Dreaming of an exotic vacation in another country?

Before you start picking out your bathing suit and planning your excursions, you need to meet passport requirements, so you can actually take off on your flight.

You’ll need forms of ID and proper paperwork, but the passport photo is also an important part of getting your passport application processed quickly.

If you don’t follow the passport photo regulations, your photo will be rejected. That can delay the processing of your application.

Taking a passport photo might seem simple, but there are lots of little rules you need to follow to have your passport photo accepted.

Here are the important things you need to know, so your passport photo passes inspect without issue.

Photo Color

Thinking of making an artsy statement with a black and white or sepia photo? Save those special treatments for your vacation photos.

All passport photos need to be in color. Anything other than the true, original color won’t be accepted.


Another qualification for the photo is quality. The purpose of your passport is to prove your identity. If the photo is of poor quality, it can be difficult to tell if it’s really you.

Your passport photo needs to be a high-resolution image. There’s no minimum resolution specified by the state department.

The photo simply needs to be clear, so your face is easy to see. Make sure it’s not pixelated, grainy, or blurry.

Make sure it’s not underexposed or overexposed. Those are both grounds for having the image rejected.

No Alterations

You’re not allowed to make any type of digital alterations to your photos. That means you need to skip the filters that give you a dewy glow or exaggerated eyelashes.

You’re not allowed to touch up the photo digitally in any way, even if it’s just to remove a blemish. The reasoning behind this is so the photo actually looks like you since its main purpose is for identification.

It’s natural to want a good-looking passport photo. But you’ll have to do that naturally.

Size Requirements

Passport photos have to meet specific size requirements.

The overall photo needs to be 2 inches by 2 inches.

There’s also a requirement for the measurement of your head in the photo. The distance from the top of your head to your chin needs to fall between 1 inch and 1-3/8 inches.

Because of the face size requirements, taking a selfie for your passport photo isn’t the best idea. Have someone else take the photo, so you can ensure you’ll meet the requirements.

Facial Expressions

Posing in any way other than a natural, neutral look isn’t allowed for passport photos.

You need a neutral expression on your face. Keep both eyes open. A natural smile is allowed.

You also need to look straight at the camera. The photo needs to be of your full face from the front.

Photo Background

You’ll need to stand or sit in front of a plain, light background. It can be white or off-white, but there shouldn’t be anything on it.

There also can’t be any other people in the photo. This is sometimes an issue with young kids or babies.

You can’t hold your baby for the passport photo. If your baby can’t sit up, you can use a car seat covered in a white blanket as the background.


The lighting in your photo is important in getting a clear, bright photo. Your face can’t have any shadows on it, so make sure the area is well-lit from the front.

Clothing Choice

Show up for your passport photos in regular street clothes. You’re not allowed to wear a uniform in the photo. You also can’t wear something that looks like a uniform or anything with camouflage.

Skip white shirts. Since the background is white, you’ll look like you’re just a floating head if you wear a white top.

Another thing to consider is how your top will look in the future. Passports are good for 10 years for people 16 and older. Choosing a timeless look ensures you won’t cringe when you have to pull out your passport in a few years.

Accessory Restrictions

In most cases, you won’t be able to wear any accessories. Simple jewelry and facial piercings are allowed, assuming they don’t obscure your face in any way.

Glasses aren’t allowed in your passport photo. The exception is if you can’t remove your glasses based on a medical reason. If that’s the case, you’ll need a signed doctor’s note.

Hats and head coverings are also forbidden.

If your hat or head covering is used for religious purposes, you can wear it. You’ll need a signed statement to show that it’s part of your religious attire that you wear continuously when you’re in public.

You can also wear a hat or head covering if it’s used for medical purposes. You’ll need a doctor’s note for that.

If you meet one of the qualifications to wear a hat or head covering, it can’t cover your face or hairline. You must be able to see your entire face in the photo. It also can’t create any shadows over your face.

Headphones and wireless devices aren’t allowed in the photos. That includes Bluetooth earpieces and wireless ear buds.

Photo Age

Photos need to be recent to qualify as a passport image. You’ll need a picture that’s been taken within the last 6 months. You might prefer the look of a photo from a few years ago, but it won’t work for passport purposes.

Printing Requirements

You need physical printed copies of your passport photos with your application. They should be printed onto photo-quality paper with either a glossy or matte finish.

The photos also need to be in good condition. They won’t be accepted if they’re smudged, creased, or have holes in them.

Understand Passport Photo Regulations

Meeting the passport photo regulations is important if you want your passport application to be processed quickly. Ignoring the guidelines will cause you to get the photos rejected.

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