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Guidelines for Producing High Quality ID Photographs

This section of the website is designed to help you insure you are accurately represented. With Jim's Photos, your passport Photo ID's are free of common defects that cause delays.

The guide is divided in several sections listed below. The guide presents the latest recommendations for most passport and visa photographs. With Jim's photos, you get fast turn around and we will be producing good quality photos for U.S. passports and U.S. visas. As such, the Department of State can process your passport application more efficiently.


Successful U.S. passport and visa photography begins with careful setup and appropriate production methods. Here is what Jim's Photos can do for you.

Proper Lighting Arrangement

Position light sources on both sides of subject to avoid shadows on face. Use a light source to illuminate background behind subject to avoid shadows in background.

Figure 1. Camera & Lighting Setup

Camera/ Subject Position

  • Place camera approximately 4 ft (120 cm) from the subject.
  • Have camera at subject's eye level.
  • Position subject facing the camera.

Photograph Print Properties

  • Produce 2 inch x 2 inch (51 mm x 51 mm) color photo.
  • Print photo on thin photo paper or stock.
  • Ensure the print is clear and has a continuous-tone quality.
  • Do not retouch or otherwise enhance or soften photo.

Composition Checklist

7 Steps to Successful Photos

  1. Frame subject with full face, front view, eyes open
  2. Make sure photo presents full head from top of hair to bottom of chin; height of head should measure 1 inch to 1-3/8 inches (25 mm to 35 mm)
  3. Center head within frame (see Figure 2 below)
  4. Make sure eye height is between 1-1/8 inches to 1-3/8 inches (28 mm and 35 mm) from bottom of photo
  5. Photograph subject against a plain white or off-white background
  6. Position subject and lighting so that there are no distracting shadows on the face or background
  7. Encourage subject to have a natural expression

Figure 2. Head Position & Placement

Photo Quality

Brightness, Contrast and Color

Brightness and contrast will be adjusted to present the subject and background accurately Photos without proper contrast or color may obscure unique facial features. Color should reproduce natural skin tones. Fluorescent or other lighting with unbalanced color may cause unwanted color cast in the photo. Appropriate filters can eliminate improper color balance.

Head Position and Background

Head should be positioned directly facing the camera. Photo should capture from slightly above top of hair to middle of chest. Eyes should be open and looking at the camera. Eyeglasses should be worn if normally used by the subject. Glare on eyeglasses can usually be avoided with a slight upward or downward tilt of the head. Background should be plain white or off-white. Include headpieces if worn daily for religious purposes; they should not obscure or cast shadows on the eyes or any other part of the face.

Exposure and Lighting

Over-exposure or under-exposure may render the photo unusable. Three-point balanced lighting is strongly recommended. Facial features should be clearly evident in the photo. Lighting should be adjusted to avoid shadows on the face or background. Diffuse sources of light , such as umbrella lights, are preferable to point sources.

Resolution and Printing Quality

High- resolution photography and printing are strongly recommended. Both conventional and digital photography are acceptable, and conventional or digital printing methods may be used. Resulting print should exhibit a continuous-tone quality regardless of the print method used (dye sublimation, ink jet, laser, etc.). Digitally printed photos should be produced without visible pixels or dot patterns. Fine facial features should be discernible. The entire face should be in focus. Jim's Photos has the knowledge and equipment necessary to accomplish this.

Digital Photography and Printing

Digital Photography and Printing

Using digital photography to produce passport and visa photos involves more than just photographing subjects with a digital camera. That is just the first step, the image capture step, of a multi-step process that also includes image display and image printing using computer and printer equipment. Each of these components — can influence either positively or negatively — the final printed photo that will be submitted for the passport or visa. The following recommendations for each of these digital components will ensure high-quality photos.

Digital Camera

Digital cameras are principally characterized by their image resolution or mega-pixel capacities; from low-resolution (less than 4 mega-pixel) to high-resolution (greater than 4 mega-pixel) to advanced high-resolution (6 mega-pixels or more). The camera's resolution is the most critical feature in producing high-quality photographs. For U.S. passport and visa photographs, a digital camera with a resolution of 4 mega-pixel will be adequate for capturing the image and producing the final photo that conforms to the dimensions specified on the web site.

These cameras generally have automatic features for controlling many of the photographic qualities emphasized on the preceding web pages. Care should be taken not to rely totally on these controls since each subject — facial characteristics, clothing, facial movement, etc. — can vary and may not be accommodated for by the automatic settings.

Cameras with a direct electronic camera-to-computer interface are preferable to those requiring the use of an external memory card. Data transfers will occur much faster and allow for verification of a good image being stored in the computer. If a retake is required because the subject blinked or moved, it would be more convenient than taking several shots to be sure of a good one and then downloading them via the memory card.


The computer is the central component in digital photography. It stores and displays the digital images from the digital camera and enables those images to be printed on a variety of digital printers. Because of the huge amount of data contained in high-resolution digital images, the computer should have adequate memory and storage capacities. In addition to these two key elements, the computer should have high-speed interfaces to the camera and printer, as well as a fast CPU to control the image processing functions. The recommended computer configuration for processing digital images is provided below:

CPU Speed: 1.4 GHz
Main Memory: 128 MB RAM
Hard Drive Storage: 20 GB
Interfaces: High-speed interfaces to match your camera and printer, such as Firewire or USB 2.0

Jim's Photos has equipment that far exceeds these requirements.

Display Monitor

Most display monitors today are capable of displaying images in various screen resolutions, all of which are suitable for viewing passport and visa images. These monitors also display images in a wide variety of colors. However, an image can look quite different when viewed on various display monitors, in terms of both screen resolution and image quality. For this reason, it is important to set the monitor's settings to the manufacturer's default values to view the image in the most appropriate manner. For more accurate color-matching, check that the calibration of your monitor is correct. If necessary, use the monitor's control panel to fine-tune its color adjustments; for instance, to set the monitor's color temperature to 6500 ºK to approximate daylight. For even greater color accuracy, the stored image can be converted to and displayed in a device-independent color space by using standard image display software. This removes the color bias of the specific display monitor and will more accurately represent the way the image should actually appear.


If digital printers are used to produce passport and visa photographs in lieu of conventional photographic processes, the photographs produced must be high quality and photo-like in appearance. Certain types of digital printers such as — inkjet and dye sublimation — can be used to produce high-quality passport and visa photos. Inkjet printers deposit multi-colored ink onto photographic print paper. Dye sublimation printers use heat, applied to a multi-colored ribbon or film, to release a dye that is transferred onto photographic print paper. These two types of printers, when used with compatible print paper that produces high resolution, photo-like images, are suitable for printing passport and visa photos. They have multiple printer settings to control the format, print resolution, and print quality of the printed photo. In addition, they come with printer-specific device driver software that converts the stored image pixel data in the computer into the actual printer output to be printed onto the photographic paper. Just as with display monitors, printers have their own unique color profile that should be taken into account before the image is printed. The combination of proper printer settings and photo-quality paper determines whether high-quality photos can be obtained. Jim's Photos does all this for you at a reasonal price.

Avoiding Photo Printing Problems

Using digital photography to produce high-quality passport and visa photos is dependent on the condition and proper use of the digital camera, computer, display monitor, and digital printer. Maintaining the digital printer in good working order however, can be the single most important aspect of producing quality photos. Regardless of how much attention is paid to capturing, storing, and displaying an image, image quality will be poor if printers — including inks and ribbons — are not properly maintained. To ensure that a quality print is obtained, Jim's Photos uses equipment normally found in a photo lab that will be capable of producing higher-quality photos and undergoes the frequent calibration and maintenance necessary for consistent results.

Frequently Asked Questions | Glossary of Terms | Excerpted from travel.state.gov web site.

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Society of Sport & Event PhotographersAll photos on this web site have been reduced for web site viewing. Actual prints are full photographic quality. All are high resolution photos that are suitable for printing and framing which can be ordered by following the instructions above. Large poster prints are available for most images. Any information appearing on the photo (watermarks) will not be present on your prints. Note: Jim's Photos is not affiliated with any team, group, club or organization and receives no compensation from them for his work. Photo orders are appreciated! All photographs and content of website contained herein are the exclusive property of Jim's Photos and may not be used or reproduced in any manner without permission

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