Nearly a quarter of a million passport photos were rejected in the US in 2017. It’s the number one reason for passport application delays.
That’s a lot of time and money wasted for Americans trying to apply for a new passport.
Taking a new passport photo is a tedious task on your to-do list. No one actually enjoys getting their passport photo taken, but it’s something that must be done if you want to enjoy the luxury of travelling.
In this guide, we’ll help you take a passport photo that checks all the requirements, so you can have a fast and stress-free application process.
- The right passport photo size
- Where to get your photo taken and printed
- How to take passport photos, the DIY way
- What your passport photo will cost you
What is the size of a passport photo?
The U.S. size requirements for passport photos is 2 x 2 inches (equal to 51x51mm).
Your head must span 1 - 1 ⅜ inches (25-35mm) measuring from the bottom of your chin to the top of your head. If you’re choosing to submit a digital version of your passport photo, it has to be in a square aspect ratio with a minimum dimension size of 600 x 600 pixels and a maximum dimension of 1200 x 1200 pixels.
If you’re not getting an American passport, it’s important to know that every country has their own size requirements for your photo.
For example, Canadian passport photos need to be slightly larger, measuring 50mm wide x 70mm high.
Printed passport photos in the UK must be 35mm wide by 45mm high. If you’re opting for the digital version, it must be at least 600 pixels wide by 750 pixels high. The actual file size must be at least 50KB and no higher than 10MB.
Getting a passport from another country? Check your official government website for the right size requirements before taking your passport photo.
Tips for a valid passport photo
Passport photo requirements are strict. Even the smallest mistake will mean that your photo gets rejected and you have to start the whole process over again.
Save your time and money by getting it right the first time. Follow these top tips for taking a valid passport photo:
- Make sure the photo is recent, taken less than 6 months ago.
- No black and white photos allowed - they must be in colour!
- Skip the social media filters and Facetune for this one. The government will only accept your unaltered passport photo.
- Get help from friends or family, or have your photo taken by a professional. Selfies are not accepted.
- Do you wear eyeglasses? Take them off for the photo, since they’re not allowed.
- You may be tempted to style up your passport photo with an interesting background, but save that for Instagram. Only plain white or off-white backgrounds are permitted.
- Getting a printed version of your photo? Choose matte or glossy photo quality paper.
- Keep your passport photo safe until you send it off. Damaged photos with smudges, bends, or holes will be rejected.
Where to get a passport photo?
In the U.S., you have a few options for getting your passport photo taken. Let’s explore them.
Can I take my own passport photo?
Generally, you can! In the U.S., you can take your own passport photo, meaning you don’t have to get one professionally done. They don’t accept selfies though, so you should still get a friend to take the photo of you.
Some countries don’t allow homemade passport photos. In Canada, passport photos must be taken by a commercial photographer or taken in a studio. There are a few stores, such as Shoppers Drugmart and Walmart that offer passport photo services.
In the UK, the most common way to get your passport photo taken is by using an official photo booth. You can find these in public spaces like train stations, bus stations and shopping centres.
How to get a passport photo at CVS?
If you’re applying for a new U.S. passport or renewing an existing one, one of the most popular places to get your passport photo taken is at CVS. Not all of the stores offer this service, so check your nearby locations online to see if they take passport photos.
As of the time of writing in 2020, passport photos cost $14.99 at CVS locations. They’re currently offering a promotional discount where you’ll save $2 if you bring this passport photo coupon into the store with you.
Does Walmart take passport photos?
Yes! Walmart is another popular spot to get your passport photos done.
You can choose between getting your passport photos taken and printed there, or you can simply get photos you’ve already taken yourself printed.
If you’re going the DIY route and taking your own passport photo, head to Walmart’s Passport Photo page to upload your photo. Follow their directions and then choose between picking up your printed copy in-store or getting it delivered straight to your house.
They have a 1 Hour Pick Up service to make the process super quick for you.
If you would rather have your photo taken in-store, choose a location that has a photo center (most do).
The cost to get your passport photo printed by Walmart is $7.44 USD at the time of writing.
Where to get a digital passport photo?
Living in the 21st century has made taking passport photos a much easier process. With the help of a trusty app and a generous friend or family member, you can take your own passport photo in the comfort of your own home.
Important things to note:
- Take your photo with your rear-facing camera on your phone. Photos taken from the front “selfie-cam” are often rejected.
- Get someone else to take the photo for you
- Take your passport photo in a well-lit spot with a white or off-white background
There are a few apps you can choose from to take your photo. Here are the top ones recommended for iOS and Android users:
Passport Photo (iOS)
- 4.4 star rating on the Apple app store
- Format, print and save passport photos
- Passport templates for 100 countries
- Price: Free
Passport Photo Creator (iOS & Google Play)
- 3.3 star rating on the Apple app store
- Take your passport photo with your smartphone
- Real-time compliance checks when you take your photo
- Print your photos from any Walgreens nationwide
- Price: App is free, but you pay for your printed photos in-store at Walgreens
Passport Photo Booth (iOS & Android)
- US & other countries available
- Take your photo with your smartphone
- Save it or email it for easy printing
- Get your photos printed directly from their app - they ship them for $5.96 (US-only)
Most apps will inform you of the federal requirements for taking your passport photo, but here are some reminders.
- The minimum size is 600 pixels by 600 pixels
- The maximum size is 1200 pixels by 1200 pixels
- Your photo must be in color in sRGB color space
- JPEG file format
- File size must be 240 kB or less
- The compression ratio must be 20:1 or less
- No photo altering! Avoid making enhancements in Photoshop, Canva, or any other photo editing software
How to take a passport photo?
How to make a passport photo at home?
To take your passport photo at home, first find an area in your house that’s well-lit. Avoid having a window behind you in the photo, since the sun might cast harsh shadows. Test out standing facing a window to get some natural daylight on your face.
Make sure your background is white or off-white and is clear of anything else in the shot.
Call over a friend or family member to take the photo for you. You’re not allowed to take selfie-style passport photos yourself.
Grab a camera that takes high quality photos. Most smartphones have great cameras that can do the job. If you want to really step it up, you can use a DSLR or professional camera to take your photo.
Ask your friend to review the passport photo requirements, so they know what to look out for too. Face the camera head-on so your full face is in view, and then get to snapping the perfect photo!
Can you smile in a passport photo?
Sort of. This isn’t the time to give your biggest, cheesiest grin, but you are allowed to do a natural smile, with both eyes open.
If you don’t want to risk getting rejected for too big of a smile, stick with neutral facial expression.
Can you wear glasses in a passport photo?
No, glasses are not allowed in your passport photos. For extraordinary circumstances where you can’t take off your glasses for medical reasons, the government will accept a signed note from your doctor explaining the situation. Include that note with your application.
What to wear for a passport photo?
What are the do’s and don’ts for what to wear during your passport photo? Don’t stress, because the rules are fairly simple.
- Don’t wear your uniform or anything that looks like a uniform (including clothes in a camouflage pattern). If you’re just getting off work and need to get your passport photo taken, bring a change of clothes.
- Take off your hat or head covering, unless you’re wearing it for religious or medical purposes. If you need to wear a head covering for religious reasons, you need to include a signed statement that it’s part of your traditional religious attire that you normally wear in public. If you wear a hat or head covering for medical reasons, you also need to submit a signed statement from your doctor verifying the situation.
- No headphones or wireless devices that can be in your passport photo (that means taking out those AirPods that have been glued to your ears since you got them).
- Don’t worry about removing your necklaces, facial piercings or any other jewelry! As long as they don’t hide your face, they’re okay. Permanent tattoos on your neck or face are also acceptable.
How much is a passport photo?
How much you pay for a passport photo completely varies on where you go to have it printed (or taken).
CVS charges $14.99 USD for a pair of two passport photos (but they have a $2 off promotional coupon you can use on their website, as of writing this article).
Walmart charges $7.44 USD to print an existing passport photo from online. The price is likely different if you go in-store to get your passport photo taken.
Here’s an updated list from US Passport Help Guide with a comparison of the cheapest places to get your passport photos taken.
How to print a passport photo?
You have two options: print your passport photos at home or get them printed in-store.
Let’s start with the at-home option. First of all, you need to have a colour printer with matte or glossy photo quality paper. You can get photo quality paper at many different stores that sell office or photography supplies including BestBuy, Staples and Amazon.
We recommend you use 4x6 inch paper to print your photos, since this is the size that’s most compatible with passport photo taking apps and online software. You will need to print two identical copies of your passport photo.
Don’t have the resources to print your photos at home? Not to worry! There are cost-effective ways to get your passport photos printed for you.
Some apps, like the Passport Photo Booth one we mentioned before, offer a printing service. Just take your passport photo using their app and then choose the option to get it delivered to you.
Who can sign a passport photo?
In the US, you are not required to sign your passport photos, even when you’re applying for a passport for the first time.
Some other countries require that your passport photos be signed, depending on the situation.
In the UK, these are the situations that require a signature for passport photos:
- Applying for your first adult or child passport
- You’re replacing a lost, stolen or damaged passport
- Renewing a passport for children aged 11 or under
- You look unrecognizable from your last passport photo (your appearance has changed dramatically)
So, you fall under one of these categories. Who can you ask to sign your passport photos?
- Someone who has know you for 2+ years
- Be currently working in or retired from one of these accepted professions
In Canada, all passport photos must be signed by your “guarantor”, unless you’re an adult renewing your passport through the Simplified Renewal process. In that case, you don’t need a signature from your guarantor.
Who can be your guarantor?
- Someone who has known you for 2+ years
- Canadian citizen 18+ years old
- Can be a family member
- Holds their own Canadian passport too
Your guarantor has to sign the back of your passport photo and write “I certify this to be a true likeness of (applicant's name)”.
In addition to the guarantor’s signature, you also need to have the studio who took your passport photo stamp the back of one of them or write down the name and address of the studio and the date the photo was taken.
Not applying for an American, Canadian or British passport? Check out the signature requirements for your own country by looking at your government’s website.