What Size Photo Do You Need for Your Passport?

By Teo Spengler

Updated August 24, 2017

Holding instant photo


Not Just Any Photo Will Do

A passport is the quintessential photo identification so it doesn't surprise anyone that a photo is required for every passport: yours, your teenager's and your toddler's, too. You probably have an idea of the approximate size of a passport photo, but you may not realize how very precise Passport Office rules are about the details of the image. Here's the shortlist about what makes an acceptable passport photo.

Size Does Matter

When it comes to passport photos, size matters. The photo must be 2 inches by 2 inches exactly, but that's not the only thing to think about. The head in the photo must measure between 1 and 1 3/8 inches from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head. This is easy enough if you go to a passport application center to take your picture, but getting that exact size at home might be a stretch.

Say Cheese, Not

Don't get your kids to grin by making jokes or having them say cheese. Big, cheesy smiles are not encouraged or appreciated when it comes to passport photos. The rules require that you "have a neutral facial expression or a natural smile, with both eyes open." You're also required to look straight ahead, facing the camera directly. The full face must be visible.

Additional Rules for Photo Day

You may be tempted to wedge your kids, squeaky clean, into their Sunday best, or maybe even a new, fancy outfit purchased for passport-photo day. Don't. In the photo, each child must be wearing clothing she wears on a daily basis. Now this doesn't necessarily mean that Jimmy's pants have to be dirty or Naomi should wear her favorite Star Wars t-shirt. But their clothes should look casual and ordinary, not starched and fancy.

Everyone needs a photo that was taken within the past six months. This is even more important for babies, since six months can make a big difference in appearance when you are 8 months old.

The photo background must be white or off-white, plain, without texture. If you are photographing a baby, you can lay him on a white blanket or drape a white sheet over the car seat. For babies, even the Passport Office bends its rules: It's okay if Baby's eyes are not entirely wide open.

Other No-Nos

No glasses can be in the photo. The kids have to wear clothes they wear on a daily basis, but no glasses are allowed, even if the child has worn them every day for 10 years. The only exception is when a doctor signs a sworn affidavit that the person cannot remove the glasses for medical reasons.

No hats, either. No ear phones. No head coverings unless you give a sworn statement that the head covering is part of your religious beliefs. No uniforms, either, and no shadows on the face.