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About the University photo policy

This policy defines the criteria a photo must meet when submitted for the purposes of validating identity across Collegiate Cambridge. The criteria forms the basis by which photos will be reviewed and approved, whether through manual review or automatic validation. 

The University Card Committee has decided that for clarity and practical convenience, the University will use the Passport Office's rules to define the visual suitability of photographs in the Photograph Database.

The file quality specifications are determined by the need to integrate with existing and future University systems.

The rules will be applied when new photographs are submitted or old ones are actively used by the University. As well as being used for printing University Cards, the photographs are also used in systems such as CamSIS and CHRIS and this may also occasionally highlight cases where a photograph is not fit for purpose as a true likeness.

Policy aims

  1. Create a store of recognisable images that can be called programmatically. 
  2. Ease the administration of the process for both colleges and university by making the rules for images easy to understand and consistent across use cases. 
  3. To standardise the collection of images through the different routes of joining the university. 

Photo acceptance criteria

A photo submitted to the Photo API (in development) will be approved if the photo meets all the requirements below. Any photo not meeting all the requirements will be rejected and deleted.

The file provided must be:

  • supplied in either PNG, JPG or HEIC file format
  • at least 640 x 480 pixels
  • no larger than 10MB

The photo must be: 

  • in colour
  • clear and in focus
  • taken against a plain light-coloured background

In your photo you must: 

  • be facing forwards looking straight at the camera
  • have your eyes open and visible

Your photo must not:

  • contain other objects or people
  • have 'red eye' effect
  • have hair in front of your eyes
  • have any head covering (unless for religious or medical reasons)
  • have anything covering your eyes
  • have any shadows on your face or behind you


Visual examples


Acceptance criteria and example images are taken from these guidelines under the Open Government Licence v3.0.


Additional information for Card Representatives


  1. User guidance on passport photos including visual examples
  2. Home Office staff guidance for approving passport photos

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