USCIS Color Photograph Specifications

7 Steps to Successful Photos 

Frame subject with full face, front view, eyes open

Make sure photo presents full head from top of hair to bottom of chin; height of head should measure 1 inch to 1-3/8 inches (25 mm to 35 mm)

Center head within frame (see Figure 2 below)


Make sure eye height is between 1-1/8 inches to 1-3/8 inches (28 mm and 35 mm) from bottom of photo


Photograph subject against a plain white or off-white background


Position subject and lighting so that there are no distracting shadows on the face or background


Encourage subject to have a natural expression

Figure 2. Head Position & Placement

Figure 2. Head Position & Placement

Well-Composed Photos

Well-Composed Photos

Photo Examples

Photo Examples Banner
Head position example To prevent geometric distortion and ensure an adequate depth of field, the camera should be placed at the subject’s eye level and approximately 4 ft (120 cm) from the subject.

By placing the subject on an adjustable height seat, the height of the camera tripod can be fixed.

A lens of about 105 mm focal length on a 35 mm film camera, or its equivalent on any other camera, should provide a sufficiently flat field-of-view.

The subject’s eyes should look directly at the camera and the subject may be either smiling or not, but unusual expressions and squinting should be avoided.

Eyeglass glare example A slight downward tilt of the head will usually eliminate glare on eyeglasses.  If this does not reduce the glare, try tilting the head slightly upward or rotating the glasses slightly upward or downward.  The head should not be tilted by more than a few degrees to eliminate glare.

“Red Eye” conditions should be avoided.  Red eye is caused by a direct reflection, through the pupil, from the retina of the eye when an on-camera flash is used, particularly for a subject who has adapted to a darkened environment.  Red eye can be reduced by using an off-camera flash or by brightening the ambient lighting.

Subject background   example A distracting background should be avoided.  Use a plain wall or a photographer’s backdrop cloth as the background.  The background color may be white or off-white.

Ideally, the background will be out of focus so that minor markings or texture on the background are not apparent in the photo.

Photo Examples Banner
Brightness examples Very dark or very light apparel may cause certain auto-exposure systems to overcompensate, resulting in overly dark or light flesh tones. A neutral gray card may be used to set exposure at a consistent level before placing the subject in the scene.
Contrast examples Contrast that is too high is usually due to the overall light and shade in the scene. Correct contrast can be achieved by directing diffused lighting onto the subject. Such lighting increases the local contrast while reducing the total contrast.
Color examples Picture is affected by the type of light used. Avoid mixing incandescent and fluorescent lighting. Corrective filters can improve the overall light that reaches the conventional film or digital camera sensor, and thus remove unnatural color effects. A neutral white card may be used to set the white balance level on some advanced digital cameras.