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Photographic Image Requirements


'Hot Tips' for taking Travel Document and Citizenship Photos

The Department of Internal Affairs, Identity Services has revised its photo standards in respect of New Zealand Travel Documents and Applications for New Zealand Citizenship.

The new photographic guidelines match revised standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). The ICAO standards have been revised to accommodate the introduction of a chip-enhanced e-Passport with the potential to use Facial Recognition Technology (FRT) as part of border facilitation.

A photo of the holder is an essential part of a Travel Document. A good clear photo means the holder can be easily identified as they cross international borders, and will help avoid application-processing delays by ensuring that acceptable photos are taken first time.

Please read these 'Hot Tips' in conjunction with the photographic image requirements, which contains sample photos as well as additional information on 'Camera Subject and Position' and 'Capture Guidelines' including: lens and setting requirements and printed output requirements for Digital, 35mm and Instant Photo Cameras.

A copy of the requirements booklet or poster containing the new photo standards can be obtained free of charge by contacting Wickliffe on 0800 26 82 82 or by contacting the Passport Office on 0800 22 50 50.

The following list of problems and solutions is not exhaustive list and will be added to from time to time. If you have a photo problem that you would like to discuss please contact 0800 22 50 50.

Background Shadows / Lighting / Distances
  • A good set-up to reduce background shadows and flash on face is to use an area with a low bright white ceiling and a hot-shoe mounted flash with rotating head to bounce light off the ceiling.
  • For digital cameras use a 'flash sync' socket and cable to position flash along side camera.
  • Alternatively try turning off the flash and just use the bright overhead lighting.
  • Use a separation light, positioned approx ½ metre out from background, at subjects lower to mid back level, shining on background.
  • To avoid the background area around the subject becoming to light (though the use of the separation light), ensure the separation light is on a low power setting. You may need to experiment a little here.
  • Position subject 1 to 1 ½ metres from backdrop to reduce shadowing and maximise use of separation light.
  • Allow 1 to 1 ½ metres distance between camera and subject.
Red Eye
  • Red eye is an indication that the angle of the flash to subject and back to lens is too acute (flash too close to the lens). This is common with pop-up flashes. Move the flash further away from the camera lens.
  • Use a softer light source and consider bouncing light. A good set up for this is to use an area with a low bright white ceiling and a rotating (hot-shoe mounted flash with rotating head) flash to bounce light off the ceiling.
  • For digital cameras use a 'flash sync' socket and cable to position flash along side camera.
  • Alternatively try turning off the flash and just use the bright overhead lighting.
  • Allow 1 to 1 ½ metres distance between camera and subject.
Image too dark / under exposed, or too light / over exposed
  • Review the exposure setting or the flash intensity.
  • Consider a light diffuser attachment.
Achieving a constant background colour
  • Use colorama paper or material for backdrop or,
  • A pre-painted pull down screen or blind,
  • Paint a section of wall or,
  • Paint and attach lightweight particleboard to a portable frame.
  • Trying to create a constant background colour using colour lighting alone can be problematic.
  • Use a separation light, positioned approx ½ metre out from background, at subjects lower to mid back level, shining on background.
  • Position subject 1 to 1 ½ metres from backdrop to reduce shadowing and maximise use of separation light.
Wrong photo size / head size
  • The standard photo size must be 45mm x 35mm portrait.
  • The head size (chin to crown ratio) should be between 70% and 80% (32mm and 36mm).
  • A clear acetate template for checking correct photo and head size is available free of charge from Internal Affairs. Otherwise the measurements should be checked with a ruler. To order an acetate please ring 0800 22 50 50.
  • To get the sizing right, you can measure the distance from lens to subject after taking some experimental shots. By standing or using a tripod over the spot, you can be sure of the right fixed distance.
Distance between subject and camera and use of zoom function
(The photo requirements state: "Place camera approximately 1 metre from the subject" and "Digital zoom functions must be turned off and not used, as interpolated zoom images can become distorted.)
  • Yes you will have to use the zoom but most cameras have optical zoom as well as digital zoom.
  • Optical zoom is fine as the quality of picture does not change however digital zoom causes poor picture quality therefore it must not be used.

Difficulty in obtaining a good photo of a baby
  • Lay the baby flat on a suitably coloured sheet, which has been firmly fixed to a base or the ground. (Note: A crumpled sheet as background is not acceptable).

Wearing of religious head covers, hats, headbands, bandannas, scarves, hair covering eyes or edges of face, wearing of thick or heavy rimmed glasses or tinted lenses, glasses on top of head.

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Last updated: 09/03/2006