Last time I went to a local Walgreens for passport photos, I was a little shocked. The worker actually took my entire family’s passport photos with a point-and-shoot camera against a plain white wall! I was like, wait, I could’ve done that at home! The photos weren’t that great but they worked just fine for the passport.
I always thought passport photos had strict requirements that required a certain kit but nope, it’s actually really straight forward, simple and fast.
In this post, you’ll learn how to take passport photos from the comfort of your own home with your own camera. This is especially helpful if you have little ones that require multiple re-takes and want to take your time getting the right photo.
Here’s how I took my baby’s passport photo from home in less than 10 minutes.
1. First, understand the basic requirements of a passport photo
Passport photos must be in:
- In color
- Printed on photo quality paper
- 2 x 2 inches (51 x 51 mm) in size
- Sized such that the head is between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches (between 25 and 35 mm) from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head.
- Taken within the last 6 months to reflect your current appearance
- Taken in front of a plain white or off-white background
- Taken in full-face view directly facing the camera
- With a neutral facial expression and both eyes open
- Taken in clothing that you normally wear on a daily basis
2. Find a plain white backdrop
This can be a plain white wall, a door, a closet door, or even white paper or poster taped to the wall. Anything plain white works.
3. Look for good light
This is crucial because good light is what’s going to make or break the quality of your photo. Try in the morning or afternoon by a window in a brightly lit room. Remember that lack of light can make a white wall look gray or even dark gray.
4. Pose the child or baby
I had to photograph my 7 months old baby so I sat him up on a little table with blankets for padding. He’s able to sit up independently so this helped. You can get someone to help you if needed. If you have a younger baby, lay him down flat on a white sheet or blanket. Older children should be easier, just stand them against a white backdrop.
5. Try bracketing
Bracketing is just a fancy word for testing out your shots for exposure, brightness, composition etc. You can shoot in auto mode but if you know how to use manual mode on your camera, this is even better! Try taking some test shots to make sure the exposure, brightness and focus are right. Try to focus on the eyes if possible.
6. Frame the photo like this and snap away!
If you know how to use basic photo editing software, you don’t even have to frame the photo perfectly because you can always crop and edit later. Just keep snapping away until you get the right shot!
7. Make sure the baby/child is looking directly at the camera with a straight face as possible.
This means no big smiles and wide grins. Be sure the hair is neat and both ears are visible. Clothing should be kept simple and neutral.
8. Use a passport processing online service
I ordered mine through Target and it was super easy. It cost me $9.99 for two photos (on one sheet) and it was available for pick up on the same day. Costco also has really affordable passport photo service.
9. Use a local post office for easier and faster processing
I went to the LA passport agency the first time I got my family’s passport and this took over 4 hours. The lines were crazy long and it was draining to be there with the whole family. In contrast, applying at the local post office took less than 15 minutes with an appointment and it was so easy! You can find a post office near you here.
10. Be sure you’re there with your spouse (or with the right papers) with valid IDs
To apply, you need your child’s birth certificate, social security card/number and valid ID’s for parents. You also need both parents present unless you get a letter notorized by your spouse. If you’re not married or divorced, there are certain documents you will need. I believe this is a way to prevent one parent from taking the child overseas without the other parent’s permission.
You can find more detailed information here.
And that’s it! It’s a lot simpler than you thought, right?
Here are some photos I got. None were perfect but I got a photo good enough for the passport. As a bonus, you can use these various expressions for a cute milestone collage of your baby or child!
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What do you think? Would you like to take your own passport photos next time you travel abroad?