If you plan to take the kids overseas, you may want to save some money in the passport acquisition process by taking the photos yourself. While there are a few differences in the application process for minors, such as having to appear in person with parents if the minor is younger than 16, the photo requirements are actually the same. You may need to do some coaching to achieve the effects with a younger child to make sure she has a neutral facial expression and is looking straight at the camera. You will need proper composition, lighting and an appropriate background.
According to the U.S. Department of State, which issues passports, the photograph must show the full face, with a little white space above the top of the head. The bottom should cut off at mid-chest. The face in the print should be about 1 to 1 3/8 inches tall and centered.
The eye color should be fully visible, which means you need to make sure the child does not squint and that there is no substantial glare if the child wears glasses. Eye level should be at about 1 1/8 inch to 1 3/8 inch.
The background should be white or off-white, and the lighting should be positioned so that no strange shadows are cast.
Be sure the child does not make any faces that might give the State Department agents any reason to reject the photo, such as a face that obstructs a view of the eyes or makes the child look unlike himself.
The photo will need to be of a certain quality to be accepted. The State Department offers a few guidelines for achieving this quality.
The photo needs to be the correct brightness. If it is too dark, certain features may be lost in the shadows, and the passport office will not accept the photo. The same can happen with photos that have too much contrast and distort the skin tone. Another danger is photos that are not color corrected and, as a result, often appear to have a reddish or greenish tint, which, again distorts the skin tone. Lighting properly can fix all these problems, as can white balancing within the camera settings. A good way to tell if the color is correct is to note the color of the white background on the digital viewfinder and to note whether it matches the color of the actual background.
The final step will depend on proper printing. If the image looks great digitally but is not printed correctly, the passport office will reject it.
Pixilation occurs on an image that is too low in resolution. You should not be able to see individual pixels, which probably indicates a problem with the camera. A dotted pattern on the print, however, may be the result of a printing error and is also not acceptable for submission, as it makes it more difficult for Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials to identify the passenger. Any other inconsistencies in the image due to ink or ribbon problems will likely make the photo ineligible.
The final print should be clear, have a uniform tone and be exactly 2 inches by 2 inches.
Article Written By Ray Dallas
Ray Dallas graduated with majors in journalism and English. While in Florida, he wrote freelance articles for "The Alligator" and was the copy editor and a writer for "Orange & Blue." Since moving to California, Dallas has worked as a script reader and for a talent manager, as well as taking numerous industry odd jobs.