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Photograph specifications

Applying for an official document, in any country, usually involves providing photographs of yourself. Whether it’s a passport, a visa, or a driver’s licence, the authorities want to see what you look like. It’s understandable, given the emphasis on security in today’s world. However, knowing what those photographs have to look like isn’t always obvious.

Usually, you will be asked for “passport size” photographs. So, you may ask, what is “passport size”? Is it the same in every country? Well, a lot of countries have passports that look very much the same, so we can assume that the photos probably have the same dimensions. But assuming is dangerous, especially when processing times for applications are long. You don’t want to wait a month for a failed application because the photos you supplied were wrong.

Passport Photo | Immigration South Africa

After an extensive search on the DHA site, I managed to find the photograph specifications on the DHA website, in the Help section. The specifications are included in a hefty 776KB .pdf file. After downloading the file, I opened it to discover a very helpful, informative poster-style layout. It gives you all the necessary information, which is a lot. So, I’ve summarised the basics here.

What the DHA wants, essentially, is a clear picture of you (and only you) showing your entire face, including your eyes, and not your teeth. The photos should be 45mm high and 35mm wide (that’s roughly 1 13/16 x 1 13/32 in inches). The photos have to be in colour for passports and visa/permit applications (although, for some reason, for a South African ID book you can have black-and-white photos). The photos must be printed on high quality photgraphic paper (no photocopies), and all the photos you submit must be identical. This is why it always pays to have them taken in batches of at least four. The photos should not be creased or damaged.

In the photos, you should be the only person. Pictures that include other people won’t be accepted. There should also not be any items in the photo, such as toys or equipment. Your face should be clear of any obstruction, such as a long fringe or dark glasses. Your eyes have to be open, and your mouth closed. You should be facing the camera directly, NOT portrait style (at an angle). The background should be absolutely clear. Also, you shouldn’t have “red eyes” or a bright photographic flash reflected on your skin.

Lighting is also important in the photos. There shouldn’t be any shadows, such as behind you or across your face. You are also not allowed to cover your face, for any reason. However, if your religion dictates this, you may cover your hair, as long as your face, from the bottom of your chin to the top of your forehead, is clearly visible.

Sound like a lot? Don’t worry. Rather go to a professional photographer, and let them sort you out. They have the studio and the equipment to produce correct photos.

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