What do you need to get a passport photo?

Written by mallory ferland
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What do you need to get a passport photo?
Technically, all you need to get a passport photo is appropriate attire and money. (us passport image by Albert Lozano from Fotolia.com)

Getting a passport photo may seem like an easy task, but if you wait to the last minute it can become a tricky process to compete. A passport photo has many regulations for quality, physical appearance and size, so the best way to go about getting one is to visit a passport photo centre or photo studio and have them taken for you. You must have your photos with you when you apply for your U.S. passport.


The photo must show your entire face free of any obstructions. This means no hats, scarves, headbands, large earrings and sunglasses. Religious head coverings can be worn as long as they do not cover the face. Hijabs may be worn if they cover only the hair and neck; full or partial face-covering burkas cannot be worn. If you wear prescription glasses or hearing aids daily, they should be worn in your photo. Casual clothing is also preferred over formal or dress clothing.


Many photo technicians suggest you don't smile during a passport photo section. However, the State Department does not mention smiling at all in its photo requirements. The majority of passport photo examples do show people smiling.


You must print two identical photos at the time you get your photos. That is, not two of the "best" during the shoot, but two of the exact same file cut in the same dimensions and on the same photo paper. Get extra photos printed at the same time in case you need them in the future, such as for a travel visa or ID card.

Photo Locations

Visiting a professional photo lab or passport photo printing centre is generally the easiest way to get a passport photo. Those places should have trained staff who know the dimensions and requirements for the specific photo. Such places include all professional photo studios, most grocery or drug stores that provide film printing services (such as Albertsons, CVS and Walgreens), large factory stores such as Costco, and many small travel or tourism agencies. A pair of passport-sized photos usually costs between £5 and £9 (as of 2010).

Self Portrait

It is possible to take and print your own passport photo as long as it fits the guidelines. The shot must be set against a completely white background and you must look directly straight forward at the camera with your chin slightly angled upward. The actual size of the photo must be printed as 2 by 2 inches. The head (top of head to bottom of chin) must cover between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches. It must be printed in colour on photo quality paper. If the photo does not meet all of these regulations, it will be denied.

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