Mission impossible

In just under three months time, we’re taking The Baby on her first foreign holiday, which means we need to apply for her first passport. So today, we had the delightful experience of taking her to get her passport photos done.

I knew there wasn’t a hope of getting her to sit in a photo booth, and neither did I think there was much chance of me being able to snap a picture that would pass muster. So – just as we did with The Boy when we got his first passport – I decided to take her to a photography store to get her pictures taken. I figured they’d be best qualified not just to take a suitable photo, but also to make sure that the finished product met the official criteria.

It was not a resounding success.

The store was packed when we got there. Packed. And when we finally got to the front of the queue, it was our misfortune to be greeted by a young girl wearing a badge saying TRAINEE. ‘I’d like to have my daughter’s passport photo taken, please,’ I said.

‘Okay,’ she replied. ‘I *think* I can help you.’

Off she shuffled to have a long conversation with her manager. I assumed she was asking her superior to take the photos, but she then drifted off to stare vacantly at another customer, who was having trouble with the photo printer, under the pretext of ‘helping.’

The Baby was already getting grumpy by the time the girl came back, went behind the counter and produced a camera and a white cushion. ‘I’ve never done this before,’ she admitted, as she lay the cushion on the floor in front of the window.

It soon transpired that she was expecting The Baby to lie patiently on this cushion while she took a photo. The Baby is a lively 15-month-old who absolutely Does Not Do Lying Down. You can imagine her reaction…

‘I was sort of expecting you to take her photo sitting up against a white background,’ I muttered, as I tried to pin a seriously annoyed Baby to the floor.

‘Oh,’ said the girl. ‘Can she sit up by herself, then?’


After consulting her boss again, the girl decided that yes, she could take The Baby’s photo sitting on a stool against a white background, as long as I promised to hold onto her (health and safety and all that). So she pulled down the background and I plonked her on the seat, holding her legs while DH stood behind the camera and tried to attract her attention.

Of course, when you’re 15 months old, everything is more interesting than having your photo taken. The Baby was positively owl-like, swivelling her head this way and that every time someone walked through the door, or a printer whirred, or the till beeped. Photo attempts one, two and three failed miserably. She was either looking down, looking sideways, or screwing up her face in an emergent strop.

DH and I swapped places, and I stood waving at her and calling her name. Photo four was taken, and the girl decreed that it was okay. I looked at the camera screen. It was *okay* – but The Baby was looking off to the side.

‘Are you sure it’s going to meet the criteria?’ I asked the girl.

‘I don’t really know,’ she admitted.

By now I was despairing. The whole point of taking The Baby to have her photo taken by a real live person was to avoid the will-it-or-won’t-it-pass thing. When I had The Boy’s first passport photo taken, the man had the checklist pinned up on his wall and instantly knew whether it was suitable or not. Here, however, a guess seemed to be sufficient.

As I insisted that I wasn’t going to pay for photos that might not be acceptable, the trainee went to show her boss the picture. His verdict? No, it probably wasn’t good enough. So back The Baby went onto the stool, thoroughly disgruntled by now. By my reckoning, we were two minutes away from full-blown tantrum, but thankfully, the next shot looked more or less okay. The Baby’s mouth was slightly open, and she wasn’t looking directly at the camera, but frankly, I had Had Enough. ‘I’m sure that will do,’ I conceded, desperately hoping that it would.

Back home, I’ve looked up the passport photo criteria, and it looks like we *should* be alright; under-fives don’t need to be looking directly at the camera or have a neutral expression. It would have been a heck of a lot easier if the girl in the photo store could have told us that; we could have used one of the first few images instead of having to shoot and re-shoot around until The Baby was on the verge of meltdown.

But we got there in the end. It’s not the best of photos, but, well, passport photos never are, are they? Let’s just hope we don’t get turned away at Passport Control…


4 thoughts on “Mission impossible

  1. that looks about as good as is reasonable to expect with a 15 month old! I was pretty narked, getting Hannah’s done at a post office where they do the check and send so SHOULD know the criteria and hers got sent back which meant her passport only got back about a week before we travelled…..streeeesssssssssssssssss!!!

  2. I still find it amusing that children under 5 need their own passport now and can’t just be added to the parent’s. F’s first passport photo was taken when she was 5 months old. At nearly 2 years old, she doesn’t look much like that baby now. And I expect she’ll look even less like it aged 4 and a half. Oh well. Cute pics by the way. x

    • It’s madness, isn’t it? I also need to renew The Boy’s; he was 18 months old when we got his first passport, and at 6.5 now, he looks *nothing* like he did then. Mind you, mine needs doing, too, and I can’t say the past 10 years have been that kind to me…

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