Guide to taking your passport photo at home

If you’ve ever renewed or applied for a U.S. passport, scheduling time to get your photo taken can be the most difficult part of the application process.

You can pay to get your picture taken at various acceptance facilities or vendors (such as CVS, Walgreens or your local post office). However, you can save time and money by taking one at home.

All passport photos must meet U.S. State Department policies, applicable to both adult and child travelers. There are a few exceptions for infants discussed below.

General photo-taking tips


No glasses, hats, shadows, filters, uniforms, etc.

Take your photo in front of a white or off-white background free from any shadows, textures or lines. Ideally, get someone to take your photo since selfies are not allowed. If this is not an option, use your phone’s self-timer.

Regardless of the photographer, do not use flash, as photos must be submitted without red-eye. Center your head in the frame, upward without tilting.

Photos must be in color, featuring a fully clear image of your face — that means no filters or glasses of any kind allowed.

“Even when glasses are worn every day, you must remove your glasses for a photo,” according to the State Department. “If you cannot remove your glasses for medical reasons, you must submit a signed statement from your doctor with your passport application.”

The same goes for hats and head coverings unless they are “part of recognized, traditional religious attire that is customarily or required to be worn continuously in public,” per the government. These items cannot cast any shadows or cover up any part of your face; your full face must be visible.

Similarly, you cannot wear uniforms (or clothing that mimics a uniform), including military gear. Instead, wear clothing you would normally wear on a daily basis. Jewelry, facial piercings and tattoos are acceptable if they do not cover your face.

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Contrary to popular belief, you can smile for your passport photo as you would any other photo, but keep your mouth closed.

Lastly, any photo submitted for review must be taken within the previous six months of your application.

Printing tips


After taking your photo, review it to ensure it is a high-resolution photo, meaning it’s not blurry, grainy or pixelated. When it’s time to print, do so on matte or glossy photo-quality paper.

Passport photos should be 2 inches by 2 inches. The subject’s head should measure between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head.

To achieve the correct measurements, use this photo tool to crop your photo to the right size.

Additional tips for taking babies’ photos

The same general photo rules apply for infant, baby and toddler passport photos: No other person can be in the photo and the child should face the camera with their eyes open. The only exception to this is for newborns, who are allowed to have partially closed eyes in photos.

Read TPG’s guide for more tips on taking your baby’s passport photo.

Bottom line

It may be a lot to remember, but you must follow these guidelines or risk the State Department rejecting your photo, further delaying your application.

If you are renewing your passport by mail, staple the photo to your application, as outlined online.


As of January, routine processing times for passport applications are six to nine weeks, while expedited service is between three and five weeks. Be sure to factor this timeline in when submitting applications for both renewals and new passports.

To read more about U.S. passports, see:

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