How to Create a Passport Size Photo

Updated April 17, 2017

Creating your own photos for a passport seems easy enough at first. But the detailed requirements set by the U.S. Department of State for passport photos sends many passport applicants to professionals, who take care of the pictures for them. If you are ambitious enough to create your own passport photo, the State Department has provided a checklist to help accomplish that task.

Set up a white or off-white background for the photo. Set up a triangular lighting scheme--one light on each side of the subject and one above---to help avoid shadows from falling across the subject's face.

Position the subject standing against the background. Check that there are no distracting shadows or objects in the photo frame.

Center the subject. A correctly formatted passport photo measures 2 inches square, with the subject's head---from the top of the hair to below the chin---measuring 1 to 1 3/8 inches. The subject's nose should be in the centre of the frame, with the head taking up at least half of the vertical length of the frame.

Take the photo and verify that the proportions are correct.

Develop or upload the photo. If you are using 35mm film, tell the developer that the photo must be created to meet passport requirements. Otherwise, the default ratios used by most developers will leave the photo too large to use for passports. For digital pictures, maintain the aspect ratio of the original, set the vertical length at 2 inches, then crop the photo horizontally---keeping the subject centred---to measure 2 inches as well.


Passport photos should be taken with the subject showing a natural expression. While the U.S. Department of State's definition of "natural expression" is a bit ambiguous, it is wise to assume this to mean a neutral expression with both eyes open.


Be aware that the U.S. Department of State's passport service can reject any photo it feels doesn't meet the guidelines.

Things You'll Need

  • Camera
  • White or off-white background
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About the Author

A native of Pittsburgh, Steve Wozniak has worked as a humor writer, a sports writer, an editor and even scribbled a few ads for big-time clients back in the day. These days, he spends his time contributing to a number of websites, covering the occasional sports event, and penning the next great American novel. He studied communications and theater at University of Notre Dame.