The frustration of taking baby passport pictures

Baby's passport photo before cropping

Baby’s passport photo before cropping

I love having a new baby.  Maybe, it’s because this is kid number 4 and we’re starting to get the hang of it.  Maybe it’s because the older ones are now able to help out more.  Whatever it is, we’re glad that we had our baby in Penang.  Now that the paperwork involved with getting a Malaysian birth certificate is out of the way, it is time to go apply for an American passport. Well one of the steps involved with getting a passport is getting a passport photo for that baby.  This has not been easy.  So in today’s post, I’ll have the requirements for passport photos as well as some tips and hints for getting that shot for your baby passport picture.

US State department requirements

The US state department website has a page listing the requirements for a US passport photo.

Head position and size for a passport photo

Head position and size for a passport photo

  • In color
  • Printed on photo quality paper
  • 2 x 2 inches (51 x 51 mm) in size
  • Sized such that the head is between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches (between 25 and 35 mm) from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head. View the Photo Composition Template for more size requirement details.
  • Taken within the last 6 months to reflect your current appearance
  • Taken in front of a plain white or off-white background
  • Taken in full-face view directly facing the camera
  • With a neutral facial expression and both eyes open
  • Taken in clothing that you normally wear on a daily basis:
    • Uniforms should not be worn in your photo, except religious clothing that is worn daily.
    • Do not wear a hat or head covering that obscures the hair or hairline, unless worn daily for a religious purpose. Your full face must be visible, and the head covering must not cast any shadows on your face.
    • Headphones, wireless hands-free devices or similar items are not acceptable in your photo.
    • If you normally wear prescription glasses, a hearing device or similar articles, they may be worn for your photo.
    • Dark glasses or non-prescription glasses with tinted lenses are not acceptable unless you need them for medical reasons (a medical certificate may be required)
    • Glare on glasses is not acceptable in your photo. Glare can be avoided with a slight downward tilt of the glasses or by removing the glasses or by turning off the camera flash.

US State department tips for baby passport pictures

Farther down the page is the tips and tricks for taking a picture of a baby.

When taking a photo of your baby or toddler, no other person should be in the photo, and your child should be looking at the camera with his or her eyes open.

Tip 1: Lay your baby on his or her back on a plain white or off-white sheet. This will ensure your baby’s head is supported and provide a plain background for the photo. Make certain there are no shadows on your baby’s face, especially if you take a picture from above with the baby lying down.
Tip 2: Cover a car seat with a plain white or off-white sheet and take a picture of your child in the car seat. This will also ensure your baby’s head is supported.

Our tips for a good baby passport picture

Properly cropped baby passport photo using the State Department's tool

Properly cropped baby passport photo using the State Department’s tool

Tip 1: Use an SLR rather than a point and shoot.  You need the super fast shutter speed to catch the baby looking at you.  If you can get a burst mode, that would be even better.  Get a series of shots.

Tip 2: Shoot a ton a pictures.  We live in a digital photography age, don’t need to worry about wasting film.  (“Uhh Dad?  What’s ‘wasting film’ mean?”)

Tip 3: Shoot landscape rather than portrait and have the flash on.  If you know how (and your camera can do it), set your flash to ‘fill’ so that the background will be nice and bright white.

Tip 4: Use the State Department’s online passport photo cropping tool.  This took the guesswork out of measuring and centering the baby’s head position.

So where’s the frustration?  Well in our case, we didn’t follow tip #1 and used a point and shoot camera.  The baby was less than cooperative and wiggly, so was quite a challenge.  And we ended up with several photo shoots, because the photos were rejected at the US Embassy in KL.  I’ll share the details of that in a later post.

Get your photos printed

You can print the photos yourself if you have a photo printer.  Any photo shop will do it for you if you bring your images in on a flashdrive.  We used Kingdom Photo, across from Maybank in Tanjung Bungah.  It cost us RM 6 for a sheet of 6 images.

Our slideshow of rejected baby passport photos