Is there a preferred size and ratio for images that represent a headshot/mugshot of a person? I have a project where we're taking photos of people, generate thumbnails, store the thumbnails and print them on identification cards. Those cards can be swiped by a computer and the photo pops up in a little notification window.

So is there a preferred or standard photo size / ratio for printing on identification cards (drivers licenses, passports, Costco cards)? Also, is there a preferred or standard size / ratio for headshots of people in web or Windows-based UIs?

An example might be a "Meet the Executive Team" section of a website that has executive headshots.

I know some places will do square headshots (StackExchange @ 128x128px), I would prefer a slightly more vertical headshot, but I'm not too picky either way. If there were any standards in this area, it would be great to know what the recommended Square headshot, vertical, or (if this exists) a horizontal image layout dimensions and ratio is.


As far as definite thumbnail dimensions and width height ratios I believe it can vary depending on where you are going to be using the image and how it will be displayed. I did some research and I think it may be a better idea to base the dimensions upon what you would like it to look like. For example determine the shape, use and how much area you would like for it to take up. Here is a list of standard image sizes and ratios based upon shape and use standard sizing. Tailor it to your needs, just a suggestion hope it helps.

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  • Thank you, this is pretty useful (for many reasons, more than just my question). Adding this to the ol' list of bookmarks – Adam Plocher May 19 '14 at 8:10
  • @AdamPlocher glad it helped! If this answered your question please mark it as doing so, just to help clear up un-answered questions on the site. Thanks so much! – Nick_M May 20 '14 at 12:50
  • Thanks Nick, I was holding out to see if there were any other responses, but this is a great answer and I think this is the best I can hope for. Thanks – Adam Plocher May 22 '14 at 7:19

I think it's usually about matching the scenario of use. The aesthetics and potential symbolism/connotations of different ratios and shapes are beyond my knowledge.

The UX SE square image might be squared because it goes well with two lines of readable text on the side. Mugshots have their shape to fit a head, which should have more height than width, and a name plate below. Drivers licenses and passport have the same requirement based shapes. A head fits a lot better in a standing rect than in a horizontal one.

I guess the Golden ratio has something to do with it, but it might be a backwards way of reasoning since it's argued that the Golden ration is derived from our own anatomy (i.e. the shape of the head partly affected the ratio).

A trend I have noticed, that might already be past its peak, is the use of circular portrait images. It looks nice and gives an airy feel around the photo grid, but might be perceived as less corporate. Might go well in a notification.

I think you should let convenience guide you here, and that there are no standards at all. If you look at this page about passport photos in different countries, you see that there is little consensus, even regarding that universal concept.

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  • The golden ratio has showed up in the energy ratios of subatomic particles, so careful how much you speculate that Phi is an anthropic proportion. Studies have shown (and I've reproduced them) that phi-ratio rectangles are more appealing than others – New Alexandria May 16 '14 at 12:44
  • Thank you Babossa, I think this is a good start. I am interested to hear some more input from other folks, but this is helpful. – Adam Plocher May 16 '14 at 13:37

95% of the photo Sizes for ID, Passport, VISA all over the world are of either 2x2 inch (51x51mm) or 35x45 mm. These are the common sizes used for Passport, VISA ID photos across the world. It's the same size for most of ID cards in USA.

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