How to avoid rejected passport photos

Tips and considerations for avoiding a disqualification of a passport or visa application due to improperly taken and printed photographs

The root cause of increase in rejection of passport and visa applications

Since 2003, our professional legal document photo studio has witnessed countless number of visa and passport applicants whose applications were rejected due to improperly taken and formatted photographs. These rejected photos were acquired at various places that do not specialize in legal passport and visa photography and yet are attempting to monetize on unsuspecting consumers who simply need their passport and visa pictures taken for travel and immigration documents.


Ever since the digital photography became less costly to obtain and operate, various self-proprietors and organizations have jumped into the legal photography field to provide services that are monetary beneficial, do not necessitate a license or special education to operate and require a minimum investment to initiate. As a result, the consumer market became over-saturated with places that offer passport and visa photo services but significantly underqualified to deliver the service properly. These places take no responsibility for doing more harm than good to people they serve.

At Passport Photo Place, we believe that consumer education remains a vital link to improving the outcome for those who apply for National and International passports and visas.

Following our experience and the feedback given to us by those people who were a subject to a faulty passport or visa photo service, we have compiled the most common mistakes that unprofessional photo services make that result in rejection of legal documents.

Guidelines that help to avoid rejected passport and visa applications

Subject Appearance

Subject position and orientation. Most of the passport and visa photos require the subject facing directly into the camera. Make sure your shoulders are in parallel to the camera lens perspective.

Facial expression. 99% of the consulates worldwide are very strict about the facial expressions. When taking a photograph, a person in front of the camera should remain calm and appear with a neutral facial expression. Note that United States government has been more forgiving for US Passport Photo Service and has allowed to smile in passport photographs, but only if the smiles are natural and do not allow for the teeth to show. However, if you need your application approved, we recommend taking passport pictures with neutral facial expression.

Clothing & Accessories. It is imperatively important that the clothing used in visa and passport photos does not interfere with subject appearance:

  • The neck of the subject should be visible
  • The shirt/top cannot blend with the color of the background
  • The shirt/top cannot have an emblem, does not represent a uniform or resembles one. There should be no writing or specific patterns that signify a recognizable subject, brand or form a some sort of a statement.
  • The shoulders should be relaxed in a natural position with hands being outside the frame.
  • Wearing jewelry should be avoided, especially if it obscures facial features or blocks any part of ears.
  • Only prescription glasses are allowed. Glasses must not be tinted, do not produce a glare and do not obstruct the view of eyes.
  • Head covering is not acceptable unless it’s worn for religious purposes on a daily basis
  • Wigs are only acceptable if worn on a daily basis and do not drastically alter the subject appearance.
  • Hair style should not interfere with eye brows appearance and should reveal at least 30% of the forehead.
  • Electronic devices such as headphones and phone headsets are not permitted to appear in photos.

Photo Acquisition Equipment

Each Country and associated Consulate and Embassy has a specific set of rules for production of qualified passport and visa photographs.

As more unprofessional visa and photo services get established, the National and International Consulates and Embassies make a strong emphasis that photos produced by non-professional photographers are subject to rejection and application disqualification.

It is therefore important that the places that offer professional passport and visa photography adhere to specific requirements as set by government officials that accept and process the immigration and travel documents.

Some of the most common requirements for taking and printing the photo documents are:

The photographs must be taken with a professional photo and lighting equipment that allows for acquiring

  • High resolution photos with at least 300dpi and no visible digital noise
  • High dynamic range photos that clearly show facial features and do not make eye, nose and under-chin shadows pronounced.
  • Accurately rendered color that does not alter the appearance of the skin and eye color. It is important that the color of the eyes is not altered in the process of image acquisition.
  • The lighting should be well diffused to produce an equally lit background and the subject. Appearance of shadows is not allowed.
  • The distance between the subject and the background must be sufficient to avoid shadows.
  • The hair light can be used as long as it does not produce an overexposure of hair, face or clothing and does not cast chin shadows.

Photo Processing Guidelines

Before photographs are printed, they can go through a processing stage to ensure that the following guidelines are met:

  • The photo must be properly exposed. If a slight 0-2 stops underexposure occurs, it can be compensated by adjustment in photo editing software. If the underexposure is greater than 2 f-stops or image processing introduces digital noise, the picture must be re-taken.
  • The white balance precision must fall within 15% of reference gray color. Any photo tinting is not accepted. The colors must appear natural and not over-saturated.
  • Photo editing is not allowed. If editing is performed and any subject features are altered, this is considered a violation of applicable laws.

Photo Printing Requirements

High quality and durability of passport and visa photographs is a critical step in production of a valid legal document photographs.

  • Printed photographs must adhere to precise dimensions with printing resolution of at least 300dpi. Higher resolution is acceptable but not required, nor beneficial.
  • Printing photo paper must be non-glossy or slightly glossy.
  • Inkjet or any other type of photo printing method that produces photographs susceptible to color bleeding or smudging are not accepted.
  • Laser printing is not accepted due to low color latitude range and pattern formation
  • Professional dye sublimation printers are accepted.

Although not extensive, the above information should bring a positive contribution towards the resolution of the most common passport and visa application processing issues that are directly related to production of visa and passport photographs.

To schedule an appointment for professional visa and passport photo services email or call our Orlando, FL Orange County photo studio at Currently CLOSED