So, you’re thinking of applying for a new passport but the thought of taking time out from your busy schedule just to take a measly picture for your passport is just too daunting. And on top of that, you have to pay good money for that picture.
Besides, who wants to spend a lot of time outside in crowded spaces these days anyway.
Fortunately, you can avoid all that hassle by taking your own photos and printing them from your smartphone. Not only is this time-saving and convenient, but it could also save you some money, too.
An added bonus is that you can retake your shots as many times as you want until you are satisfied with what you’ve got. No more terrible passport photos. Yay!
In this article, we’ll discuss a few points. First, how to take passport photos with your phone and what you’ll need to do so. Second, editing the photos. And third, how to print passport photos at home from your smartphone.
We will also look at some apps and websites that can help you with the process of capturing passport photos with your phone and printing them.
Note that taking passport photos of babies and infants has slightly different requirements. For a complete guide on how to take passport photos of babies with a phone, click here.
Let’s start with the best way to take passport photos with your mobile camera.
PART 1: Taking The Photo
This is the most important part of it all. If you get this wrong, chances are your passport photos will get rejected. So it is absolutely important that you understand this and do it right to avoid frustrations.
To take a passport photo from home with your phone, you need the right equipment. Firstly, you’ll need a smartphone, obviously. You may also need to use a camera support system such as a tripod, particularly is you’re taking the picture yourself.
You will also need to have proper lighting and adequate exposure so that your photo does not look too dark or too bright. You need to be mindful of your background, too.
Let’s break this all down.
This goes without saying: you need to have a phone that has a good camera that can take great photos. By this, I mean pictures that are bright, sharp, and properly reproduce detail in the image.
If your phone has a bad camera that produces blurry and dark photos full of digital noise, then your photos will definitely not be accepted.
How photos turn out relies heavily on the specifications of your smartphone’s camera.
If you have a phone that has a super tiny sensor, a very low number of megapixels, and poor optics among other things, then the quality of your pictures will be poor. This is usually the case with very cheap entry-level camera phones.
Get adequate lighting
If your photo is not properly lit, it will certainly not be accepted. The best lighting to use is natural lighting. So if you’re taking passport pictures from home, find an area that has enough lighting to illuminate your face evenly.
For example, you might want to position yourself in near a window, door, or any other opening that lets in soft, natural light.
I mention soft lighting specifically because harsh lighting (directly from the sun or a very strong light) can cast strong shadows, and that’s a big no-no.
Available artificial lighting such as bright house lights can also work just as well to illuminate your photo.
Alternatively, you can use lights designed specifically for use with smartphone cameras such as continuous LED lights or wireless external flash units for smartphones (e.g., the C1 Smartphone Studio Light from Profoto).
No matter what type of lighting you use, you need to avoid shadows in your shot. I cannot stress this enough.
If you see shadows in the picture, adjust your positioning or that of the light (if you’re using one that can be moved) until you’re satisfied that there are no shadows in the shots.
Half-lit faces are NOT allowed and absolutely no shadows should fall on the background.
Whatever you do, don’t, and I repeat, DO NOT use the flash on your camera. The lighting is unflattering, casts shadows, causes red eyes, reflects off glasses, and a lot of other issues that will result in your passport photo being rejected.
Even when you’re not taking passport photos, you need to avoid using flash on your smartphone. To learn more about smartphone camera flash, click here.
Positioning and framing
As already mentioned, you need to pay attention to how you’re positioned because it may affect the lighting and shadows.
To avoid shadows falling onto the background, make sure that you’re standing at least half-a-metre to a metre from the background. This way, whatever shadow is cast on the background, it’ll be cast out of shot.
The closer you stand against a wall or background, the more likely you are to have a shadow cast against the wall as a result of frontal lighting. The further away you step from the background, the less likely you are to have the shadow problem.
Exactly how you frame the shot will depend on what you’ll be doing with the photo. If you’re taking a photo to submit for an online application, find out the requirements of where you’re submitting to first. Typically, you’re required to submit a headshot from below the shoulders up.
If you’re using an online passport/visa service to process your application (without printing), some websites may tell you to capture more of the image so that they can crop it to the correct dimensions themselves.
But that doesn’t mean take a full-length photo. The best practice is to take a photo from the torso up and leave enough space around the head and around the shoulders.
This works especially for people who are not too sure of what they’re doing because they don’t have to worry about getting the dimensions of the photo right themselves.
Check your settings (exposure & focus)
I’m a huge fan of taking pictures in Manual mode because of the amount of control and creativity it allows me. But in this case, however, shooting in Auto should be more than adequate. No need for fancy camera work.
That said, you need to make sure that your shot is well exposed, especially around the face. Underexposed and overexposed shots will definitely get rejected.
To adjust exposure, you can increase or decrease your camera’s ISO, or change your camera’s exposure value (EV). The location of these settings differs from app to app, so you might have to look around a bit if you’re unfamiliar with them.
If you have sufficient lighting and you’re shooting on Auto, then this shouldn’t be much of a hassle.
Stability is super important when taking passport or ID pictures at home with your phone because anything blurry will not do.
If you’re taking a passport photo of someone and you’re struggling to keep the phone camera steady, try resting your arms or the phone on a surface that can help keep it steady.
My best advice is to invest in a camera support system such as a tripod. It may seem like much to go out and buy a tripod for your phone just so you can take a picture for your passport, but trust me, a good tripod is a real game-changer for your smartphone and mobile photography in general.
What’s especially great about using a tripod is that it allows you to easily take pictures of yourself if there’s nobody available to do it for you.
Remember, selfies are not allowed. So, if you’re taking your own passport photo with your phone, a tripod is pretty much a must. You may have to set a timer on your camera for this to work well.
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Even if you're not taking passport photos, you can still use this tripod to improve the picture quality of your video calls and personal photos.
The right background
You must have a plain background behind whoever you’re taking a picture of. Colours like white, cream white or a very light grey are generally acceptable.
What is not acceptable are backgrounds with patterns, tiles, or any other objects in the frame.
Remember to keep the background free of shadows, as well. The best way to do this is to make sure you, or whoever you’re taking a picture of, are standing some distance away from the background.
PART 2: Editing The Photo
Passport and visa photos are nothing like photos taken for social media and, therefore, require no editing at all.
Besides very slight adjustments to the brightness and contrast, there shouldn’t be any digital manipulation of the image.
However, if you’re going to print your photos from home, one thing you may have to do is crop the photo to the required size. Therefore, it’s important to know the dimensions that are required for the particular photo you’re taking.
Different governments have different specifications of what size a passport photo should be.
Again, make sure you know the size required for where you’re applying. You don’t want your photo to be rejected just because you used the incorrect dimensions.
Ways to crop your photo to the correct size
There are several ways to crop your photo to the required dimensions. A DIY route is to use photo editing software such as Photoshop or Gimp.
If you’ve never used any of these programs, then you might find it a bit challenging to crop your image using them.
An alternative is to use an app. Passport ID Photo Maker Studio is an example of one such app. Some really good apps like Passport Photo come with many templates for different countries. This allows you to meet the specifications of a lot of popular countries.
Once you have resized your photo, you can download it from the app and print it yourself. Some apps don’t allow you to print the photo yourself. Instead, you have to print through an approved vendor or print shop. So make sure you are aware of the app you choose to use does and doesn’t allow you to do.
I personally think using a decent, dedicated passport photo app is the best option, especially if you’re not sure what to do. The templates can help you get the shot right, and the process is pretty quick and easy.
Similar to how the apps operate, there are websites that allow you to upload your photo to them so that you can crop the photo using their templates.
Some websites provide the service at a very basic level for free (only cropping), while others provide a full service that includes printing and delivery/collection at a small cost, depending on where you live.
Some governments that have electronic applications for passports and visas allow you to upload your photo to their website where you can also crop your photo according to their specifications.
If you wish to go the website route to crop your photos, make sure you read and understand what type of photos that service requires.
PART 3: Printing The Photo
The next step after taking the photo and cropping it down to the correct size is to get it printed. There are several ways you can do that.
As previously mentioned, there are websites that allow you to upload your passport pictures, and after cropping them, print them for you at a cost.
Depending on where you live and the company providing the service, your printed photos could be delivered to you. In most cases, you’ll need to go collect the printed photos from an approved print store or vendor.
If the government you’re applying to accepts online applications for passports, chances are you can upload your photos online. In that case, there will be no printing needed. That’s quite a nice saving.
Print from home
To print your passport photos from home, you need to have the right tools. You need to have a decent photo printer and good quality photo paper.
If you already have a photo printer, then you are good to go. Otherwise, you may need to invest in one. There is a wide variety of photo printers available for you to print from. And best of all, they’re not all expensive.
What’s really nice about these printers is that they’re not just for printing photos. You can print on normal paper, scan documents and also make copies.
So even if you’re not constantly printing passport photos, you can always use the printer to print other photos or documents.
Some home photo printers have Wi-Fi and apps that allow you to connect to them directly from your phone. Depending on the printer and manufacturer, some printer apps even have a passport/ID photo template readily available.
Print from a store
If you live in an area that has a print shop nearby, you can opt to have your photos printed there. This is similar to how it works with online submissions that need to be collected.
The only difference is you will do the cropping yourself at home using whatever photo editing software or app you have. Some print shops may crop your photos for you. Be sure to enquire from them first.
The process would be to go to the print shop with your photos on your phone. Once there, you transfer your photo to them whichever way is convenient and they will print it for you.
Can you convert mobile photos into passport size?
Yes, you can. Any decent size photo with a high resolution can be converted into a passport size photo by either cropping it to the correct dimensions using a photo editing app or software, a passport photo app, or uploading it to a passport photo website.
However, you need to remember that not every photo you convert will be acceptable as a passport photo.
Whatever picture you want to convert to a passport photo needs to adhere to the guidelines mentioned in this article in terms of lighting, background, and other things that could get your photo rejected.
Below are some do's and don'ts that you need to look out for when taking a passport photo from home or when converting an already existing photo to use for your passport.
The Do’s and Don’ts
- No selfies
- Do not use a webcam
- Avoid headwear unless religious or medical
- Do not use digital zoom on your phone camera
- No eyewear is allowed except eyeglasses (some governments don’t allow even eyeglasses. Be sure to confirm first)
- No glare or tint on eyeglasses
- Look straight ahead
- Facial features should be clearly visible
- Look like your everyday self (minimal makeup)
- Neutral facial expression (no smile)
- Use a plain background
- Must be in colour
- Must be as recent as 6months
Taking passport and visa photos with your smartphone isn’t much of a hassle at all once you know what to do. In fact, it can save you some money and travel time to the print store, depending on how you do it.
What’s more, you can pretty much use the same tips and techniques in this article to take ID photos, licence photos, and more. You’ll just have to adjust the dimensions to match the requirements of the photo you’re taking.
But printing your mobile photos should not end with just your passport photos. You can print some of your favourite smartphone photos to display in your home or gift to family and friends.
You can have them printed on anything from stickers and greeting cards to items such as t-shirts, mugs, and the likes.
They’ve been around since 2014 and offer top-quality products at unbeatable prices. Definitely worth checking out.
Don’t think your photos are at the point where you’d want to have them printed and displayed? Don’t worry, you can get there, too. All you need to do is learn and practice.
To help you along, I’ve put together a simple introductory guide that will teach you how to take beautiful mobile photos that could be good enough for you to even sell online and make some extra cash.
If you want to learn about how to improve your smartphone photography, download the 5 Ways To Improve Your Smartphone Photography ebook by clicking on the banner above or by clicking here. There’s a lot to learn in its 22 pages of content and it’s ABSOLUTELY FREE!!!
Otherwise, for some quick tips on how to capture great photos with your phone, check out these 15 Tips on How To Take Amazing Photos With Your Phone.