If you’re planning on traveling internationally with your baby, you’ll need to apply for a passport for your little one. Aside from the forms and formalities, sometimes the hardest part of the whole process is merely snapping a photo of your infant that meets all the rules and requirements. While it sounds simple enough, getting a crawling baby to sit still for a second or a newborn to stop wiggling for a photo can lead to hours of trials and (mostly) errors with capturing that compliant photo.

And, while you could leave the task of taking the passport photo up to a drug store employee or a postal worker, parents and guardians know their babies best. You’ll have more time at home to get that squirmy baby to sit for a photo. And if a tantrum happens, you won’t be in the middle of a post office dealing with those side-eyes. To help all of the sleep-deprived parents out there with this process, we’ve outlined a few tips for successfully capturing that perfect baby passport photo, without crying like a baby to get it.

Know the Rules First

red baby passport photo

Before you even start looking for flight deals on your next trip and getting your camera ready for an adorable photo shoot, you should study up on the rules laid out by the U.S. State Department for passport photos in advance. The photo must be clear, printed on photo quality paper, 2×2 inches in size, and the head must be between 1 to 1 3/8th from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head. The photo must be taken within the last 6 months. There also shouldn’t be any shadows on their face, and now is not the time for exaggerated facial expressions.

Additionally, babies have their own set of passport photo rules. No one else can be in the photo, so holding your baby won’t work. While adult passport photos require your eyes to be open, there is some wiggle room with babies. Infants aren’t required to have their eyes completely open for the photo, especially if they aren’t opening their eyes much yet or they only open them slightly. But, your baby will need to face the camera; no profile or side glances will do. Lastly, don’t adorn your baby with pacifiers, bows. or anything else obscuring their face.

RELATED: How to Apply for Your Baby’s Passport

Pick the Best Time of Day for Your Baby

baby passport photo crying


Once you understand the rules, you can start thinking about when to take the photo. In order to set yourself up for success, begin by selecting a good time of day for your infant. If you decide to take their passport photo just before a nap or a meal, you might have a very uncooperative tot. Instead, try to select a time when they aren’t too tired or hungry to give it a go.

Find Your White Backdrop

baby passport photo white background

All passport photos require a white backdrop behind the person. For a baby, this can be hard to figure out. For small infants, you can place the baby on a white sheet on the ground and try to capture their photo this way. If your baby is more mobile, you can try covering a car seat with a white sheet and place them in their seat for the photo. Babies who are sitting up and walking will require even more distraction and creativity for white backdrops. You can try putting your baby in front of a white door or wall to fulfill the white backdrop requirement.

Select a Room With Loads of Natural Light

baby passport photo natural lighting

The U.S. State Department doesn’t want a passport photo that is underexposed, dark, or casting shadows on the face. To avoid shadows on your baby’s face, you’ll want to stage the photo in a room with loads of natural light, preferably light coming in from two windows faced in different directions. Since shadows or underexposure can be a problem, a room filled with natural light might lend the best space for a successful photo.

Two Hands Are Better Than One

baby passport photo family

You know the rules. You’ve selected a good time for the photo. You have a white backdrop and a room location picked out. Before you start trying to snap your photos, you might want to phone a friend, relative, or have another parent present. Trying to take the photo by yourself can be tricky, especially with wiggly babies. One person will need to take the photo and the other will need to act as a master distractor to keep your crawling or walking baby from traveling outside the photo frame. Two hands are better than one when taking baby passport photos.

Use Apps and Other Websites To Help Take The Photo

While you could follow all of the above recommendations and capture your baby’s photo with no problems, there are apps out there that could help if you’re still worried about your photo passing through official hands. Several apps and websites like Vital Docs or EPassportPhoto will often tell you if the photo you’ve taken will meet the passport requirements based on certain criteria. Many of these sites and apps are linked up with drug stores where once you have captured the photo, you can send it off to be printed and picked up. Vital Docs has a passport photo app designed to take passport-compliant photos with government standards in mind. While these sites and apps can’t guarantee approval, they do make it easier to know if the photo you think is perfect is actually a no-go.

Did you take your baby’s passport photo yourself? What other tips would you add to the list? Share your experience with us in the comments below!


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About The Author

Suzy Guese is a travel writer from Denver, Colorado. She caught the travel bug after taking her very first flight at just three months old—she was headed for Disney World—and has been a total travel junkie ever since. From family car trips across North America to stints abroad in Europe, Suzy travels the globe with her redheaded temperament in search of sarcasm, stories, and travel tips to share with anyone willing to listen. She blogs about her travels at http://suzyguese.com.