Make your own passport photos - Why is it when we go on holiday and need a passport photo we rely on that robot booth to churn out automated pictures at a tune of over £3 per shot? Peter Bargh shows you how to shoot, prepare and print pictures for your passport with ease.
Anyone reading this page is either already a camera owner or someone about to purchase one. So why is it when we go on holiday and need a passport photo we rely on that robot booth to churn out automated pictures at a tune of over £1 per shot? And often when you have one of these photos you look like a startled rabbit. Not surprising when you're faced with entering one of these curtain veiled portakabins!
In this article we will show you how to take a suitable photograph using a digital camera. Then how to enhance it digitally and finally how to print it out so it's spot on for those government officials at the passport office.
PLEASE NOTE This article was written in 2003 and has been updated several times since to take into account new guidelines in place for passport photos. A PDF with full details can be downloaded here: Passport Photo Guidelines The details may change so always check the official Pasport site before submitting your photos.
THE ILLUSTRATIONS ARE NO LONGER COMPLETELY VALID AS NEW PASSPORT RULES STATE YOU CANNOT SMILE. SO FOLLOW OUR GUIDE BUT ENSURE THE PERSON IS NOT SMILING.THE BACKGROUND NOW NEEDS TO BE CREAM OR LIGHT GREY SO WHERE WE TURN IT WHITE ADJUST SO IT@S LIGHT GREY OR CREAM.
AS IT BECOMES INCREASINGLY DIFFICULT TO CREAT A DIY PASSPORT PHOTO IT MAY BE BETTER TO JUST USE ONE OF THOSE EXPENSIVE BOOTHS.
First stage is taking the picture Here's what the Passport Office requires:
Two identical photos.
Photos must be taken within last month.
The photo must be taken against a light background (either white, off white, cream or light grey so that your features are distinguishable and contrast against the background).
Clear and of good quality.
Printed on low gloss, plain white photo-quality paper with no watermarks, embossing or printing on the back. Using professional or high-res inkjet printer
Free from copyright (school photos are not acceptable)
Unmounted 45mm high x 35mm wide. (do not trim bigger photos to meet this condition)
Full face (without sunglasses and normally without a hat unless the applicant wears a head covering due to their religious beliefs or their ethnic background, which is acceptable)
If you have a room with a white wall ask your subject to stand in front of that and frame up so that you have a tight crop of the head and shoulders as illustrated in the photo above.
As the image size is only going to be small you can use your digital camera's lower resolution setting of 640x480 pixels. Unless, of course, you want to take the photos for other uses too.
Take several photos knowing that you may get the subject blinking on one or two and they may prefer one expression over the others. Use the camera's lens a on the telephoto setting to ensure a tighter crop. If you use flash make sure the subject is fairly close to the background to avoid it being underexposed and very dark. You also have to watch for the shadows it will cast too (Photos with shadows will not be accpeted!). Here the subject was about 50cm from the wall. Notice it's turned out grey. The passport office would accept this, but we want a better picture in our passport. So we will brighten the background using an image editing program.
With the picture open in the editing program make a selection of the grey background. Use either the lasso selection tool, the magic wand or a similar, to draw around the hair and then use the +/- selection keys to make the selection accurate around the hairline. Feather the selection using a pixel value of around 30. This will be enough for our 640x480 resolution and ensures that the changes you make to the background don't make the photo look like a bad cut out..
Now we will brighten the background grey to make it whiter. You can use the image editing program's Levels or Curves options to do this or, as in our case, the simple Brightness/Contrast option. Adjust until the background is bright white and click OK to make the changes.
You probably haven't given it any thought yet but the 640x480 dimensions are not quite the same proportions as the necessary 35x45mm size we need, so when you reduce the image it won't be the exact size necessary. There's a useful trick that allows you to reduce the picture at the same time as making a crop.
In Photoshop when you select the Crop tool it gives you the option of specifying a fixed crop size to a necessary resolution. See the bar above. We've keyed in a 3.5cm width, 4.5cm height and 300dpi resolution. Now when you make a crop it will save the crop to the size keyed in the figures, doing the whole job in one go. The grey areas (top and bottom) in the photo on the right highlight the elongated proportions of the original 640x480 photo that will be cropped so that the photo ends up the right shape.
Now we need to place two copies of the photo on a canvas ready to print. With the cropped picture still on view select All (Ctrl+A) and copy (Ctrl+C). Now select new (Ctrl+N). If your program is clever it will show a box like this that has the sizes of your picture already set. Make sure the background colour is white and select Background Colour from the contents options (canvas colour). Change the dimensions to just over 2x the indicated height and width (8cm x 10cm will be fine) and click okay. Now click (Ctrl+V) to paste the picture you've just copied onto the newly opened white canvas.
Use the Move tool to drag the picture into the top left corner. Then paste the second picture into place (Ctrl+V) and again move this so that it aligns up to the first pic leaving a small gap between the two that will be used to cut the pictures when printed.
As we're going the traditional passport booth route we've printed four on a sheet. Aligning the bottom two below the first two. The other two can be sent off to Nan and boyfriend for purse/wallet fodder! When you have everything aligned use the Crop tool to trim off any unwanted surround, again leaving a slight white border around the set of four photos for trimming purposes when printed.
Next we are ready to print. Hopefully you will have a program that allows you to set up the printing specs. The passport leaflet indicates that a resolution of 1440dpi is necessary. Most modern printers output at this resolution. So choose the 'best' print setting. Also use high quality paper. We've gone for the 4x6in 180gsm Inkjet paper. If there's an option centre the image and select 4x6 from the list of paper sizes. Do not select 'scale to fit media' because this will enlarge the photos making them too big. The preview here shows how the photos will appear on a 4x6in sheet of paper.
When printed carefully cut out the two pics and send them with the filled out application form, passport, if renewing, and your cash! If it's your first passport one of the photos needs a signature on the back. There's more about that on the application rules. All we need to say now is make sure the pen is designed to write on the back - some inkjet papers will smudge the ink. Happy holidays!