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How to take passport photographs

How to take passport photographs - Here's ePHOTOzine's guide to creating passport images.

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Category : Portraits and People
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Passport pictures technique
Make sure there's plenty of space around the subject.
Back in 2005 the Identity and Passport Service introduced photographic standards which are designed to ensure all photographs sent with passport applications are suitable for biometrically enabled passports and with these standards came a whole new way for photographers to take passport images. Here, ePHOTOzine have summarised what photographers need to know and have also tried the process out ourselves.

What the rules say:
The Identity and Passport Service check all photographs against their photo checking template. It is used to ensure there is sufficient distance between key facial features which they use as points to create a facial biometric. To ensure your images pass this, it's recommended that the face – from the bottom of the chin to the crown is between 29mm and 34mm. Also ensure there is a suitable distance between the edge of the picture and the subjects face, it is not necessary to have all the subjects hair in shot.
Passport images sizing chart
A guide to the sizes required for passport images.
Passport pictures technique
Glasses are a no, no if you can't see their eyes.
Two identical photographs must be submitted and these must be produced on the same camera or film and images which are enhanced will not be accepted as this can result in inaccurate biometric readings. If the subject wears glasses ask them to remove them as they can show reflections or glare from flash and if the glasses are only worn for cosmetic reasons they should be removed from the start otherwise a biometric reading can not be acquired.
Corrugated paper or heavy weight paper such as cardboard is not permitted. Photos must be printed on high quality, medium/low gloss or matt photographic paper and they must have a backing that allows the countersignatory to sign the photograph in ink, without smearing. Trademarks are allowed on the reverse as long as it doesn't show through when the photo is scanned.

Eyes must be kept open, be clearly visible, with no flash reflections or red eye and no matter how much you may like a smile, facial expressions must be neutral with the mouth closed.
The photos must show both edges of the face clearly and the shot should be of the full face and shoulders, straight on to the camera. Portrait styles or shots where the head is tilted will not be accepted neither will shots with hair covering the eyes.
Passport pictures technique Passport pictures technique
This may look nice but it wont be accepted for a passport. If the photo isn't sharp you can't see who's in the picture.
Passport pictures technique
Smiling isn't allowed on passport photographs.
Photos must show the person's natural skin tone, be clear sharp and in focus and light reflections or shadows should not be present on their face or background.
The background must be plain and light grey or cream, 5-10% grey is recommended. Hats or head coverings can only be worn for religious reasons and the facial features must be clearly visible.
Photo manipulation is not permitted, black and white photos are not accepted and photographs where infants are supported should not show the hands above the child's shoulder.

When you're happy with your photographs make sure they're printed by a professional as ones printed at home are usually not of a high enough quality and will be rejected.

So to clarify:
  • From the bottom of the chin to the crown should be between 29mm-34mm
  • Leave some space between the subject and the frame
  • Remove glasses
  • Eyes must be clear, open and have no red eye or reflections
  • The shot must be straight on and show the full face
  • The photograph must be sharp
  • The background must be plain and light grey or cream
  • Photo manipulation is not permitted
  • Get the prints done by a professional
Passport pictures technique
The set-up ePHOTOzine used to take the passport photographs.

Taking the photo:
Here at ePHOTOzine we took a white sheet and used grips to tightly fasten it to a background. The grips pulled the sheet to create an even surface perfect for passport photos to be taken against. We placed a chair around a foot (30cm) in front of the background, this way a shadow from the subject wasn't cast in the picture. If you're using flash, having them this close to the background will also stop the picture from being underexposed or dark. If you are using flash remember to watch-out for red eye and reflections as these are not allowed to be on a passport photograph.

The picture was framed through the viewfinder so we had a tight crop of the head and shoulders and we took several images so we had a variety to choose from. They were taken at full resolution, although as the image size is only going to be small you can use a lower setting of around 640x480 pixels.

Editing the Photograph:

Once we decided on the chosen image we placed it into Photoshop to edit the size to meet the requirements of the Identity and Passport Service. This process is not manipulating the photograph, we didn't alter the light or any of the facial features just the size of the image.
marquee tool in photoshop
We did this the following way:

1. Open the image in Photoshop.

2. Select the Rectangular Marquee tool and set the style to fixed size and the height to 34mm (the maximum height the head can be).

3. Create a new layer and draw out the shape in the centre of the photograph.

4. Mark out two guides. One at the top of the shape and one at the bottom then deselect your selection. Then change the Marquee tool to 45mm and draw out a second shape. Draw two more guides at the top and bottom of the Marquee shape then deselect it. Now you have guides which the head and face have to fit into.
Guides in Photoshop

5. Before you go any further duplicate the background layer so if you mess-up you have the original to return to.

6. Now, Scale the image so the head of the subject fits into the guides. To do this you go to Edit, Transform, Scale and hold shift while you move the image with the corner handles. Once your image is adjusted select the Move tool to apply changes.

7. Crop the image out of the background to remove excess space. You can set the width and height of the crop in the tool bar at the top of the screen. Set the width to 35mm and the height to 45mm (the maximum size for the photograph) and line the crop up with the guides. Select crop and check the size of the image. You can do this by selecting the Canvas Size option.

8. Once you're happy with the image print it twice so you have two identical images to send off. Remember the photos must be printed on high quality, medium/low gloss or matt photographic paper and they must have a backing that allows the countersignatory to sign the photograph in ink, without smearing. If you are at all worried get a professional to do it.
Sacling image in Photoshop

Crop image in Photoshop

Passport photography technique

This guide was written with guidelines correct for 2009, but remember the details may change so always check with the Identity and Passport Service before submitting your photos.

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1 Dec 2009 7:46PM
You can create valid passport photos with Link removed by ePz staff website.
It knows numerous standards and print sizes.
It uses face detection to set position and size of head.
It is very useful.

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