Updated October 8th, 2016:
Recently the government has been changing their requirements constantly over the last six months. I personally find this annoying, but getting passport photos is a necessary evil. For the most updated information, please check this website:
Travel.state.org – Photo Requirements (Now with built in photo sizing software!)
If you have any questions about the safety of using idphoto4you.com, please check out this detailed article I wrote.
———–Here is the original post from Feb, 2013———–
The most popular post ever on this site is the Infant Photo Passport Tutorial, and I thought I would also do a tutorial for the rest of the members in your family. Travis and I never pay to have “Passport Photos” taken. We take our own, use a free formatting website, and have them printed two doors over at our local print shop using our USB drive. Here are step by step instructions on how to take your U.S. Passport Photos (looking for instructions on how to apply for your passport? Check out this article). For extra information about dealing with wiggly toddlers, see this updated post.
The requirements (as listed on travel.state.gov).
The photo must be:
-Printed on photo paper
-2 x 2 inches (51 x 51 mm)
-Taken in the last six months to reflect your current appearance
-Taken in front of plain white or off-white background
-Taken with full face directly facing the camera
-With a neutral expression and both eyes open
-Taken in normal clothing, no uniforms
-If you wear glasses you may wear them in the photo but make sure there is no glare by tilting your head down just a little (I take my glasses off, it is easier to deal with). If they have any amount of tint in them you cannot wear them in the photo
-For children and toddlers their ears must be showing!! For girls simply tuck their hair behind their ears as best you can (see the photo of Kati below, her hair has a mind of its own)
-No hands free ear devices or hats allowed (except for hats or head covers that are for daily religious purpose, and make sure it is out of your face).
There is also a requirement about the size of the subject’s face in the actual photo, but you are going to use IDPhoto4You to take care of that, since it is kind of technical.
Do It Yourself Passport Photos
1. Create a plain white background in a well lit area. You can simply choose a white wall if there is one in your house (or you know someone that has white walls), or you can create one by taping up white butcher paper or pinning up a white sheet. If you use a sheet make sure it is not wrinkly because the wrinkles may show up and you need a plain background. The reason that you need to make sure there is good lighting is that you need to make sure there are not any shadows on your face.
2. Position your subject and be ready to shoot quickly. Kids tend to lose patience pretty quickly so you need to be fast. Place your child in whatever position they will feel more comfortable holding still in. Some kids like sitting and some prefer to stand. For smaller children and toddlers you need to make sure you are shooting them straight on so you may need to kneel or sit.
3. Get their attention. For your spouse it is as easy as saying, “Look here!” but for your child you may need to do something a little more impressive. You can use a toy or put something colorful around your camera lens. I saw a picture of a parent using a colorful hair scrunchie around their lens as a way to get their little one’s attention. So smart!
4. Shoot a bunch of photos. This is especially true for young ones. You need to make sure their eyes are open and they are looking at the camera, and that their head angle is straight forward. You don’t want their face to be angled in any way because the photo could be rejected. The instructions say that the subject must have a neutral expression, but I always have the girls give a little smile. It is easier for them to pay attention that way because they associate smiling with holding still to take a picture.
5. Load your pictures onto your computer, pick the best one for each family member, and head over to http://www.idphoto4you.com. I love this website because they give you all the tools you need to create the perfect passport photo, including the ability to adjust the photo’s brightness and contrast. Choose your country, photo type, print size, and upload your photo.
6. Adjust your photo. You can rotate, crop, and adjust the brightness and contrast. Make sure that your subject’s head fits within the green adjust mask. You want the top of their head within the top green bar and their chin within the bottom green bar. Make sure you don’t make the photo too bright. You don’t want it to look washed out. You want a good quality image that has good detail.
7. Make Photo. Once you get everything just right, click the “Make Photo” button. You will have to wait 90 seconds to download the file (it is a free service after all) unless you want to share the link on Google+.
8. Download your picture and make sure your write down the print size so you can give it to the printer. This is important because you don’t want your picture resized in any way or it will not fulfill the passport photo requirements and will most likely be rejected.
9. Cut out your photos carefully along the edges before you head to the authorized passport office (don’t know what that is? Check out this post).
Ta da!! You are finished, and depending on how many members you have in your family, you just saved quite a bit of money. We save around $45 USD each time we print our own passport photos for everyone in our family since we have 5 family members.