Child passport photos can be super cute… or they can be a super disaster!
As an adult, you probably don’t think too much about how you’re going to get your new passport photo. It’s easy enough to pop down to the neighborhood drugstore, sit on a stool for a minute, and get your little cardboard folder with two new passport photos. Child passport photos are a different story, especially if you are trying to get a passport photo for your baby, toddler, or preschooler. Your local drugstore is well-stocked with baby essentials like diapers and formula, but they’re not necessarily equipped to take a good passport photo of your infant!
As both a passport industry professional and a mom, I’ve had a lot of experience with minor passports and child passport photos. When my kids need photos for their new passports, I take them myself! Today I’ll teach you how to take your own passport photos of your children.
You don’t need a fancy photographic setup to take child passport photos. You probably already have everything you need, right in your house! You’ll need:
- A space with bright, even lighting to take the photos
- A white backdrop: a plain white wall for children who can sit independently, or a white sheet for a baby to lie on
- A digital camera, or a smartphone with a decent camera function
- A kid (obviously!)
If you’re taking a photo of a child who can sit or stand independently, have your child sit or stand with their back to the white wall. Make sure the lighting across your child’s face is even, without shadows or glare. Nothing should be near your child’s head or shoulders in the photo — no furniture, decorations, toys, or other objects. Have your child look directly at the camera, and start snapping photos. Take lots of photos! That’s the great thing about digital photography… you can delete all the images you don’t like.
For an infant, the best way to take the photo is to spread a white sheet on the floor, and have the baby lie on the sheet. Stand over the baby and take the photo looking straight down at your baby’s face. Make sure that you aren’t casting a shadow on the baby!
Formatting Your Photos
You’ve taken a whole bunch of pictures of your child, and you’ve chosen one that meets all the State Department guidelines and is totally adorable. Your next step is to format the photo. Back when I started taking child passport photos, in the early 2000s, I had to use PhotoShop to crop the photos and size them properly. But it’s so much easier now! There are free tools to help you get a perfect passport photo. I like the website PassportPhoto4You, which lets you upload a photo, size it properly for US passport applications, and then format it to print on standard 4″x6″ photo paper. You can even format your photos directly on your phone! iPhone or iPad users can use the free Passport Photo Booth app. It’s also available as a free app for your Android phone or tablet.
Printing Your Child Passport Photos
Now that you have your child passport photos formatted, your final step is to get them printed. You can print them at home if you have a good-quality color printer and glossy photo paper on hand. But if you don’t have a color printer, or if that cyan ink cartridge has dried up again, don’t worry! Your neighborhood drugstore can print your photo, easily, quickly, and cheaply. Most drugstores charge less than 50 cents for a 4″x6″ color print. You can use the store’s website to send your photo for printing, or even upload it from your phone using their mobile site.
Once your photo is printed, carefully cut out one of the photos to submit with your child’s passport application.
State Department Guidelines for Child Passport Photos
Your child’s passport photo will need to meet the same photo requirements as an adult’s passport photo. However, there are a few things you should be extra-careful of when you are taking DIY child passport photos:
- The printed photo must be clear, not grainy or blurry. If your child was moving while you took the photo, the image might not be sharp enough to print on a passport.
- No objects in the photo. That means you child can’t be sucking on a pacifier or holding a stuffed animal, and you can’t have a parent’s hand holding the kid in place!
- Your child must be looking straight at the camera. Your child shouldn’t have their head tilted or turned.
- Mouth closed and eyes open! Passport photos are meant to show the bearer with a neutral expression. So no matter how charming your kid’s big beaming smile may be, you’ll need to pick a photo where her mouth is closed. Your child’s eyes should be open and looking at the camera, but the State Department relaxes this rule for newborn babies.
- No hats or headbands. Sorry, but those cute headbands that are so popular for baby girls are a big no-no for passport photos! The “no headgear” rule is enforced as strictly for children as it is for adults.