Tips to help you get correct passport photos for paper applications
A photo is an essential part of your travel document. A good clear photo means you can be easily identified as you cross international borders. Providing acceptable passport photos will also help avoid delays in the processing of your passport application.
The Department of Internal Affairs has specific photo standards for New Zealand travel documents and applications for New Zealand citizenship. These requirements match standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). The ICAO standards were revised to accommodate the introduction of the chip-enhanced e-Passport with the potential to use facial recognition technology (FRT) as part of border security operations.
Please contact the Passport office if you have a photo problem that you would like to discuss.
Background shadows, lighting, red eye and camera positioning
- Allow 1 to 1 ½ metres distance between camera and subject.
- Reduce background shadows and flash on face by taking the photo in an area with a low bright white ceiling and a hot-shoe mounted flash with rotating head to bounce light off the ceiling.
- If your digital camera provides the facility, use a 'flash sync' cable and position the flash along side the camera.
- Try turning off the flash and just use bright overhead lighting.
- Use a separation light, positioned approximately ½ metre out from background, at subject's lower to mid back level, shining on background. To avoid the background area around the subject becoming too light, ensure the separation light is on a low power setting. Position the subject 1 to 1 ½ metres from backdrop to reduce shadowing and maximise use of separation light.
Image too dark and under exposed, or too light and over exposed
- Check the exposure setting on your camera.
- Decrease the intensity of the flash if your camera supports that function.
- Consider using a light diffuser attachment.
Achieving a constant background colour
To get an even background colour use:
- colorama paper or material for backdrop, or
- a pre-painted pull down screen or blind, or
- a painted section of wall, or
- paint and attach lightweight particleboard to a portable frame.
Trying to create a constant background colour using colour lighting alone can be problematic.
- Use a separation light, positioned approximately ½ metre out from background, at subject's lower to mid back level, shining on background.
- Position subject 1 to 1 ½ metres from backdrop to reduce shadowing and maximise use of separation light.
Wrong photo size or head of person appears too big in the photo
- The standard photo size must be 45mm x 35mm portrait.
- You should keep the head size within a maximum 80% and minimum 70% of the photo size.
- Ensure there is a clear gap (visible background) around the entire head, including the hair and/or ears.
- To get the sizing right, measure the distance from lens to subject after taking some experimental shots. Then stand or use a tripod at the measured distance.
See photo examples (pdf 644kb) for further information. A clear acetate template for checking correct photo and head size is also available free of charge from the Department of Internal Affairs. Otherwise the measurements should be checked with a ruler. Contact the Passport office to order a template.
Distance between subject and camera and use of zoom function
- Optical zoom is fine as the quality of picture does not change.
- Digital zoom functions must not be used as they can distort the final image.
Difficulty taking a good photo of a baby
- Lay the baby flat on a plain coloured sheet, which has been firmly fixed to a base or the floor.
- A crumpled sheet as background is not acceptable as this creates shadows.