Passport Photo Lighting in 2024: How-tos to Have No Glare & Other Issues with a Picture

May 21, 2024

2 min read


lighting for passport photos

If you want to take a passport photo that is compliant and good-looking, you need to think about passport photo lighting. Let’s explain the lighting for passport photos in short for those in a hurry and give a detailed answer for those who are not.

In Focus

Passport photo lighting: How to arrange it properly?

Proper passport lighting is the setup that allows you to avoid uneven lighting on your facial features, neck, or hair without darker spots. This way, your photo is recognizable, evenly lit, and valid to hand in with your passport application to the passport office.

Always remember to have a direct look into the camera and the appropriate lighting setup when you take your own passport photo, when you get a Walmart passport photo, for instance, or use passport photo apps or other photo services.

Taking passport photos at your place, make sure you stand in front of the light source. Try to avoid direct sunlight. It’s helpful to face the window that has transparent shutters with diffused light.

Natural light is preferable and no equipment is then needed. It’s a bit tricky if you snap a passport photo in the evening light or at night. But we can help here as well. Read on to learn the hacks.

Why lighting for passport photos is important?

The US Department of State gives no strict recommendations on passport photograph lighting. However, it explains that your passport picture must be clear and sharp, not under or over-exposed, in color, with no red eye or glare. To avoid the latter, good lighting for passport pictures is your priority.

Please also follow the other passport photo rules that are crucial for your picture to be accepted by the authorities. Your photo must be of the correct size 2×2 inches printed on quality photo paper and be taken against a white background. A neutral facial expression is your best choice. Your face is fully visible. Do not wear glasses. Now you’re ready for a passport photo shoot.

Soft and hard lighting for passport photo

best lighting for passport photo

Let’s dive into a few specifications. When you take a passport photo with a smartphone or camera, make sure your light sources produce soft light or are diffused. It less depends on the camera settings rather than the light itself. Hard light is the one streaming intensively and heavily at a close distance to the subject’s head. And we want to avoid that.

Types of lighting for passport pictures

If shooting in the evening or at night, you need enough light. You can opt for different light scenarios: spotlights, a chandelier, a ring lamp, etc. The mixture of several light sources is your safe bet to make your face evenly lit.

You can experiment with lighting for passport photos, camera settings, daylight, and artificial illumination. What we do not recommend is using the flash of your camera. It can produce hard light, overexposure, or shades on your face.  For the good lighting passport photo, place a white paper in front of the flash or a small mirror at arm’s length to reflect the light to the ceiling. Of course, if you’re using your smartphone, it’s hard to apply such a technique as your camera lens and flash are millimeters away.

More tips for best passport photo lighting

To avoid distortion in your passport digital image, apply a longer distance between the subject’s eyes and the camera: the safe recommended distance is 1 meter or 3 feet. You can use a tripod or ask a friend to take a photo instead. What else?

  • Apply a 90° angle from the camera to the face and a line parallel to the subject’s spine.
  • Apply focus.
  • Avoid zoom.
  • Use a white or off-white background with half a meter or 1-2 feet distance between the background and the person’s back for the best evenly lit passport photos.
  • If you use a wide-angle lens, don’t get too close. Snap a passport photo from afar, then crop it with an online tool.
  • If you use a smartphone, it should have a lens with a focal length to choose from.
  • If your camera has a telephoto lens, that allows you to take photos from far away.
  • In case of applying for your passport through expedited services and signing your passport photos (as sometimes asked by the staff), make sure you will not damage the photo or leave marks on the evenly lit background of your photo.

Summing up

If you’ve read the tips and it’s not exactly what you are ready for, use one of the passport photo online services like PhotoBooth Online. Click the button below to snap a compliant passport photo with lighting and other parameters checked on the spot. It’s a helpful tool that is tuned to do the job for you. It can also double-check your existing passport-looking image in a few seconds and give you feedback. Try it out for free now!


Where to go for passport photo that has good lighting?

You can go to a professional photo studio, or take a photo with one of the passport photo tools online. For example, PhotoBooth Online gives you unlimited trials until you like the passport photo and how it is lit.

How to set up lighting for passport photos?

It’s actually easier than you expect. Use natural daylight as the key instruction. Make sure the face is evenly lit. The perfect distance from the head to the lens is 1 meter or 3 feet. The average phone camera will do the job perfectly.