Passport Photo Shadows: U.S. Regulations Explained

Passport Photo Shadows: U.S. Regulations Explained
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If you have ever tried to take a passport photo yourself, you may have experienced one particular imperfection coming back like a boomerang—shadows. 

Perhaps you are in a different situation and have a set of neatly taken professional headshots, but shadows are visible on your face or in the background.

Shadows are a natural part of each photo and are pretty challenging to get rid of without the help of professional photo lamps. 

But are shadows acceptable in passport photos? 

See what the U.S. Department of State says about that matter, and follow our tips to avoid shadows in your new passport pictures. 

Shadows in passport photos—does the U.S. government allow them?

Let me answer that question right away—no, shadows are not accepted in U.S. passport photos. Truth be told, most national governments forbid any shadows in official document photos. 

Passports have one primary function—to be an identification document. For this reason, your photographs should be free from any imperfections that could make your identification more challenging, for example, by covering your facial features. And shadows, although they occur naturally in the world, are considered such imperfections. 

The no-shadow rule applies both to your face and the background. If you wear any accessories, make sure they do not cast any shadows—especially if it’s glasses. Your picture’s background should be free from shadows as well. If you fail to comply with these regulations and submit a photograph with even subtle shadows on your face, the authorities will most likely deny your application. 

However, there is one exception to this, and it is your ears. You are allowed to submit a photograph where your ears cast some delicate shadows, as that area is the only one that does not affect your identification negatively. 

The takeaway here is that you should make sure there are no shadows visible anywhere in your photo, except for the ears.

Learn how to avoid shadows in passport photos

Contrary to what you may think, professional photo lamps are not the only solution to shadows in passport photos.

You see, there is an app that can deliver you high-quality passport photographs that also makes sure there are no shadows.

PhotoAiD is an AI-backed platform that transforms your images into professional passport photos in 3 seconds. 

The app uses an original AI algorithm that impeccably replaces the background in your picture with a plain white one and crops the image to the correct passport photo size. What is more, PhotoAiD® simultaneously checks if your photograph meets the official U.S. standards—and that includes shadows.

If some minor shadows or other imperfections are present in your photo, a team of experts from PhotoAiD® will remove them, ensuring your photographs get accepted by the U.S. government.

A great feature of this app is that you can take photos from your own home or convert existing images, making the tool one of the most convenient methods of taking passport pictures.

Tip to avoid shadows: take the photo standing in front of a window during daylight hours—PhotoAiD® will take care of the rest.

See the selection of documents and see get your perfect passport photo.



You may find answers to your specific shadow-related questions in the FAQ section below.

Can passport photos have shadows?

No, shadows are not allowed in passport photos. There cannot be any shadows visible on your face nor in the photo’s background. The only exception is shadows around your ears, as long as they are not overlapping your face.

How do you avoid shadows in passport photos?

The best way to avoid shadows in passport photos is to use natural light coming from in front of you—for example, by posing in front of a window in the daylight. Another method is to utilize professional photography lamps to create a delicate light. If shadows are visible in your background, consider using online passport photo tools, such as PhotoAiD, to remove the background.

How do I get rid of the shadow in my passport photo?

To get rid of the shadow in a passport photo, it is best to utilize professional software. If there are shadows in the background of your passport picture, one of the easiest ways to remove them is to use PhotoAiD—an online passport photo converter that can replace your background with a plain white one. 

How much shadow is allowed in a passport photo?

If your passport photo has even a tiny shadow, it is already considered too much. The U.S. passport offices are very strict in that manner and only accept pictures that are shadow-free. The only exception is your ears—you are allowed to have small shadows around your ears, but only as long as they do not overlap your face.

Closing thoughts

The U.S. Department of State is stringent in the matter of shadows in passport photos, so consider avoiding them altogether. The only exception is the ears, and if there is a bit of shadow around that area, your photographs should be accepted.

However, following a popular motto, “Better safe than sorry,” make sure there are no shadows in your passport photos—even if it’s just your ears, so you do not have to re-send your passport application with a new image.

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