Passport photo

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Passport photo of Ms. Mustermann in a German identity card

A passport photo is a photograph that is used for a - mostly official - personal document. Internationally, the regulations are very different.

Biometrical passport picture

A passport photo is biometric if it meets certain requirements that help facilitate facial recognition based on the image. Common requirements are:

  • frontal view
  • fixed position of the head in the picture
  • unstructured background (e.g. light gray)
  • neutral facial expression
  • good illumination without reflections and shadows on the face and background

Whether a passport photo is biometric has nothing to do with whether it is stored electronically on the passport.

National requirements for the passport photo

Current requirements in Germany for the ePassport and the nPA

The following applies in Germany: The issuing authorities require a picture format of 35 mm × 45 mm (without border) for passport photos for issuing ID cards , passports and driving licenses .

  • The Passport Act stipulates in Section 4 (5) for passports : "[...] the Federal Minister of the Interior shall determine the details of the photo in consultation with the Foreign Office by means of a statutory instrument [...]".
  • Passport photos are 35 mm × 45 mm in size (portrait format, without borders), with the distance from the top of the head to the chin between 32 and 36 mm. Due to the fact that the top of the head can often not be clearly identified, passport photos should only be rejected if the height of the face is less than 27 mm or more than 40 mm.
  • The face must be well lit and photographed against a plain, light background. Effect lighting is not permitted, shadows on the background are not permitted. Avoid reflections in existing glasses.
  • The face area must not be covered.
  • No parts of the uniform may be shown on the photo .
  • If it is compulsory to wear a head covering (e.g. religious community, religious order), this obligation must be proven to the passport authority. Despite the headgear, the face must be fully recognizable.
  • A neutral facial expression with a closed mouth is required to support automatic facial recognition ( biometrics ).
  • The image must be taken from the front, the nose must be on the center line. Half profile is not permitted. Corresponding regulations have already come into force in Germany and abroad (e.g. Great Britain and Canada ).
  • Since November 1, 2010, the passport photo types according to the new photo sample board must be used for identity cards .

Bundesdruckerei offers information online with a photo sample board .

Current requirements in Austria

Scheme of a passport photo with the dimensions specified for Austria

With the introduction of biometric passports in March 2006, new criteria for passport photos apply. The most important of these are:

  • Format: 35 mm × 45 mm.
  • Chin to apex to 2 / 3 of the picture (that is, about 30 mm) occupy, but no longer than 36 mm; the eye relief must be at least 8 mm.
  • High demands on quality, background, lighting and contrast.
  • Only the person can be in the picture.
  • The mouth must be closed.
  • The facial expression has to be neutral.
  • Any glasses must not reflect or cover important parts such as the eyes.
  • Headgear is only permitted for religious and health reasons and the face must be fully recognizable.
  • Hair may protrude from the picture, but not cover parts of the face.

Current requirements in Switzerland


  • The standard size is 35 mm × 45 mm.
  • 5 mm from the top edge.
  • The height of the face from the chin to the top of the skull is at least 29 mm and no more than 34 mm.
  • For a person with voluminous hair, the height of the face must not be less than 29 mm. It is more important to depict the face in the correct size than the full hairstyle (the hair may exceptionally exceed the edge).
  • For children under eleven years of age, the height of the face from the chin to the top of the skull must be at least 23 mm.

Posture, head position, facial expression and line of sight

  • Person must sit straight in front of the camera (shoulders straight) and look directly into the camera (frontal view).
  • Head straight (not tilted, turned or tilted).
  • Nose on the marked vertical center line of the template.
  • Both eyes must be open, at the same height and clearly visible (even for those who wear glasses).
  • Face expression neutral, mouth closed.
  • No hand or object (e.g. pipe) in the face.
  • Even with children, neither another person nor an object must be visible in the picture.

Glasses wearer

  • Eyes must not be covered by glasses frames.
  • No reflection of the glasses.
  • No tinted glasses or sunglasses.
  • Darkened glasses are permitted for the visually impaired.

Illumination, sharpness and contrast

  • The image must be sharp and rich in contrast.
  • Uniform illumination (no shadows on the face).
  • Natural skin tones.
  • No reflection on the skin (hot spots) and no red eyes.


  • Background monochrome, uniform and neutral; no shadows.
  • Clear separation between background and head.


  • Generally not allowed. No forehead or eye-catching hairband or glasses put on the head etc.,
  • Exceptions are only permitted for proven medical or religious reasons (in the case of women religious or people belonging to a religious community who require the wearing of headgear in public). In this case, the following applies: The face must be recognizable from at least the lower edge of the chin to the hairline. There should be no shadows on the face.

Photo quality and other requirements

  • Recordings in grayscale (so-called "black and white images") and color images are permitted.
  • The photo paper must have a smooth, unstructured surface (high-gloss or semi-matt). The surface must not have any structure that can be felt by the finger (so-called “pearl” or “silk grid effect”).
  • Only paper specially designed for photo images may be used to produce the images.
  • The picture cannot be older than one year.
  • It must not have any kinks, bumps or impurities.
  • It must not have rounded corners.
  • No pixel structure must be visible.
  • Photos with people in uniform are not permitted.
  • In the case of small children or disabled people, not all requirements have to be met. Deviations are acceptable, especially with regard to looking into the camera, neutral facial expression and head size.

Norms and standards

Internationally recognized guidelines can be found in the standard ISO / IEC 19794-5 - Information technology - Biometric data interchange formats - Part 5: Face image data.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has attached Photo Guidelines (Photograph guidelines) to ICAO Doc 9303 . It is a further development of the “Guidelines for taking photographs to maximize facial recognition results” from 2004.

When applying for an identity card in Germany, the Federal Ministry of the Interior intends that the photo must be taken in the authority due to otherwise possible morphing .

A little later this was revised again .

Former requirements

  • Until the introduction of biometric photos for automatic face recognition, at least one ear had to be visible on a passport photo. In Germany, ID cards with a passport photo in a half profile could be applied for by October 31, 2010 (information from the Bundesdruckerei ). Especially for people with long hair, this often resulted in unnatural looking recordings. For example, the border officials of the GDR often asked for the ear visible on the passport photo to be exposed during identity checks.
  • In the spring of 1943, the size of ID photos was determined to be 37 mm × 52 mm ( DIN A9 format ) for the duration of the war (driver's license: 52 mm × 74 mm, DIN A8 format ). The height of the head of the person depicted had to be 25-30 mm (each). Glossy paper could also be used for prints of passport photos .


If a passport photo was created by a photographer, his rights must be taken into account when using the photo. This may have consequences when the image is used on the Internet ( § 60 , § 19a UrhG ). This cannot apply to passport photos from the machine, as no clear source evidence is possible - they could theoretically have been taken at any location.

Web links

Wiktionary: Passport photo  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Adult passport photo template as PDF. Bundesdruckerei, accessed on February 1, 2017 .
  2. Child passport photo template as PDF. Bundesdruckerei, accessed on February 1, 2017 .
  3. § 4 Passport Implementation Ordinance, Federal Law Gazette II No. 223/2006 (PDF; 54 kB)
  4. ^ Paul Wilke: Criteria in Austria and photo samples for ID photos. Retrieved January 25, 2010 .
  5. Procedure of significantly more complex Focus online , January 8, 2020
  6. Seehofer gives in: Passport photos from the photographer, January 17, 2020
  7. Bundesdruckerei's service website
  8. ID card and passport photos. In:  Joint magazine Photographische Chronik and Allgemeine Photographische Zeitung , year 1943, No. 1/2 ex 1943 (April), p. 4, bottom left. (Online at ANNO ). Template: ANNO / Maintenance / pck.
  9. OLG Cologne , judgment of December 19, 2003, Az. 6 U 91/03, full text ; LG Cologne , judgment of December 20, 2006, Az. 28 O 468/06, full text.