A few years ago - three years and a couple of months, to be exact - I needed a new passport thanks to my last name changing from Griffin to Woodstock. Aside: changing your name is wretched. And we're back.
I assumed that the way to get a passport photo was the normal way: you go to CVS, they take your photo, they print it, and you go on your merry way. So I did that, and I kid you not, it was quite literally the absolute worst photo of me I had ever (and still have ever) seen of myself in my entire life. Perhaps I should have just swallowed my pride and dealt with having a photo that reminded me more of a cow than myself on my ID for the next ten years of my traveling escapades, but I refused and decided then and there that I would take my own photos from thenceforth. I did, and I'm rather happy with how it eventually turned out.
However, taking a photo of oneself looking straight at the camera with enough of a smize to not look like a serial killer getting a mug shot done is one thing. Taking a similar photo of a baby is another one entirely. But in the interest of preserving Elise's self esteem for the next five years, I decided it was worth the sacrifice.
The US photo requirements are many:
- Your head must face the camera directly with your full face in view.
- You must have a neutral facial expression or a natural smile, with both eyes open.
- You must take a photo in clothing normally worn on a daily basis.
- It must have a plain white or off-white background.
- It must be a 2x2 inch square photo, with the head centered and between 25 and 35 mm from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head.
- You may not wear glasses, a hat, or any other head covering.
- There may be no shadows.
- You must be able to see both ears.
No big deal, right? It's not like kids move or look away from a camera or open their mouths all the time or anything. We got this.
First, I selected Elise's outfit with great care, despite the "normal clothing" requirement. She's somewhat hairless, after all, so I decided her shirt needed to be pink. I also decided that while she does/will wear it every day until her ear infection is gone, the Amoxicillin stain from the morning's dose should probably not be present.
Next, I needed a plain white background with natural/bright light. Enter our cheap Ikea flat sheet and a rocking chair pulled next to the window.
Though the room started to look like a pauper's version of Netherfield after the Bingleys returned to London, it did the job.
I then needed a way to restrain Elise in the proper position in the chair without making her upset. I ask you...what are Bumbo seats for if not for that purpose?
The only remaining necessary element was the baby, of course. I got her situated and gave her a ball to keep her hands occupied (and therefore out of the frame).
After that, it was just a simple matter of getting the right photo. We started off strong.
Maybe a little too much zoom. And movement.
Aha. I realized I needed to add a song and dance to keep her looking my direction.
Gah, the thumb! She just thinks it's so delicious. Who needs a passport photo anyway?
Ok, cute. But she moved again and made it blurry, and remember how you can't have an open mouth? Come on. And I'm not even going to address the snotty nose.
Acceptable. And yet...the mug shot just wasn't doing it for me. Shouldn't the US border officials be able to surmise that she's not a baby criminal mastermind? I need them to be able to judge her character in five seconds or less, because obviously her passport photo is a reflection of my parenting abilities.
AND THERE IT IS. Crop a little on either side, bump up the brightness, and we are in business. It only took me 53 shots, but we got it.
Now, all I have to do is assemble her birth certificate, social security card, our marriage license, a printout of our airline tickets, and her baptism certificate, and both Chaz and I need to show up in person at the National Passport Center at our appointed time (which must be conveniently between 8:00 am and 4:00 pm Monday through Friday). The government, man. They like to make this so easy on us.
But hey! Europe, we're coming your way, one official document checklist item at a time!