New Zealand passports | Uruwhenua Aotearoa

The Department of Internal Affairs | Te Tari Taiwhenua


Tips to help you get correct digital passport photos

A photo is an essential part of your travel document. 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 as part of border security operations.

For more information to assist you in getting a quality photo, read our photo requirements, view our video and read our photo tips below, or view our list of common online photo problems and solutions.

View our video on how to take a passport digital photo

The Department has produced a short video which provides tips for taking photos which can be saved in electronic format and then uploaded to our Online Renewal Service website.


For best photographic results and to help avoid delays in the processing of your passport application, it is recommended that you seek the services of a professional photographer.

Technical Requirements

  • File type: Jpg or Jpeg
  • File size: Greater than 500kb and less than 10MB
  • Dimensions: Minimum 900 pixels wide x 1200 pixels high -- maximum 4500 pixels wide x 6000 pixels high
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 (Width:Height ratio)

Adjust camera settings

You may need to refer to your camera manual to make the following changes.

  • Set the camera to take colour photos.
  • Set the camera to save images as JPG (or JPEG) files.
  • Set the camera colour space to sRGB. This ensures the range of colours your camera records will match the colours reproduced by most video monitors and printers.
  • Adjust the aspect ratio of the camera to 4:3. Note that aspect ratios assume a landscape orientation of the camera with the long dimension of the image horizontal. To get a portrait photo ensure that you rotate the camera for a portrait photo when you take the photo (the camera settings are still in the landscape format ). If you are not sure what to do, our video demonstrates this for you.
      • Your camera manual may state aspect ratio as the number of pixels wide by number of pixels high (for example 3648 x 2736). Divide the large number by the small number to find the ratio. A result of 1.33 means your camera is set to a 4:3 aspect ratio.
      • When choosing an aspect ratio, ensure the small number is no less than 900 pixels. Some cameras can produce images corresponding to 1028 x 768 pixels or 640 x 480 pixels. Both these image formats give an aspect ratio of 4:3, but their quality is too low for passport photos.
      • You must also ensure that the numbers of pixels is not greater than 6000 x 4500, or the image will be too large for online submission.

    Figure 1 – Image Size and Aspect Ratio

    Figure -  Image size and aspect ratio

    • Other aspect ratios such as 1:1, 3:2, 5:4, 16:9 and panorama cannot be used.
  • Adjust the camera colour balance to match the lighting – for example Flash, Tungsten or Daylight. This will avoid an unnatural skin colour in the image.

Position the subject and the camera

    • Orientate the camera for a portrait photo.

Figure 2 – Landscape and portrait orientation

Figure 2 - Landscape and portrait orientation

  • Have the subject stand in front of a plain and light coloured, but not white background such as a painted (not patterned) section of wall.
  • Position the subject 1 to 1 ½ metres from the background to reduce shadowing.
  • Position the camera 1 to 1 ½ metres distance from the subject to ensure facial features are not distorted. The camera lens should be level with the subject’s eyes and preferably mounted on a tripod to avoid blurring.
  • Ensure the subject meets the rules regarding head covering, glasses and neutral expression.
  • Ensure the subject faces straight to the camera – not turned or tilted – and is looking directly at the lens with eyes open. 

Figure 3 – Positioning Subject and Camera 

Figure 3 - Positioning subject and camera

Background shadows, lighting and red eye

  • You can achieve an even lighting effect without shadows or redeye by using the following techniques:
    • Take 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 to avoid redeye.
    • 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.

Taking the photo

  • Refer to Figure 4 for help with correct framing of the subject. Use values for A, B, C and D to correctly position the head. Frame the photo so that:
    • The subject is centred with the midpoints of the mouth and nose lying on an imaginary vertical centreline.
    • The length of the head is equal to A
    • The width of the head is equal to B
    • The eyes are positioned between points C and D
    • Ensure there is a clear gap (visible background) around the entire head, including the hair and/or ears.
    Figure 4 – Framing the Subject

    Figure 4 – Framing the Subject

  • You may need to move the camera tripod or use the camera zoom function to get the framing right.
    • Optical zoom is fine as the quality of picture does not change.
    • Do not use digital zoom functions as they can degrade the final image.
  • If the image is too dark and under exposed, or too light and over exposed, make adjustments and take another photo.
    • Check the exposure setting on your camera.
    • Decrease the intensity of the flash if your camera supports that function or consider using a light diffuser attachment.
  • Once you have a suitable image, transfer it from the camera to your computer.

Using the image file for an online passport renewal

  • The online application process will request an image file to be selected.
  • Select the image file you have transferred from your camera and follow the instructions for uploading.


Contact the Passport Office for any enquiries regarding your electronic digital photos

For further information contact us on free phone 0800 22 52 12 (New Zealand only) or +64 (4) 463 9375.