Selfie Passport Photo: Is It a Thing in the United Kingdom?

woman taking a self-made snapshot

Selfies have become an integral part of our everyday lives (and photography in general). Be it Instagram or a messaging app, they’re everywhere. If you’ve got a phone at hand, you can take a snapshot with anything or anyone.

Basically, a selfie is your ultimate tool of expression that’s always close by.

But can you use this tool for something else except entertainment? Say, what if you need passport photos urgently and the only way to get them is to take a selfie?


Can You Take a Selfie for Passport Photo in the UK?

The shortest answer is yes, but there is more to it. So don’t leave this page just yet, as there are some tricky details you should know.

Getting photos for your passport used to be a complicated process: to get them, you had to head to the closest photo machine or studio. Luckily, the whole thing has become easier. Today, you can take a picture of yourself with your smartphone–whenever and wherever you want.

Also, the British government website followed the digitalisation trend and implemented a feature allowing you to upload your own photo for passport.

And that’s where the obvious suggestion comes to mind: if you can take a picture with your phone or digital camera and the authorities allow you to use your own shots, can you use a selfie passport photo?

iPhone, the classic selfie tool

At first sight, this seems inappropriate. And if you carefully look through the strict rules effective in England, there won’t be any mentions of self-made pictures specifically.

However, we found an official document with rules for examiners who check the quality of photos in each passport application. There’s one paragraph that’s (in theory) is applicable to selfies. This paragraph says users can submit a picture taken at arm’s length if this photo meets the other rules.

Mind you, it doesn’t mean you can use the first selfie you find on camera roll. Self-made shots as we know them won’t do! Yet there’s a workaround.

Why Can’t You Use a Selfie for Passport Photo?

This matter is a bit more complicated than it seems. To be precise, you can’t use a typical selfie for your British travel document, and there are several good reasons for that.

why can't you use a selfie for passport photo

Facial Expression

The rules of His Majesty’s Passport Office require you to keep a neutral facial expression in your photo, and neutral is the opposite of everything associated with self-made shots. When taking a selfie, we usually smile, pout or raise eyebrows. None of that is acceptable in a photo for a British passport.

Hairstyle and Pose

You can’t stick two fingers up or flex in your selfie passport photo, it’s just not appropriate. The same goes for hairstyles: if you want to show off a handsome fringe covering your eye, don’t do it when taking your picture.


People don’t do self-made pictures in photo studios with carefully arranged illumination or in front of large lamps that cast even neutral light. Practically every selfie is spontaneous, and so is its lighting. Such an image won’t be suitable for a passport application.

Camera Angle

Do you have a friend who loves posting selfies? If you do, open his or her page and try to find at least one image where he or she looks straight into the camera. We bet you won’t find any. A classic selfie has to be creative, and unusual angles help us make snapshots more original. For better or worse, there’s no room for such creativity in ID photos.


We often photograph ourselves with something unusual behind us, and it’s a no-go in selfie passport photos. Even if you pose in front of something neutral like patterned wallpaper, it won’t do. The only acceptable option is a light grey backdrop.

Your usual self-made picture will most likely meet all these no-gos, so you can’t use it. But there’s a workaround to that: try and make an unusual selfie passport photo that will meet HMPO’s rules.

How to Take a Selfie for British Passport Photo?

It’s done in several simple steps.

person with smartphone

First of all, find an off-white wall to use as your background. It’ll be superb if there’s a window in front of this wall: together they will make a perfect setup! Also, nice and even daylight will be an ideal light source if you don’t want to arrange a lighting system.

Then, make sure your clothes create a clear contrast with the backdrop (by the way, no hats: these are allowed only for religious or medical reasons) and check your hairdo: according to the official UK standards, your hair can’t cover your eyes or eyebrows (covered ears are fine though).

Once you’re ready, stand straight facing the window, make a neutral expression, extend your arm with your phone in it and take your selfie. That’s it, you’re ready to submit it with your passport application!

Make sure your full head, chest and upper shoulders are visible in the picture. Usually, there’s no need for a tripod or a selfie stick–your arm’s length is enough.

Turn Your Selfie Into an Acceptable UK Passport Photo

A follow-up: if you can’t find a neutrally-coloured wall, you shouldn’t give up and head to a photo booth or shop. Just use our free digital passport selfie app–it’s a great alternative to making an Asda passport photo in-store, for instance.

We can process any backdrop into compliant grey. What’s more, you’ll be able to check your resulting passport photo selfie against the other strict rules before you download and submit it. That’s pretty much it–your digital passport picture is a only couple of taps away!