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How hard is it to take a photo that has to meet a litany of specific criteria when your subject doesn’t understand, doesn’t listen, has no head control, can’t stand, can’t sit-up, cries or sleeps frequently, and just all around isn’t really able to cooperate with the process?  Well, it’s not the easiest thing we have ever done, but taking a passport photo of an infant is doable with a few tips, and a little luck and patience.

First, here are the requirements that the US State Department set forth for all passport photos:

  • In color
  • Printed on matte or glossy 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. 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
  • Taken with a neutral facial expression (preferred) or a natural smile, and with both eyes open
  • Taken in clothing that you normally wear on a daily basis

They also offer some additional guidelines in the FAQ related to photographing infants and children:

  • The child must be the only person in the photo. Nothing used to support the child should be in the camera’s frame, including the arms or hands of a parent holding the child.
  • It is acceptable if an infant’s eyes, particularly a newborn’s, are not, or are not entirely, open.  All other children must have their eyes open and looking straight ahead towards the camera.
  • 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.

How to Get a Passport Photo of an Infant:

Given all of those requirements and tips, we decided to get a passport photo of our then three week old at home ourselves.  Not only would we save a little bit doing it ourselves, but it just all around sounded simpler than expecting a local drug store or post office employee to be able to get a better photo of our infant than we could do at home.  There is just no telling what mood she would be in during our visit to either of those places, and no telling how long the whole process might take.

Since it is acceptable for a newborn’s eyes to be closed in the passport photo, the path of least resistance is undoubtedly to take the photos when the baby is peacefully asleep and not squirming, crying, moving, etc. and call it a day.

While they are sleeping, you can probably easily position them against a white sheet on the floor, bed, over a car seat, swing, etc. and take several photos of their head straight on toward the camera.

I don’t recommend zooming in too much when taking the photo as it then won’t be possible to have the head just take up 1 – 1 3/8 inches of the 2 inch photo.

Of course, we wanted to try to get a photo with her eyes open even though we didn’t really have to (just because we like to make things more difficult I suppose), so we worked through some squirming, crying, etc. to finally come up with this photo that we then had to size using online tools to try and meet the dimension requirements.

I was a little worried about the photo not 100% meet the requirements since the head technically takes up a little more of the frame and one ear isn’t totally shown, but I was also hopeful that some discretion is used on newborn photos since they aren’t exactly the easiest subject to photograph.  Not to mention that when Baby S is a toddler and preschooler traveling with this passport for the next five years it isn’t going to really look like her anyway!

If you are doing your own child or adult passport photos at home, there are several online tools that will help you size your photos to the appropriate dimensions.  We used the free do-it-yourself service via ePassportPhoto.com and then we uploaded the sheet of 2 x 2 photos to Walgreens.com where it was then sent to my local Walgreens to print for 29 cents.  There are several similar passport photo sizing sites available online, and ePassportPhoto also has some services available where they size the photo for you.  I actually found some of the questions and answers on their Facebook page pretty helpful.

When all was said and done I wasn’t 100% sure if our photo would work or not, but I decided to give it a try since it seemed pretty decent considering we were working with a 3 week old infant.  In the end, it worked just fine and Baby S now has her very own US passport – now on to getting her Global Entry…

Best one month birthday present ever...freedom to travel.
Best one month birthday present ever…freedom to travel.

If you want some other tips on the process of applying for passports for your infant check out this post as well as this one that tells how I almost blew it by forgetting one key item at home!

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