Say “WAAAAHAAAAARGH” for the camera

Life just threw us a curve ball and we are unexpectedly off on an international flight. Sudden travel can be a bit hectic to pull off but by far the most stressful aspect of planning this impromptu trip has been securing an acceptable photograph for Childzilla’s bloody Australian passport.

Nope, none of these are suitable.
Strike a pose. Just not that one. Or that one. Or that.

The general guidelines for an acceptable picture (and Department of Immigration and Citizenship say “guidelines” in the title but you’ll notice that they are actually “requirements” which are totally different fucking things) are many and about as reasonable as Kuwait’s stance on gay marriage. Whoever came up with them has either a) never met a baby or b) met one and really fucking hated them. And their parents.

You must have the infant awake, eyes open but mouth closed. They need to looking at the camera dead-on without any shadow – say, from a flash – in the picture. This is a pretty tall ask for something that can’t hold its own head up straight.

You could just hold their head, but the parent’s hand or body must not visible in the background. Boobs are, presumably, right fucking out and not in a fun way. You are repeatedly told you can’t use photoshop on your boobs or on any issues at all so you can’t just edit them out.

Oh, and they recommend a “neutral expression”, presumably because all that poking and straightening and camera-flashing will relax and interest your baby as opposed, say, to turning them into the Baby of the Baskervilles complete with slavering and howling. Asking for a picture of a newborn with their eyes open and a neutral expression is the equivalent of asking for a shot of a politician telling the truth or Miley Cyrus being demure. It’s technically possible but bloody unlikely to happen. If your newborn is awake, they are screaming or eating. Them’s the rules.

“Seriously, why are you pointing that thing at me?”

So assuming you manage the impossible and get the child awake, while not crying or stuffing a boob in its mouth, you then face the challenge of persuading them to look at the camera lens. You can’t just move the lens to where their eyes are looking as that will mean they are not looking at the camera dead-on and you can’t just keep taking pictures because – as we discovered – the flash starts to really freak them out after a few minutes.

By about 5 minutes in, the child was crying. By 10, I was crying and wondering if we could get access to some sort of clamp. By 15, both the child and I had run out of tears and decided we needed a stiff drink. And that was just the first attempt.

All in all, it took three people helping (4 if you could the child), over 2 days and approximately 200 rejected shots to get 2 pictures that might pass the criteria if they were feeling generous. We took them to a printer, who said one of them might be okay if they photoshopped shadows in the background out a little.

Ahem. Which of course we didn’t do as the criteria told us not to. Ahem. Honest. Yes.

Not only is this pug cuter than a baby, but it’s also posing correctly for the shot.

And the really annoying thing about it? It’s not like the picture will actually be useful. Babies change really fast. It’s kind of the whole point of being a baby. So that hard-won photograph will look a little off by the time we get the passport back from printing, decidedly dated by the time we start the trip and nothing bloody like Childzilla a year from now. Really, we could pop a picture of Winston Churchill on, or a pug in a baby hat, and no one would be any the wiser.

I could just photoshop in some boobs for realism.

If you came here looking for actual useful advice on how to take an infant passport photo as opposed to your yearly recommended allowance of swearing, my apologies and try this Infant Passport tutorial instead. It’s for the States but was generally very useful for us too. We found the supporting her head with towels trick especially useful.