How to get a good biometric passport picture

Biometric passports, or e-passports, are embedded with electronic chips that store information about the passport holder, including their digitally mapped face. It is important that passport applicants submit high-quality pictures that capture a good likeness of their face so that their facial image is transcribed accurately onto the chip. Passport applicants can choose to have their picture taken by a qualified professional photographer, they can opt for a passport acceptance agent to take their picture at application facilities where the photos are taken, or they can follow the Department of State’s guidelines for taking a passport picture at home.

Dress in clothing and accessories that are components of your usual daily attire, including prescription glasses, wigs and hearing aids. Do not dress in a work or hobby uniform, and don't wear sunglasses or a hat. Wear dark or bright clothing so that your shoulders don't blend into the background, and avoid busy stripes or prints that may bleed together in an image.

Stand in front of a white wall or sheet that is free of decoration and designs so that the background of your picture will be totally white.

Set up your camera on a tripod that is adjusted to your height. Your picture will be of your head and shoulders, facing directly forward. Adjust the camera distance so that your face is the focal point of the shot.

Have someone operate the camera for you or use the auto-timer on your camera. If your camera has automatic focus and you have no one to assist you, mark an X on the wall and focus the camera on that before setting the timer. If your camera has manual focus, set the focus to the distance from the tripod to where your face will be.

Stand in front of the camera, directly facing the it, with your chin level. Stand close to the wall so that the camera's flash, if used, does not create a distracting shadow.

Take the picture at the highest resolution your camera will allow to avoid pixelation when you crop it. A digital image is made up of individual dots called pixels. If you zoom in too closely when your image is in the photo editing software, the individual pixels will be visible. This is pixelation, and can make edges appear blurry or colour uneven. Pixelation is not an issue with traditional film processed with chemicals.

Check the image for sharpness and appropriate exposure. The picture should not be blurry or too bright. Adjust your camera settings and retake the photo, if necessary.

Crop the image on photo editing software so that it is two inches square. Your head from chin to crown should measure between one inch and 1 3/8 inches in the photo.

Print two copies of the image on photo paper using a high-quality printer, such as a laser printer. As a result of the colour layering process of home ink jet printers, the colours may not be true to life and the image may not be as sharp as what you see on the monitor screen. If you don't have access to a laser printer, you can use a professional photo processing service to print your pictures.

Search for a passport photo facility near you by using the federal passport acceptance facility search page ( Not all facilities offer the photography service, so check the "Photo On-site” box and then search by zip code, state or state/city. For a fee, the passport acceptance agent will take your photo and print it per official specifications.

Call a chain drugstore or office supply store in your area that offers photo processing services and ask if they do passport images. Many do.

Request the services of a professional freelance photographer familiar with passport picture requirements. You can find a freelancer by checking the phone book for local photography services or seek out photography students at nearby art schools and colleges who are looking to earn extra money.

Things You'll Need

  • White background wall
  • High-resolution camera
  • Tripod
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About the Author

Margaret Bryant is a long-time resident of North Carolina. She has recently written extensively for GolfLink and eHow. She has been writing for publication since 1999. Bryant holds a Bachelor of Arts in English language/literature.