Many passport application requests are denied because the submitted photo doesn’t meet the stringent requirements. Hiring a professional photographer can be expensive, especially if you are ordering new passport photos for your entire family. A cheaper alternative is to learn how to print them at home.
With the right printer supplies and a decent smartphone camera, you can take high-quality passport photos from the comfort of home. Taking the photos yourself gives you plenty of time to easily retake photos until you get a shot you’re satisfied with. However, before you start shooting your own photos for a passport application, there are some important steps to consider.
Passport Photo Requirements
The U.S. Department of State has strict guidelines when it comes to passport photos. They need a clear, neutral and easily identifiable image for national security purposes. Passport photos must be recent, within six months of the time you apply. If you’ve undergone any drastic physical changes like facial surgery or accident trauma while your passport is viable, you may need to update your photo. Your passport photo must always be an accurate representation of your current appearance.
Before you submit your application, ensure your photograph adheres to these guidelines:
- The photo must be in color and taken within the last six months.
- Your face must appear in the photo unobstructed and unaltered. No filters are permitted, such as those frequently used on social media platforms.
- Selfies are unacceptable. Set up a tripod and timer or have someone else take your photo.
- If you wear glasses, remove them.
- The background should be plain white or off-white.
- Your face must be pointed directly at the camera.
- Ensure your eyes are open in the photo.
- Remove red eyes or shadows before submitting the photo.
- Maintain a neutral facial expression.
- Wear normal clothing. Don’t wear a uniform or clothing that could be interpreted as a uniform like camouflage print.
- No hats or head coverings unless they are for religious reasons.
- No devices or objects should appear in the photo, such as headphones, earphones or pacifiers.
- You’re permitted to wear jewelry and facial piercings only if they don’t hide your facial features.
- The photos must meet the following size requirements: 2″ x 2″ with the person’s head at center and sized between 1″ and 1.4″.
- While it’s acceptable for an infant’s eyes to be closed or not open entirely, older children must be photographed with their eyes open. When taking a photo of your infant, the best approach is to lay them on their back on a plain white sheet. Take the photo from above with soft, even lighting to avoid casting shadows.
Advantages of Printing at Home
If you have a printer, printer ink and camera at your disposal, you can reap the benefits of taking a passport photo yourself. Capturing and printing the images yourself:
Is Time Efficient
Using a smartphone or quality camera at home can save you travel and photography time.
Is More Affordable
Professional photographers can be costly, so using your phone camera can help you get a quality image on a budget. Approximately 85% of U.S. adults own a smartphone, which has a high enough camera quality to capture a suitable image for your passport. The printing process is likely to be the most expensive part of the endeavor, but with quality ink such as HP ink cartridges, you can get a professional print quality for a fraction of the cost.
Allows for Multiple Photos
Photo booths limit the number of pictures you can take per sitting, and photographers offer limited time slots and prints for a session. A home shoot allows you to take as many photos as necessary to achieve the ideal image.
Ensures Your Photo Will Be Accepted
With total control over the photographing and printing process, you can make sure the photo meets the exact requirements of the passport authorities.
Tips for Taking the Photo
When preparing your photograph for a passport application, there are three important steps: taking the photo, editing it and printing it. Here are some tips for getting your DIY passport photo right the first time.
Taking the Photo
- Set up a background area that meets the Department of State’s photo criteria. Choose a white or off-white wall, hang a sheet, or stick a large piece of card to the wall. Setting the right background provides the correct contrast level to make your facial features more easily readable by facial recognition software when traveling.
- Ensure the lighting is flattering by taking the photo near a window or where the room is brightest. Avoid standing in direct sunlight or under a large light as it could create unwanted shading or shadows. If shadows are a problem, try using the flash on your camera or smartphone.
- Set up a tripod and timer or ask a friend or family member to take the photo.
- Wear a shirt or dress with a high enough neckline to be seen in the final photo.
- Wear a color that best highlights the undertones in your skin. Avoid black, as it may cause you to look washed out, or white, as it will blend with the photo background.
Editing the Photo for Size
The next step is to resize the image to fit the requirements. The photo must show an up-close image of your face with the tops of your shoulders also visible. Your face and head should take up approximately 70% to 80% of the photo frame. Before you print or upload your photo, you must ensure it is the right size and perspective.
There are multiple ways to edit the image. It can be done on your smartphone. If you’re uncomfortable editing the photo on your phone, there are several mobile apps you can use to resize the image, such as Passport Booth and Pixlr Express. Alternatively, you can upload the image to your computer and edit it from there. Basic editing programs allow you to create perfectly sized photographs that are print ready, or you can use a specialist website to edit the photo to passport specifications.
Printing the Photo
Most modern printers are capable of producing a high standard of the image suitable for passport applications. Ensure you have the correct paper and ink for the task. For example, a laser printer works differently from an inkjet printer and needs a specific type of laser printer ink.
Choose the Right Paper
For passport photos, using high-quality paper is critical. Opt for branded paper with a minimum weight of 180 grams per square meter (GSM). You can print on glossy or matte paper but avoid using standard copy paper. Plain or non-photographic materials won’t be accepted.
There are several paper sizes you can use to print passport photos. Professionals use 4″ x 6″ photo paper which allows you to print between six to eight passport photos, depending on the final size of the image.
Using 8.2″ x 5.8″ paper allows you to make up to 18 copies of your passport photo, which is ideal if you need to use the images for other documentation besides your passport application. However, the most common paper size used in home printing is 8.5″ x 11″, or letter size. Letter size sheets are easily accessible and fit easily into most standard home printers.
Resizing and Printing with Windows
If you are printing your photo on a Windows PC, the process is fairly straightforward. Go to the photo file location and right-click on the image. Scroll down and select the “Print” option. This should option the Windows 10 Printing Wizard.
To make sure the photo is printed to the right size, make adjustments in the print settings dialogue box. Look for the boxes that indicate the page orientation, page size and photo size. Make sure that the photo size is the same dimensions as the image file, and the paper size is the same as the dimensions of the paper with which you are printing. For example, if you have created your passport photos for 4″ x 6″ but have letter size paper, ensure you input the correct numbers into the photo size box and paper size box, respectively.
For most passport printing jobs, landscape is the best orientation, as this ensures that the images aren’t cropped or blurred at the edges. Once you have the settings selected, you can click on the print button.
Cut the Photos to Size
It’s generally a good idea to print multiple photos simultaneously because it reduces paper waste. You then have to cut the photos precisely to ensure they are the correct size. Use your pencil to mark the borders of each photo; this can usually be done at the printing stage. Once the lines are drawn, you can use scissors or an Exacto knife and foam board to make the cuts. Take your time and cut around these lines to create several perfectly sized passport photos.
Printing Your Passport Photo from a Mac Computer
Printing your passport photo from a Mac device is simple. You’ll start by navigating to the folder containing your image in the Finder window. Right click on your image file and select the “Print” option. A print window will open, displaying a print preview of your passport photo in whatever page layout you created.
From the drop down menus on the right-hand side of the window, set your preferences for the printer you’re using, your paper size and your ink selection (color). When you’re satisfied with these settings, you can click “Print.”
This brings up a smaller dialogue window with advanced preferences for your printing quality and layout. Check that the correct printer name is selected and input the number of copies you want to print. Make sure that “Two-sided” is unchecked, especially if you previously printed a document double-sided from this computer.
When you’re happy with the settings, hit “Print” again. This time, your document will be sent straight to the printer.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
To avoid an application rejection, make sure you don’t make any of these common mistakes.
Incorrect Formatting and Dimensions
Understand the appropriate frame for your passport photo, so the final cropped image is primarily of your head and neck. Do not cut off the top of your head; leave adequate headroom for editing.
Poor Image Quality and Low Resolution
When you receive your finalized passport document, you may notice the image isn’t the highest quality. However, this doesn’t mean that you can submit a low-resolution photo. The photo you submit with your application must not be pixelated, blurry and over or underexposed. An image may lose quality if it is cropped too far in from the original. Review the quality after you complete your editing and formatting.
The Photo Doesn’t Meet Biometric Photo Standards
If the photo doesn’t meet biometric photo standards, it will be rejected. Ensure you are facing the camera and looking directly into the lens. Powdering your face before the photo can help prevent glare or shininess on your forehead, but you must still represent your natural skin tone. In a home setup, use natural lighting to your advantage by positioning yourself so that your camera is in front of a window, facing into the room. You should be facing the camera and the window; this prevents any shadows from obscuring your face.
Low Print Quality
When handling all aspects of the passport photo yourself, you’ll need to ensure you’re prepared with a high-quality printing setup. This means selecting appropriate paper, having a printer that can handle the paper stock and obtaining a color ink cartridge.
Source Quality Equipment from a Reliable Printing Supplier
There are strict quality-control guidelines surrounding passport applications and the accompanying photos, so getting it right requires a good printer, colored ink and glossy or matte photo paper. InkJetSuperStore.com has over two decades of experience in providing premium printing materials and accessories at affordable prices. We supply ink and toner cartridges from leading brands, plus accessories such as printer ribbons, drum units and rollers.
For more information on our products, give us a call or explore our website today.
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