Passport Photo Examples: The Ultimate Picture Guide and Explanations

Find out if your passport pic complies with official regulations with these example passport photos.

Passport photograph requirements can be a bit confusing:

What exactly is a neutral pose?

Are Santa beards allowed?

With non-compliant passport photos resulting in denied applications, it’s understandable to feel a  little nervous and question whether your snap follows all the regulations mandated by the US State Department. 

Never fear! Here at PhotoAiD®, we’ve created the ultimate picture guide to passport photo examples—complete with straightforward explanations.

Feel free to read from start to finish, or jump to a specific section:

Already have a digital photo and want to check its compliance? Upload it and have it checked immediately. Or download our app (Passport Photo Maker App for Android / Passport Photo Booth App for iOS), take a new photo and get instant compliance confirmation—all backed by our bulletproof guarantee.

A photo taken with PhotoAiD’s mobile phone app and turned into a valid passport photograph in 3 seconds.

Check out these related articles about US passport photos:

Before jumping into specific photo examples, let’s get familiarized with US passport photo requirements.

Measurements2×2” (51×51 mm) with square aspect ratio. Head between 1-1 3/8 inches (25–35 mm) from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head
Face & smileNeutral facial expression or natural smile with both eyes open and mouth closed. Full face must be visible without shadows or coverings
Hair & accessoriesNo glasses, hats, or head covering unless part of recognized, traditional religious attire or used daily for medical purposes, and a signed statement is provided. Hair cannot cover or cast a shadow over the face
Facial hairNo specific requirements mentioned
Dress codeNo uniforms, clothing that looks like a uniform, or camouflage attire
PostureFace the camera directly with both eyes open
ShadowsNo shadows present in the background or on the face


An example of a passport photo with acceptable measurements.

A passport photo example with the correct dimensions, head size, and aspect ratio.

Bad measurements

Two examples of passport photos with unacceptable measurements.

Passport picture examples with incorrect head size (1) and one with incorrect photo size (2).


The only acceptable dimensions for US passport photos are 2 inches by 2 inches (51×51 mm). There is no way of bypassing this rule.

Additionally, passport pictures used for US travel documents must have a square aspect ratio, and feature the subject’s head measuring between 1”–1 ⅜” (25–35 mm) in size. 

Face & smile

Three examples of passport photos with compliant expressions

Acceptable passport photos showing close-mouthed smiles (1) & (2) and visible birthmarks with a neutral facial expression (3).

Examples of non-compliant face & smile photos

Two examples of passport photos with non-compliant expressions.

Non-compliant US passport photo examples where the subject is posing with their eyes closed (1) and one with an exaggerated open-mouth smile (2). 

Face & smile—explained

The applicant’s face (and head in general) is the most important part of a US passport photo. As such, the face must be fully visible, and cannot be covered by hair, headwear, or any other accessories. Natural facial features, like freckles or birthmarks, must also be visible in the photo and cannot be covered with heavy makeup.

Regarding makeup, it must be as natural and light as possible since US passport photos must represent an individual’s natural colors and skin features.

Additionally, applicants must look directly into the camera with their eyes open. They should also avoid wide, open-mouthed, or “toothy” smiles and opt for natural or neutral expressions instead (i.e., pretend to be slightly bored). Important! When smiling for passport photos, the smile cannot distort the facial features in any way.

Hair & accessories

Three examples of passport photos with hair that complies with official regulations.

Examples of good passport photos where the subject’s hair & accessories follow all mandatory guidelines (i.e., no visible hair accessories (1), no biometric features obscured by hair (2), nor any bangs over the eyebrows (3)).

Unacceptable hair & accessories

Two examples of passport photos with hair that doesn’t comply with official regulations.

Examples of passport photos that will be rejected due to hair being out of the frame and obscuring part of the face (1) and another with visible hair accessories (2). 

Hair & accessories—explained

Technically, there are no comprehensive rules regarding an applicant’s hairstyle. Feel free to wear your hair up or down as long as your face remains fully visible in the photo and your hair does not spill out of the frame.  

Additionally, applicants must be careful with their choice of hair accessories—a simple black hairpin is fine, especially for adjusting your bangs. However, a floral headband or colorful hair tie will result in a rejected passport photo. 

Facial hair

Examples of compliant passport photos where the subjects have different styles of facial hair.

3 compliant passport photo examples featuring subjects with various styles of facial hair. All types of facial hair are acceptable so long as they don’t cast a shadow on the face.

Unacceptable facial hair

An example of a passport photo with a mustache casting a shadow on the face.

A non-compliant facial hair passport photo example (due to the elaborate mustache casting a shadow on the subject’s face).

Facial hair—explained

Since facial hair is not considered a biometric feature, applicants are free to have goatees, Santa beards, mustaches, or any type of fuzz in their passport photo.

Nevertheless, elaborate mustaches that cast a shadow over the subject’s face (e.g., “the Dali”) should be avoided as they invalidate the photo, thereby prolonging the passport application process. 

Dress code

Examples of passport photos complying with dress code regulations.

US passport photo examples of acceptable attire: Everyday clothes (1), earrings that do not obscure the face or reflect substantial amounts of light (2), and religious clothing including headwear so long as adequate documentation is provided (3).

Non-compliant attire

Examples of passport photos not complying with dress code regulations.

Rejected passport photo examples due to glasses present in the photo (1) and religious head covering obscuring the face (2). 

Dress code—explained

It is probably one of the most common questions: “What should I wear for a passport photo?” A suit, an elegant dress? Would a T-shirt be okay? Let’s clarify what clothes are acceptable for US passport photos.

Dressing casually is recommended—anything from a jacket to a sweater, as long as it does not obscure your face or neck in any way.

The best option applicants can go for is to wear everyday clothes so long as they are not uniforms, uniform-like in appearance, or contain any type of camouflage.

When it comes to acceptable accessories, the situation is a bit more strict.

Any accessories that cover the face must be avoided—this includes large earrings, thick necklaces, or any of the previously-mentioned hair accessories. 

All headwear (i.e., caps, hats, or any other head coverings), is not allowed in US passport photos.

However, hijabs, yarmulkes, or other religious or medical head garments are excluded from this regulation if signed documentation is provided. Even so, any permitted headwear cannot obscure or cast a shadow over the subject’s face. 

What about glasses?

Technically, the US Department of State does not allow applicants to wear glasses for their passport photos. Even so, a signed doctor’s note will allow you to bypass this rule and keep your glasses on for your photo—just make sure there is no glare present in the final photograph.


Examples of passport photos showing the subject with correct posture.

Passport photo examples of compliant poses (i.e., subjects directly facing the camera with their eyes open while maintaining a neutral facial expression). 

Unacceptable poses

Examples of passport photos showing incorrect posture.

Faulty passport photo examples due to the subject’s head position—looking down with head tilted forward (1) and one where the applicant poses with his head rotated and shoulders not square to the camera (2). 


How to pose for a passport photo?

Applicants should always face the camera directly. A slightly rotated body or head is unacceptable for US passport photos. Both eyes must be open, and the mouth should be closed. The applicant’s head and top of the shoulders must be visible.

US citizens posing for passport photos can sit or stand straight with their arms relaxed and their facial expressions as neutral as possible.

Pro tip: Taking your passport photo at home is stress-free and allows you to get a more natural-looking picture (which is ideal for US passport photos).


A passport photo example with no shadows present—this is correct.

A correctly exposed passport picture example with no shadows present in the background or on the subject. 

Unacceptable shadows

2 passport photo examples with visible shadows—this is incorrect.

Two inadmissible passport photo examples showing distinct shadows in the background (1) and on the face and neck (2). 


US passport photos must be properly exposed with the subject’s skin tones reproduced as accurately as possible.

As such, shadows are strictly forbidden in passport photos. This ban extends to background shadows or any other shadows on the applicant’s face or neck caused by poor lighting, hair, headwear, glasses, or any other non-permitted accessories.

US passport photo examples—summary

If you’re wondering, “How strict are passport photo rules, and do I really need to follow all of them?”

The answer is, “Very strict” and “Yes, you must follow all guidelines as closely as possible.”

That’s because passport photos have various aspects to consider, such as technical requirements, dress code, and pose. Deviating from the passport photo examples, even slightly, will result in your photo being rejected and may cause a costly delay in your passport application.

Luckily, PhotoAiD® takes all the guesswork out of meeting the stringent requirements for passport photos mandated by the US Department of State. Simply snap or upload a digital image to the application, and we’ll make sure it passes with flying colors—no need to compare it against the examples. 😉

A photo uploaded to PhotoAiD’s web app via an internet browser on a laptop and turned into a valid passport photograph in 3 seconds.

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