U.S. passport and visa Photo Tool problems

If you are looking where to edit / crop a photo for a U.S. passport or visa application, then an official Travel State Gov photo tool at tsg.phototool.state.gov/photo is the first option. Recently the Department of State has released an updated version of an online U.S. passport photo editor; however in so many cases the result of Photo Tool work is not a compliant photo. Why is that? We will tell in this article.

Table of contents

Detailed info about the previous version is available in this article.

Is the free USA passport photo editor able to cope with a complex task of cropping a quality US passport or visa photo? Let's take a test drive of the new functionality.

U.S. Photo Tool: how to use it?

The new free software is designed to quickly edit photos online so that they correspond to American passport photo requirements, such as:

To convert your photo to American passport picture, follow the next steps:

How USA passport photo tool crops photos automatically
How USA passport photo tool crops photos manually

The resulting photo is applicable only for online submissions.

Does the official Photo Tool edit the background?

No. The photo must initially be taken against a flat white background with no noticeable shadows.

Does the new Photo Tool make head size right?

Although the new version is better than the previous one, its functionality is still far from perfect. The main problem is that the new USA passport photo tool doesn't detect the exact head size, in automatic mode it gets an approximate face square, and acts on this information. And since many people may have high forehead or voluminous hair style, the result may not be fully correspond to the USA passport photo requirements (which are fairly strict). Or, in manual mode, it takes only eyes into account and this may give pretty inaccurate results.

For example, the photo below was made by Photo Tool in automatic mode, but the head size there is 1.51 inches, which is much bigger than max allowed 1.375 inches (1 3/8").

An incorrect US pasport photo made by Photo Tool

Does the Photo Tool get eyes positioned right?

If you do a manual crop, locating and selecting the eyes manually, then yes, the eye position will be correct, but the head size may or may not be correct, because in this case the tool doesn't care about the head size (and it doesn't exactly detect it in the first place).

But if you do an automatic crop, then eyes may not be OK, as the tool doesn't detect eyes in the automatic mode, and doesn't take them into account.

You should be especially careful with photos for the Diversity Visa Lottery application. These photos are checked by a special program, not by a person. If the picture does not meet at least one of the Green Card Lottery photo requirements, your application will be disqualified. You can use the free US passport, visa and DV Lottery photo check tool: it will help you not to miss important details.

Photo Tool error messages

Your photo does not need cropping. Photo dimensions are 600x600

This is actually not an error. This message means that your photo is of a correct size already and further cropping is not needed. However it doesn't mean that your photo is correct. The Photo Tool doesn't do any kind of verification. We recommend using US passport, visa and DV Lottery photo verification tool to check if your photo is OK.

Image is overly compressed. Please use a compression ratio that is less than 20:1

It means the Photo Tool won't handle your photo because it thinks that is of low quality. We recommend loading it to the US passport photo tool at Visafoto or use an upload form below.

Photo tool rejects an original photo

Minimum photo dimensions are 600x600

This message means that at least one size of your photo is less than 600 pixels. And that Photo Tool won't handle your photo. We recommend loading it to the US passport photo tool at Visafoto or use an upload form below.

USA passport photo tool online alternatives?

Visafoto.com fully automatizes the process of cropping and editing US passport and visa photos online. Just upload your selfie taken in a full face against any background. Visafoto will instantly adjust all parameters, including:

Visafoto specialises in making passport and visa photos since 2014. We have made over 200,000 photos for U.S. passports, U.S. visas, and U.S. Diversity Visa Lottery that were successfully accepted. In rare cases (much less than 1% of orders) when it is not accepted, we replace the original photo for free or refund the money.

Take an image with a smartphone or camera against any background, upload it here and instantly get a professional photo for your visa, passport or ID.
Additional options
Upload photo & Continue


Source photo example that you need to take in order to make a passport or visa photo at visafoto.com


Result example: a correct visa or passport photo that you will receive

First, take a photo of yours under daylight like this one:

Visa photo original source

You will get 2 types of a U.S. passport photo online:

Here they are:

Example of a USA visa photo
USA visa photos for printing

The fee for Visafoto.com services is $7 only: half as much as offline photo services in the U.S. (the average cost of two American passport photos taken at the post office or drug store is $15).

Comparison between Travel.State.Gov Photo Tool and Visafoto.com

Visafoto Travel.State.Gov Photo Tool
Crops the photo to the U.S. passport photo size Yes Yes
Applicable for online submissions Yes Yes
Gets the head size right Yes Can operate with errors
Positions the face in the center of an image horizontally Yes Yes (can operate with errors)
Changes the background to the plain white Yes No
Creates printable image for printing out 2x2" passport photos Yes (see the guideline) No
Acceptance guaranteed Yes. A full refund will be provided in case the photo is not accepted. No
Technical support available Yes. 24/7 support is ready to answer all of your questions No

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