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How to create a passport picture with a webcam

Updated April 17, 2017

Her Majesty's Passport Office (HMPO) has strict requirements regarding the quality, conditions and cropping of passport photos. The photos must by 35 mm (1.4 inch) wide and 45 mm (1.8 inch) high, with a certain amount of distance between the chin and the top of the head and the eyes and the bottom of the frame. At shops and supermarkets that offer passport photos, just two photos can cost you £6 to £10. With a webcam, you can replicate these photos at home and have them printed quickly and inexpensively at a normal photo printing rate.

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  1. Find an off-white or light grey wall or screen that you can use as a background. Turn on as many white lights as possible. Position lamps in front and on the sides of your photo space if the overhead light is not bright enough.

  2. Ask the photo subject to sit 90 cm (1 foot) from the wall. Place the webcam on a stool or table 1.2 metres (4 feet) away, facing the subject. Open the webcam software on your computer. Check the computer screen to make sure you are capturing the subject's shoulders and leaving blank space above the head. Snap the photo and save it as a JPEG image file, the file type used for photo printing.

  3. Open the file in image editing software, such as Microsoft Paint. Open the image adjustment tools. Slide the exposure control bar slowly until the background of the photo is plain white and the face is clearly illuminated. Play with the colour balance controls to achieve the most natural-looking colours.

  4. Use the selection tool to create a portrait rectangle selection on your photograph. Change the size of the square until the top eighth of the photo shows only plain background over the top of the head and the shoulders fill the bottom quarter of the frame. Move the square up and down until the face is centred in the square.

  5. Format your software to print a sheet of photos 35 x 45 mm (1.4 x 1.8 inch). Check your photo software's settings to see if you can print a sheet of photos in this size. Otherwise, lay them out in design software, such as Adobe InDesign or Adobe Photoshop with six photos in a grid. Some online services can automatically format the photos to the correct passport size.

  6. Print your photo file with an inkjet printer on photo-quality paper. Submit the file to a photo printing service if you do not have an inkjet printer or photo paper.

  7. Tip

    HMPO says photos must be taken within the last month, clear and in focus without any tears or creases, unmarked on both sides (unless a photo needs to be countersigned) and unaltered by computer software.


    Photos can be rejected if there are shadows on the subject's face or the background wall.

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Things You'll Need

  • Webcam (built-in or external)

About the Author

Gabi Logan

Gabi Logan began writing food and travel articles in 2004. Logan's work has appeared in Boston-area online magazines, including "The Second Glass" and "The Savvy Bostonian," and in publications at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Italian language and culture from Smith College.

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