Our son, Humphrey, was born in Vietnam which meant that one of the first things we had to do was apply for his US passport. And while there are plenty of passport photo studios in Saigon, most of them are not prepared to handle a squirming baby that can’t yet sit up on his own.
Luckily, it’s actually quite easy to take a baby’s passport photo in the comfort of your own home. All you need is a white backdrop and a camera. In fact, you could even take an acceptable passport photo with a white t-shirt and your cell phone camera.
In this article, we have outlined everything you need to successfully shoot a passport photo for your newborn including baby passport photo requirements, how to shoot a great photo with a white background and proper lighting, and how to print the passport photos in the correct size and dimensions.
So if you have a little world-traveling baby that needs his or her first passport photo then read on!
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Passport Photo Guidelines from the US Department of State
Before you begin taking photos of your newborn you should review the passport photo requirements on the website for the Department of State. The most important things to keep in mind are:
- Passport photos must have a white background. We’ll talk more about this in the next section.
- No other people can be in the photo. Unfortunately, you cannot be holding your baby during the photoshoot.
- Your baby must be looking towards the camera. This can be tricky if your baby turns their head to the side the moment you put them down on their back.
- Your baby’s face must not be obscured. This means they cannot have a pacifier in their mouth during the shoot. Also, make sure your baby’s hands are not covering any part of their face.
- Your baby should have a “neutral” expression. A smile is okay, but if your baby is laughing or crying your passport photo will probably be rejected.
- Your baby’s eyes must be open. There is some leeway on this passport photo requirement if you have a newborn infant. According to the State Department’s website – “It is acceptable if an infant’s eyes are not open or entirely open. All other children must have their eyes open.“
- No red-eye. We recommend turning off your camera’s flash, but if you choose to use a flash make sure you remove any red-eye with software before submitting your baby’s passport photo.
You must also make sure that the photo is clear and not blurry, that it is correctly exposed, and that there are no heavy shadows obscuring your baby’s face. It is also best to dress your child in an outfit that will stand out against the white backdrop.
How to Get a White Background for your Baby’s Passport Photo
It’s actually easier than you think to get a white backdrop for your baby’s passport photo. The simplest way is to place a white t-shirt or pillowcase in their baby bed, car seat or on any soft, flat surface. Also, if you happen to have white sheets on your bed or a white comforter you’re in luck! Just place them on your bed and snap the photo from above.
If you’re having trouble keeping their head from rolling over to one side or another try using a baby pillow or rolled-up towel to help hold their head steady during the photoshoot. Place it under whatever white fabric you’re using as a backdrop, but make sure their ears are still visible in the photo.
It’s best to take your baby’s passport photos during the day in a room that gets a lot of natural light. Natural light is always best for portraits and plus you’ll have fewer shadows to deal with.
The photo will look the best if you position your baby so their feet are pointed away from the window. This way the light comes from the top of the baby’s head, creating small shadows under their nose and chin. Portraits look the most natural when they are lit from above (this is because the sun typically lights people’s faces from above).
Tips for Taking Your Baby’s Passport Photo
- Plan to shoot your child’s passport photos when they are alert and in a good mood. Your baby’s eyes need to be open and they need to have a neutral expression so it’s generally best to take their picture right after they have been fed or had a nap.
- Remember no one else can be in the photo so you can’t use your hands to hold the baby’s head upright. Place a towel or baby pillow under the white background to help prop up your baby’s head – but make sure you don’t cover their ears!
- Shoot in the late morning or early afternoon. The light is generally best at this time and it’s also a great time to catch your baby in a good mood.
- Be patient. One of the advantages of taking the passport photos yourself is you have time on your side. If your baby is not cooperating or seems stressed out just take a break and try again later.
- Turn off your camera’s flash and just rely on natural light. If you’re getting harsh shadows, try turning on more lights in the room to eliminate them. It’s better to use off-camera lights than a direct flash on your baby’s face.
- Use a fast shutter speed. It’s unlikely your baby will want to hold still to have their photo taken so use a shutter speed of at least 1/200 to ensure the photo isn’t blurry. This is another reason it’s good to choose a location with a lot of bright natural light.
Printing Your Baby’s Passport Photos
While there are online services that specialize in printing passport photos like MyPassportPhotos.com, these sites tend to be overpriced. Plus you have to wait for the prints to be mailed to you.
It’s much better to just print your photos at your local photo printing shop. Walgreens, Target, and Walmart all offer quick photo printing services so you can have your baby’s passport photos back in less than 24 hours.
US passports require photos that are 2 inches by 2 inches (2″ X 2″) so you’ll need to make sure you have the dimensions correct before printing your photos. Luckily, one of the most common sizes of printed photos is 4″ X 6″. So you can just divide it into a grid of 6 even squares and each individual square will be 2″ X 2″.
One online tool that will allow you to do this quickly and easily is Canva. You’ll need to create an account but it’s free to use. Just create a new design with the dimensions 6 inches by 4 inches and then on the left-hand side select “Elements” and then “Grids”. Scroll down a bit and select the photo grid that is 3 photos wide by 2 photos tall.
Just add you’re baby’s passport photo to all 6 boxes on the grid. Now they are perfectly sized to 2 inches by 2 inches. Download the file as a JPG and send it off to your local photo shop to be printed!
Another free and easy online tool you can use is MakePassportPhoto.com. And you don’t even have to sign up for an account. Just select the country (USA), type of document (passport), and MakePassportPhoto.com will ensure you have the correct dimensions for your photo. They even have a handy overlay so you can make sure your baby’s head is the required 1″ to 1 3/8″ in the photo.
Just like Canva, MakePassportPhoto.com allows you to download your passport photos on a 2 X 3 grid that is perfectly sized for a 4″ X 6″ printed photo. Send it to your local print shop and pick up the printed copy a few hours later.
So now you see, taking your baby’s passport photo is actually quite easy. Do you have any tips or tricks to share? Let us know below!
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