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Applying for a new passport can be a complicated and time-consuming endeavor, especially if you plan to take your own passport photo to send in with your application.
But things can get even trickier if the passport you’re applying for is for an infant or small child. Taking a baby passport photo that the U.S. Department of State will approve can be challenging to get right.
Thankfully, there are some tips and tricks to help you nail a kid's passport photo before you set off on your child’s first international adventure.
Remember, all U.S. citizens flying internationally must have a passport, including children and infants.
» Learn more: The best travel credit cards right now
Official U.S. passport photo rules
Once you’ve filled out all the necessary forms for a minor’s passport, you’ll have to include a photo with the application. Whether you're taking your own passport photo or your child’s passport photo, the same rules apply:
The photo must be taken within the last six months.
It should be in color, not black and white.
The image should be clear and in focus and feature natural skin tones.
Don’t use any filters or special effects.
Selfies aren't allowed.
Remove glasses and any hats or head coverings not intended for religious purposes.
Take the photo in front of a plain white or off-white background.
The subject should directly face the camera with a neutral expression.
Crop and frame the photo correctly. When cropped to 2-by-2 inches, the photo should include the subject's whole head centered in the frame with some space around the top and sides, plus their shoulders.
» Learn more: How to get your first passport
Tips for infant passport photos
While baby passport photo requirements are the same as for adults and older children, they can be trickier to meet given young children’s squirminess, inability to sit or stand upright and exaggerated facial expressions.
Here are a few ways to help guarantee you get the shot right the first time around.
Remove glasses, hats, pacifiers and anything that obscures the baby’s face.
Don't hold or have someone else hold the baby while taking the photo. No one else should be in the photo.
Don't obsess about facial expressions. The child shouldn’t be crying or laughing, but as long as they're facing the camera, the photo will likely be deemed acceptable.
Use a favorite toy to get the baby’s attention and encourage them to look at the camera. Plan to snap your child's passport photo when they’re awake and in a good mood.
In a child or toddler passport photo, the child’s eyes should be open and looking at the camera. But for an infant or newborn passport photo, closed eyes are acceptable.
Place babies or very small children in a car seat draped with a white sheet or lay them on top of a white sheet placed on the ground and shoot from above.
If you’re standing over your infant to get a passport picture, be careful not to cast a shadow over any part of the frame.
Take the photo in natural light in a well-lit room to avoid harsh shadows and multiple, different-colored light sources.
Turn off the flash to avoid harsh light, red eyes and shadows.
Take a lot of photos for the best chance of capturing a good one.
Use a tripod and a fast shutter speed in a well-lit room to help ensure the photo won’t be blurry.
Take your time and have fun.
Keep in mind you won’t have to go through this process often. You may update your child’s passport photo every year if you would like to keep it current, but you don't have to. Passports for children under 16 are good for five years.
Learn more: Tips for flying with a toddler
Where to get an infant passport photo taken
As long as you have a decent camera, or even a capable phone camera, you can probably take the photo yourself at home. But if you’re unsure of how it will turn out or want the best chance of your photo getting approved with your application, you can have pictures taken elsewhere.
Some U.S. post office locations will take passport photos, as will some office supply stores and pharmacies with photo departments, like FedEx or Walgreens.
But if your child can’t sit or stand upright, locations may not be able to accommodate them, so call ahead. Alternatively, you could schedule an appointment at a local photography studio.
Learn more: Cruises where you don’t need a passport
Infant passport photo requirements may be the same as for adults, but the process can be far more time-consuming and involved.
Just remember to keep in mind these tips, follow government requirements and take your time. You’ll have a new baby passport photo in no time.
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