How to Take Your Child’s Passport Photo

Remember how I told you it is almost always better to take your own passport photos and bring them with you when submitting the application? Here’s how.

For our countries of interest (New Zealand & the USA), the requirements are the same, but you should always double-check before finalizing your photo. Child positioned against an untextured white or off-white background, two eyes open, looking at camera, nothing in front of face, no hands visible, no expressions, mouth closed.

For an infant, it is easiest to lay a plain white blanket or sheet over a carseat or bouncer chair, set the child in the seat, then wave a toy around near the camera to try to get them to look at it when you take the photo.

For a toddler that can stand but can’t stand still, our strategy was to sit on the floor against a plain colored door and hold Joey above one of our heads (remember we can’t be visible in the photo and he has to have a white background behind him) while the other of us waved toys about and took photos. Here’s what happened:

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Set child on head. Oh look, a doorknob! Clearly, neither of these photos will do.

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Yes! He finally has learned to smile for the camera! What a perfect photo! Except we then re-read the requirements, which mention that the child must not smile or have any expression on their face. Keep trying.

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Not looking at camera – no dice. Great mug shot, but this one won’t fly either because Joey’s mouth is open and it must be closed. Have you ever tried to explain to a happy, energetic, talkative, 14-month old to keep their mouth closed for a photo? I resorted to trying to startle him by hiding and popping out while Simon held him. There was a brief moment of shock before he giggled during which I had 0.2 seconds to take an effective photo. After many tries…



Once you have the digital photo, crop to the correct size (2″ x 2″ with the head 1″ to 1 3/8″ high for the USA). For ease of printing, I put several copies of the cropped photo into a Microsoft powerpoint slide, formatted to be 4″ x 6″ (standard photo size). It also works to crop in powerpoint. I double check the size and line them up. You can fit 6 on a slide. I usually leave extra space around each and do 3-4 per slide. Then save as a photo and print at your neighborhood one hour vendor.

Not the easiest task ever, but a lot better than showing up for your passport application with an uncooperative kid or sleeping infant. Good luck!

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