Monday, November 09, 2009

Anyone in the UK who has renewed their passport (or applied for a new one) recently will know all about this, and I'm a bit behind the times I'm sure, but recently the criteria for applications was given a major overhaul, and I'd like to draw your attention to what you need to do to get your photographs looking just the way the passport office wants them to look. Before the recent changes, it was pretty easy - you had to be looking straight at the camera with a plain background behind you and no cunning disguises (like an eye patch and a pirate hat, for instance) that could confuse diligent immigration officials in strange lands abroad. Now we are switching over to "Biometric" identification systems the photograph has to be able to be scanned and assessed by a computer. The ethics of this, I will leave to someone else to rant and rave about. Issues to think about are: security, big brother syndrome and privacy. But before you trot down to the high street with a small bag of coins to get your latest photo shot in the "photo-me" machine that used to be in Woolworths, but is now more likely to be found just inside the door of your local Tesco "just next door to you" superstore you should know a thing or two about what you need. The passport office has issued a number of documents to show you what you need to do, and what is not acceptable.
Guidelines for photographers can be found here:
The template used to check your photographs can be found here:
If all else fails, the advice telephone line number is:
0300 222 0000
In short, there are now very specific guidelines about all aspects of your passport photo. No smiling for instance, and the precise positioning of your eyes in the photo has become critically important. Presumably as the facial recognition software uses the position of your eyes as a base line to measure everything else. Even the amount of grey in the background has been specified.

Before you send in your passport application it is possible to have the photo (and everything else) checked at your local post office (for a fee, of course). You have been warned.

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