In preparation for our big move back to Oklahoma, we needed to get our son his very first passport!
Rather than taking him into a passport studio, I thought it would be fun to learn how to take a passport photo for a baby with a cell phone. And it was a lot easier than I thought it would be!
Here’s a step-by-step guide to taking a baby passport picture with a smartphone and editing it to get it to be the right size. The best part? Every step of this process is free except for printing it out at the end!
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First, Can I Take a Baby Passport Photo with a Cell Phone?
Yes! For most countries, you can take your own baby passport photos at home! You can actually even take your own passport photos at home, too, but that’s a different topic.
You need to check with your own country’s rules. I will be explaining the process I used to take a US baby passport picture, including the sizing, etc, but I know many countries allow you to take the photos. You just need to check and follow their individual guidelines.
If you have an older smartphone or you’ve broken your camera, ask to borrow a friend’s smartphone. You want to make sure you can take photos that won’t be blurry.
What You Will Need to Take a Passport Photo for a Baby
- A Cell Phone with a Camera that Produces Sharp, High-Resolution Pictures
- A White Background (we will discuss this more later)
- A Clean, Non-Fussy Baby
- A Computer or Laptop
- An editing program like Canva (which is free!)
3 Steps to Taking Perfect Baby Passport Pictures
Here’s the breakdown of how to take the photos. I’ll address editing a passport picture for a baby later in the post.
Step 1. Lay Your Baby on a White Background
You can’t be holding the baby while you take the picture, so it’s easier if you take it while your baby is laying down. The background needs to be white. For this you can lay down a white blanket or sheet on their crib mattress.
If you already have a white crib sheet (like I did) then you don’t even need to do anything special! Just lay your baby in the crib.
There can’t be any patterns or any color on your background, so if your sheets have small patterns or coloring on them, get a plain white sheet from somewhere else in the house.
Try to take your baby passport pictures during a time of day when your nursery is well lit with natural light. Avoid turning on the room’s overhead lights and instead, work with natural light. This will help you avoid having shadows in your picture.
If your crib is set up somewhere that doesn’t get bright natural light, then move your crib mattress to a different part of the house or apartment that has better lighting. That’s what I did for our birth announcement photos.
The crib wasn’t big enough for the shot that I wanted, so I moved the mattress underneath the window during the morning and got some great natural light for our birth announcement photo:
Mornings are the best time of day usually, but this can depend on how the light comes into your home. You need the photo to be lit well because you are not supposed to manipulate the color digitally, so if your photo starts out dark you won’t be able to use it.
Position the baby with their head toward the light source and their feet away from it. This will reduce unnatural shadows.
Step 2. Get Your Cell Phone Ready
You will be taking a lot of photos. The trick to getting the right picture is patience. Make sure your cell phone has enough charge and enough space to be able to handle over a hundred snapshots.
Of course, you will delete most of them (unless you’re a baby photo hoarder like me). But there’s nothing worse than seeing your baby in perfect passport position and not getting the photo because you ran out of storage or your battery died.
If you want the best luck, shoot in continuous mode. However, this will probably end up being close to 500 shots and tons of memory, so make sure you have the room before you start.
Step 3. Start Taking Passport Photos of Your Baby!
I know it seems intimidating to get started, but it’s something that’s easier to figure out as you go. As long as your background and lighting are right, the rest of the work is just to take as many photos as you need to get it right.
There are guidelines for what your baby passport photo should look like and what it shouldn’t. Keep these guidelines in mind as you take your pictures. I’m following the US guidelines, but your country might have other rules you need to follow so check with your country’s rules.
10 Baby Passport Photo Guidelines
Your photo should have a plain white background.
Your baby is laying down. If your baby can sit on his or her own, then you can do a photo while they’re sitting. This honestly seems way harder.
Your baby must have their mouth mostly closed. Partially open lips are generally okay, but you shouldn’t be able to see a real gap or see their tongue.
Your baby’s expression should be as neutral as possible. No big wide smiles, cries, or side-eye. Try to get a photo with as little expression as possible, but there’s some leniency on a generic smile that keeps the mouth mostly closed. Babies don’t really know how to smile with their mouths closed, so neutral is better than smiling. General baby wonderment is probably the way to go.
Your baby’s eyes need to be opened. They give some wiggle room, especially for young babies, but make sure you can see both pupils. The pupils should be true to color (i.e. no red-eye). Since you’ll be using natural light and no flash, this won’t be a problem.
No objects can be in the photo. No pacifiers or other people can be in the photo. If you are taking the photo in a crib, make sure no part of the crib is in the picture.
Your baby needs to be facing forward with both ears visible. No side-eye or looking up to the left or right. If you can’t get your baby to look at the camera, try using a toy to get their attention.
Your baby’s head shouldn’t be obscured. No hats, hoodies, or collars that get in the way of their head. Make sure your baby doesn’t start sucking a thumb or puke in the photo. (Seriously, the last one happened more than once). Their arms and hands can be in the picture as long as they aren’t blocking any part of their face or head.
The final photo will be 2in x 2in for a US passport photo. Make sure you have enough space around your baby’s head that you can crop it to a two-by-two square.
No obvious shadows should be in the photo. Make sure you position your cell phone above your baby’s head in a way that it doesn’t cast a shadow in your photo. This is another reason that you should use natural light from a window with your baby’s head facing towards the window. With no overhead light, you won’t case a shadow onto your baby.
Tips for Taking a Good Passport Picture for a Baby
First, don’t wait until the last minute! It’s possible you will need to do a couple of sessions to get a good picture. I had to do two. If I only had one chance to get a good picture, that would have made the process very frustrating!
Second, if your baby starts getting fussy, stop! Do another session later when they’re happy again!
Third, it’s a good idea to do a photo session after they’re fed and have had a diaper change so you have some time to work with.
Fourth, your photo needs to be clear and not blurry, so do not use an artificial portrait mode that comes on Samsung and iPhones. Instead, snap as many pics as you can. This is a spray and pray situation.
Finally, try to get at least six pictures that follow all the guidelines. You’ll find out some of them don’t work once you’re in the editing process, and you don’t want to have to start over!
How to Edit Your Baby Passport Photo at Home for Free
I do a lot of online editing, both for photography for my websites and for creating pins for articles. This means I already had the perfect editing software ready to use.
While I have a paid Canva subscription, everything you need to do to get your photos sized and ready to print you can do with their free account!
Step 1. Move Your Photos to Your Computer
I use Dropbox for this, but you could just email or Airdrop the best photos to yourself.
If you do not have a computer, I’m sure there is a way to do this on your phone using the Canva app. However, I didn’t and I’m not 100% sure the steps. You will need to play around with it.
Step 2. Create a Custom Design
Once you have a Canva account, create a custom design. The size you pick depends on how you will be getting your photos printed.
Option 1: Get your photos printed online or at a typical photo printing place like Walmart. They likely won’t print a 2×2 print, so you will need to make a 6×4 design.
Option 2: If your photo printer of choice prints a 2×2, or if you plan on printing at home, then make a custom 2×2.
Step 3. Make a Head Sizer
Your baby’s head needs to be a certain size in the photo. To make sure your edit the photos so the head is the correct size, we’re going to make a sizer.
Your baby’s head should be between 1 in and 1 and 3/8 inches high. It should also sit about where the head outline in the application is.
Open your passport application to the page with the photo attachment guidelines. They should look something like this:
Take a screen shot of just the photo outline:
Upload this sizer to Canva so you can use it in your project.
Step 4. Upload Your Baby Photos
Upload the acceptable baby photos into Canva. Don’t bother uploading the outtakes and any that you know doesn’t meet the guidelines. Hopefully you have about six that work.
Step 5. Start Editing Your Baby Passport Photo!
If you are creating in a 6×4 template, drag your sizer in so that it fits in the space six times. It’s important that these be exactly 2×2 inches and fit in six times perfectly. Your design should look like this:
If you are working in a 2×2 square, then drag it over once, like this:
Next, drag your first baby photo on top of the sizer. Do not replace the sizer, just add it on top of it.
Reduce the transparency of the top photo so you can see the sizer underneath:
Adjust the size of your baby photo until the head is sized correctly and the baby photo completely fills the space:
Once your photo is the right size, change the transparency back to 100 so that your passport is visible and the sizer is completely obscured.
If you are working in a 2×2 grid, download the design. I would make a few different photo options with the ones you have that are good. You can make a copy of your original design and then delete the photo. The sizer will be underneath, and you can repeat the process so you have a few options.
If you are working with a 6×4 grid, then you can either copy your first photo so that it fills all six squares, or you can repeat the process on new photos in the other squares. It depends on how confident you are that your first picture meets every guideline.
Step 6. Get Your Photo Printed!
If you are getting a 6×4 print, get a few copies in case you make an error when you cut the photos apart. If you are going somewhere that regularly handles passport photos, they may do you a solid and cut the photos for you.
Tips for Getting a Baby Passport Abroad
If you are an American and youhave your baby overseas, you will need to go to the US Embassy to get a CRBA (Counselor Report of Birth Abroad) and a passport. You can get these at the same time.
I would bring in several photo options if you will be doing this in person. You don’t want to have to come back.
Contact your embassy a few days or weeks after the baby is born so you can start the process of getting the documentation you need for the forms.
Our appointment for the CRBA and passport took seventy-five minutes. However, it will be at least a month before we have the passport in our hands. Do not wait until you have travel plans to get the documents you need!
You can use the checklist for your CRBA and passport appointment to start preparing the documents. Here is the Bulgaria version, but it will give you an idea of what you will need. Your local US embassy will go over your paperwork before you come in so that everything is in order.