How to Create a Passport Picture With a Webcam

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If your photos are not correctly formatted when you apply, your passport application will be denied.
If your photos are not correctly formatted when you apply, your passport application will be denied. (Image: us passports image by Albert Lozano from Fotolia.com)

The U.S. Department of State has strict requirements regarding the quality, conditions and cropping of passport photos. The photos must by two-inches square, with a certain amount of distance between the chin and the top of the head and the eyes and the bottom of the frame. (See Reference 1) At Fedex Kinkos, UPS, Walmart and other stores which offer passport photos, just two photos can cost you $10-$15. With a webcam, it is easy to replicate these photos at home and have them printed quickly and inexpensively at a normal photo printing rate.

Things You'll Need

  • Computer
  • Webcam (built-in or external)

Find a white or off-white wall, door or screen that you can stand in front of. Turn on as many white lights as possible. Position lamps in front and on the sides of your photo space if the overhead light is not bright enough.

Ask the photo subject to sit one foot from the white wall. Place the webcam on a stool or table four feet away, facing the subject. (See Reference 2) Open a webcam photo program, such as Photobooth. Check the computer screen to make sure you are capturing the subject's shoulders and leaving blank space above the head. Snap the photo and save it as a JPEG image file, the file type used for photo printing.

Open the file in an image editing software, such as Windows Picture and Fax Viewer on a PC or Preview on a Macintosh. Open the image adjustment tools. Slide the exposure control bar slowly until the background of the photo is plain white and the face is clearly illuminated. Play with the color balance controls to achieve the most natural-looking colors.

Use the selection tool to create a square selection on your photograph. Change the size of the square until the top eight of the photo shows only plain background over the top of the head and the shoulders fill the bottom quarter of the frame. Move the square up and down until the face is centered in the square.

Format your photos to print a sheet of two-inch by two-inch photos. Check your photo software's settings to see if you can print a sheet of photos in this size. Otherwise, lay them out in a layout program, such as Adobe InDesign, Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft Powerpoint, with six photos on a 4-inch by 6-inch rectangle or use an online service, such as ePassportPhotos, to generate a correctly sized sheet for you.

Print your photo file with an inkjet printer on photo-quality paper. Submit the file to a photo printing service with local pick-ups if you do not have an inkjet printer or photo paper.

Tips & Warnings

  • Many online photo services, such as Snapfish, offer the option for you to print your photos at a local drug store and pick them up within a few hours.
  • It is fine to have glare on the cheeks and forehead. Do not attempt to dial down the exposure to hide glare; it is more important to be able to see the facial details clearly. (See Reference 3)
  • Photos can be rejected if there are shadows on the subject's face or the background wall. (See Reference 1)

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