to get your picture taken by a professional, as they will take care of all these things for you. If you have any additional information and ideas which are not mentioned here, you can share with us in the comments below.

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