How to Take an Infant Passport Photo

So you’ve had a baby – congratulations!  And you’re determined not to let that baby mean the end of your travels.  That baby is going to see the world all before she starts forming permanent memories.  Sounds like a plan!  But this isn’t the 90’s.  As ridiculous as it may seem, that little baby is going to need a passport, just like you.  But how do you effectively take an infant passport photo?  That’s the question – and this step by step guide will help make it happen.

Step 1: Review the requirements for a US passport photo on the State Department’s website.  Unfortunately these requirements are the same no matter who the passport is for.  Although looking straight at the camera and keeping your eyes open and mouth closed with a neutral expression may seem easy for an adult, it can pose a real challenge for an infant.

Here is a recap of the State Department’s photo requirements for passport:

  • In color
  • Printed on photo quality paper
  • 2 x 2 inches in size 
  • Sized such that the head is between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches 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
  • With a neutral facial expression and both eyes open
  • Taken in clothing that you normally wear on a daily basis:

Step 2:  Dismiss any notions that you’re going to take your baby to a drug store of post office and have them take it.  It isn’t going to happen.  Also forget the idea of holding your baby up vertically.  Instead, clear a space where your little one can lay down safely.  If she isn’t mobile yet, a kitchen or dining room table works well.

Step 3: Lay out some towels or a diaper change pad for baby to lay on.  Take the head insert from an infant car seat or stroller (the thing that’s shaped like a big U) to hold the baby’s head in a fixed position.  Then cover it all up with a white unfitted bed sheet and lay baby on top fitting their head into the head insert.

Step 4: With baby ready to go, one person should stand on the table with a camera looking straight down while another stays close by to make sure baby is safe and try to manage all the requirements of the photo.

Step 5: Now that everybody is in position, you’re going to have to take a lot of photos.  A lot.  Baby needs to be looking straight at the camera so try to have the second person wave a toy or something interesting right beside the camera.  Mouth has to be closed which means no crying and also no pacifier.  This may take some careful timing – insert pacifier, calm baby, remove pacifier, take a dozen photo before screaming ensues, repeat.

No crying, no pacifiers, no looking sideways, no open mouth, no closed eyes!

No crying, no pacifiers, no looking sideways, no open mouth, no closed eyes!

Step 6: Once you have a few dozen photos and are fairly confident at least one meets all the requirements, give baby a break and upload them to your computer.  First thing you’ll want to do is crop the image to 2″ by 2″ and space baby’s head to fit the requirements.  This can be especially difficult as a baby’s head isn’t the same proportion as an adult’s.  Do your best to stay true to the requirements as best you can.  To make things a bit easier, you can use this special tool to lay things out and save to computer for printing.

The winning photo. Not totally a "neutral" expression I know, but it was accepted.

The winning photo. Not totally a “neutral” expression, but still accepted.

Step 7: You should have laid out the photo to be square but if you didn’t you can cut it to be 2″ x 2″ square after you print on photo paper.  Print at least two and take them with you to the post office along with the application.  And don’t forget to bring the baby!  For some reason they have to actually see the baby in order to issue the passport.

BabyPassportAn adult US passport is good for ten years but a child’s is only good for five.  You’ll soon see that even five years is hilarious as your baby most likely won’t look anything like the photo just a few months later.  But at $120 a pop you’ll want that passport to last as long as possible!

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