Can I Use Photo Booth for Taking Passport Pictures?

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Use Photo Booth to take passport photographs on your smartphone.
Use Photo Booth to take passport photographs on your smartphone. (Image: Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Photo Booth is an app capable of handling and manipulating digital photographs on a smartphone or other compatible electronic device. While the U.S. State Department permits you to take your own digital passport photographs, staffers can only accept them if the images comply with the agency's strict criteria. This means that, while the State Department recommends using a professional photographer, it remains possible to use Photo Booth for your photos, assuming that you set up the photo correctly and that the camera you use is capable of capturing images of sufficiently high quality.

Technical Requirements

Before starting, check that your camera is capable of creating images that meet the State Department’s technical requirements. The final image must measure between 600 and 1,200 pixels and be in a square aspect ratio. If you are submitting a digital image, the image should be no more than 240kb in file size. It must also be in 24 bits-per-pixel color, in the sRGB color space and should be a JPEG file. In addition, your smartphone or other device must be capable of printing the image in color on photo-quality paper. If you can’t meet these criteria, don’t create your own passport photograph in Photo Booth because the State Department won’t accept it.

Set Up

Set up the camera around 4 feet from the person being photographed, making sure that you allow some space above the head and that the upper body is visible. The photo shouldn’t show shadows, so consider pointing two lights at the person -- one left, one right -- to eliminate these. Choose a plain, unpatterned and predominantly white or off-white background for the person to pose against.

Subject

Wear normal, everyday clothing for the photo -- it’s not permissible to wear a uniform. Likewise, avoid wearing a hat, headphones, dark glasses or anything that covers your head or hairline. The only exception to this rule is for headdresses worn for religious reasons. Make sure you show your full face to the camera when taking the photo, and look directly at the lens, keeping your face in a neutral expression.

Manipulation

The State Department permits an absolute minimum level of manipulation of the resulting digital photo. You are permitted to crop the photo to ensure it falls within the accepted measurements and that your head is shown in the correct central position. You can also compress the image, although you can’t use a compression ratio larger than 20:1. What you can’t do is use Photo Booth, or any other photo-related app or program, to visually alter or enhance your appearance in the passport photo.

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