I think this article might be the most important post I have ever made.

Let that sink in for a moment. I have been doing this for over 10 years, and have helped well over 100,000 people to get their DV greencard, but I am literally saying I have never created a more important post than this one.

I am certain that literally MILLIONS of people ruin their chances each year of being selected, and some get selected and then get denied because they did not make sensible decisions about this. And I am not exaggerating – the number is real, in DV2024 more than 70% of applications from the AF region were rejected even before the results were announced – so don’t fail in this way!

I am talking about the photo for the DV lottery entry. If you have any interest in entering the lottery, you should read this article slowly, pay attention, and follow the advice I am giving here. I will create a video with the same information so you can see me demonstrate the same concepts.

The government have certain requirements for the photo which I will explain below, and it is essential that you create photos that will not cause your application to be rejected. So – take these tips seriously.

First, a few common questions about the photo.

  • Can I re-use an older photo, or one from a previous entry? NO – you must not do that!
  • Do I have to have a professional photo taken? Not always, although some of you might be better off taking that option.
  • Can I take a photo with my phone? Yes – phones these days have good quality cameras in them, perfectly suitable for the photos you need for the DV lottery entry.
  • Can I edit the photo? This one is difficult. You must not alter your appearance in any way. However, it may be possible to edit the background of a photo as long as it does not change your appearance in any way. So – I would rather you did NOT edit the photo unless really necessary – so my examples and video explanation.
  • Can I send my photo to you to check? No – Over 20 million people apply each year, so I do not have time to do that, so please don’t bother asking.

Now – what is an acceptable photo?

The photo below shows what you are trying to achieve. It meets the requirements as described in the official instructions which are linked here . The main features I want you to notice are that is is a head and shoulders photo, on a white background, with a neutral expression and no edits that have changed the appearance in any way. It is of the correct dimension (2 inch by 2 inch 600 pixels by 600 pixels).

Your photos or digital images must be: 

  • In color 
  • In focus 
  • Sized such that the head is between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches (22 mm
    and 35 mm) or 50 percent and 69 percent of the image’s total height from
    the bottom of the chin to the top of the head.  View the Photo Composition
    Template for more size requirement details. 
  • Taken within the last six months to reflect your current appearance 
  • Taken in front of a plain white or off-white background 
  • Taken in full-face view directly facing the camera 
  • With a neutral facial expression and both eyes open 
  • Taken in clothing that you normally wear on a daily basis 
  • Uniforms should not be worn in your photo, except religious clothing
    that is worn daily. 
  • Do not wear a hat or head covering that obscures the hair or hairline,
    unless worn daily for a religious purpose.  Your full face must be visible,
    and the head covering must not cast any shadows on your face. 
  • Headphones, wireless hands-free devices, or similar items are not
    acceptable in your photo. 
  • Do not wear eyeglasses. 
  • If you normally wear a hearing device or similar articles, they may be
    worn in your photo.

You will need a photo like this for yourself, and for each person on the entry, including your spouse and each child. Remember, you will have to include every child that is under 21 and unmarried at the time of the DV entry. That includes your own biological children, adopted children and step children (aquired through marriage). These children must be included whether they live with you or not, and whether you intend to take them to the USA or not. So – make sure you can obtain a photo of each child, ready to do your application., and I advise you to name the digital files clearly so you don’t mix up one photo for another.

OK – so how to get a good photo. What is the best method?

Professional photo

The best way to get a perfect photo is by going to a professional photographer. Such a photographer will have a white background and have good studio lighting that will allow a photo to be used with NO manipulation or retouching in any way. However, this may not be possible for everyone, it might be inconvenient or expensive to get a professional photo. So, there are some other options.

Create your own photo – step by step

To create your own photo you need a device with a good camera or a digital camera. Whilst it is possible to scan an image from a printed photo, I would not recommend that. Depending on whether you have access to a clean white background you have some options available to you.

  1. Choose a location where to take the photo. It should have good natural light, if in sunlight, make sure the sun is not too strong. You might need to stand in shade to avoid squinting your eyes.
  2. Ideally be in front of a white plain background. There are some options to edit a background to be plain white as you will see in my video, BUT you will save time and money if you can use a plain white (or off-white) background.
  3. Ideally have someone else take the photo for you. Whilst you might be able to hold a phone yourself for a selfie, it is likely you will need arms like an Orangutan. You probably can’t hold the phone far enough away to get a good photo with a relaxed face on pose.
  4. Remove eyeglasses, hats and so on and be dresses in “normal” everyday clothes. No need to wear your Sunday best. No uniforms. Head coverings that are worn for religious reasons are OK.
  5. Look directly at the camera, no smiling, just a boring pose. If both your ears are showing then that means you have posed directly “face on” which is correct.
  6. Take the photo of you and each person who will be on your entry.
  7. Now, depending on whether you have a white background or not, your next step will vary:
  8. If you do not have a plain white or off-white background you should use an online service to edit the photo. You can use tools such as photoshop, but I find the online services are best. below and in my video I show how to use 2 such services – each of which charges a few dollars per photo. The photo they produce will have the right dimensions, the correct crop and a white background.
  9. If you did manage to get a plain white background you can save a few dollars for each photo because you can use the governments online tool which is free, and can crop a photo to the correct size and dimensions – BUT you should have a good quality photo with a white background. The government photo tool is linked here

Examples of online services

In order to demonstrate a couple on online options I used the following two photos of me that I had created using a cell phone. You can see I found a plain background in my house, BUT the wall is too dark in color so I would not recommend using that photo directly.

Using these two photos I paid $2.99 to use makepassportphoto.com and $7.00 to use Visafoto.com. These are the results:

Adobe Express/Photoshop edit

Adobe will let you create an account for free and has a certain amount of functionality available. However, it takes some skill to use the tool, and unless you are expert you may get noticeable effects in the produced image when trying to remove the background. For instance, I found the image produced has some flattened area of my hair (as little as I have), which makes it noticeable that the photo has been edited. I would be concerned that this could be interpreted as an alteration of my features, and therefore be a slight cause for concern.

The problem with hair will be a larger problem for those with more hair – especially if the hair is curly. The background could show through the gaps in the hair, OR the hair could be edited out – and either way thise could give concern about the photo being edited.

So, unless you have NO budget at all, or you are not an expert with the tool, I would suggest not using that option.


This seems an acceptable photo and the treatment of the hairline is pretty good. The cost of this services was $7.00 which is not too bad at all.


This also seems an acceptable photo and the treatment of the hairline is pretty good, but I actually find the photo a little more accurate (less softened) and since that is the less expensive service ($2.99), that would be my recommendation.

Here is my video for this same subject:

In summary, I hope this article is useful for you. Please do take this step seriously, as you do not want to have your photo rejected right from the beginning.