Scars, Marks, and Tattoos

Guidelines for Tattoo Image Collection


  • Collect at least two photos – far away and zoomed close-up
  • Plain background and uniform, diffuse, bright office lighting
  • Tattoo is in focus with good contrast against skin
  • No occlusions or background clutter
  • Subject body limbs are parallel to the torso
  • Minimum distance of 1 meter between camera and subject
  • Minimum image size of 1920 x 2560 (5 Megapixels)
  • JPEG format (compression ratio of 15:1 or less)
  • Store and transmit in ANSI/NIST-ITL Type 10 format

Collect far away and zoomed close-up

Photo #1: Tattoo is far enough away to show the body location
Photo #2: Tattoo is centered and occupies majority of the image

Tattoo-Collect far away and zoomed close-up

Multiple Body Locations

Multiple tattoos

Tattoo-Multiple Body Locations-Multiple tattoos

For distinctly separate tattoos on different body locations, collect separate images for each tattoo.

Multipart tattoos

Tattoo-Multiple Body Locations-Multipart tattoos

For tattoos that span multiple body locations, collect multiple images from different location viewpoints with overlap where possible.

Full-body tattoos

Tattoo-Multiple Body Locations-Full-body tattoos

For full-body tattoos, photograph the entire tattooed area along with smaller areas of interest.

Collection Considerations


Use a plain, solid background

Tattoo-Collection Considerations-Background

Ensure background and/or floor

  • is a plain, solid color
  • does not contain any objects, clothing, or patterns

Sensor Plane

Ensure tattoo is parallel to sensor plane

Tattoo-Collection Considerations-Sensor Plane

  • Adjust camera and/or subject position so tattoo is in straight view and not at a vertical or horizontal angle


Ensure body limbs are parallel to torso

Tattoo-Collection Considerations-Orientation

Ask subject to

  • stand upright with both feet on the ground
  • point forearms towards the ground


Ensure adequate lighting; avoid large shadows and hot spots

Tattoo-Collection Considerations-Illumination

  • Employ adequate, uniform, diffuse lighting
  • Adjust camera flash settings
  • Recommend room light level of at least 500 lux

Body Hair

Avoid irrelevant body hair

Tattoo-Collection Considerations-Body Hair

  • In close-up photo, hairy regions that are not part of tattooed area(s) should be avoided
  • Adjust camera position and zoom to minimize irrelevant body hair from camera field of view


Ensure tattoo is in clear focus; Avoid blur

Tattoo-Collection Considerations-Focus

  • Hold camera still and at proper distance from subject
  • Ask subject to remain still
  • Adjust lens focus

Learn more about tattoo image collection (NIST)