Army DA Photo Information

In the Army, Army Reserves and Army National Guard, leaders (Officers and NCOs) are expected to have a current DA Photo.

The DA Photo is used to assess a soldiers’ professionalism and appearance.  In most cases, a photo is good for five years.

These photos are used for promotion packets, command packets, Soldier/NCO of the Year packets, and several other things.

A photo is normally considered “current” unless you received a new award or was promoted.  In either of those cases, you would need to update your DA Photo.

And if you didn’t receive an award or get promoted during a five year period of time, you would still need to get a new photo.

DA Photo Lab

Most major bases have a photo lab.  Some National Guard Installations have photo labs as well.  The lab is typically a separate building or office you visit to get your photo taken. There is normally a receptionist and a photographer.

You visit the photo lab on your scheduled date and time and have your photo taken and processed.  It normally takes 15-60 minutes to complete the process, depending upon how they are staffed and how efficient they are at what they do.

When you leave, you will NO LONGER get a CD-R with your photo on it; however, you might get lucky and get a few 4 x 6 inch photos to take with you.

You also have to go online and approve your photo.  Sometimes you can do this on site, and other times you have to do it when you get home (or back to work).

According to the regulation, you must approve or reject your photo within 72-hours.

DA Photo Appointment

To schedule a DA Photo Appointment, you simply need to visit the Visual Information Ordering Site (VIOS).  The website provides the locations where photos are taken.  You are required to use your local facility.

To schedule your appointment, you can log-in with your CAC card and complete the process.  It takes about 10-15 minutes to schedule an appointment.  The site will let you check the times available, so you can book an appointment that is convenient for you.

Most offices are open from 9 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday.

DA Photo Regulation

The official DA Photo Regulation is AR 640-30.  This regulation gives you all the details and requirements for your photo.  This includes the process for taking, submitting, selecting and publishing your photo.   It also outlines the responsibilities of unit commanders, installation commanders, the Photo Lab personnel and the individual soldier.

If you are unsure about the rules or procedures for your DA Photo, I highly recommend you take 20-minutes and read this 18-page regulation.  It will give you all the information you need to prepare for your photo session.

DA Photo Example

What you see here is my last DA Photo I had taken before I resigned from the Army National Guard.  I had this photo taken in November in 2010 at Fort Detrick, Maryland just a few months after I pinned on Major.  The only thing I’ve done to modify it is cross out my social security number and personal information to protect my privacy.  You can tell from the photo, I’m a good looking guy.  LOL.

Sample DA Photo

DA Photo Location

As I mentioned earlier, most Active Duty Installations have a DA Photo Lab.   And if you are in the National Guard or Reserves, you have a lot of options too.  Every State has its own DA Photo Location.  Some States offer several locations.  The best thing you can do is contact your Unit S1 Office or visit the G1 website.

In most cases, you will be able to find the closest location to get your photo taken.  If you can’t figure things out on your own, just contact your local Human Resources Section and then can help you book your appointment.

If your local facility is unavailable, you can do a quick Internet search to find an alternate location.

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Top 10 Tips for a Good DA Photo

Listed below you will find my top 10 tips to ensure you have a good DA Photo.

1.  Prepare your uniform the night before, or the week before

2.  Have your supervisor or a trusted peer do a double check to make sure everything is in order

3.  Bring a battle buddy with you for your photo for one last inspection

4.  Check your uniform several weeks ahead of time to make sure it still fits

5. Double check to make sure all your ribbons are present and in the right order

6.  Double check your uniform before you leave your house that day to make sure you aren’t missing anything

7. Verify your 2-1 or Personnel Record to make sure you are only wearing awards you are entitled to wear

8. Make sure you have a fresh haircut and brush your teeth

9.  If you take your photo in the afternoon, make sure you shave right before you take your photo

10. Have the photographer take 3-5 poses and pick the best one

Finally, if you aren’t happy with your official photo, schedule a follow-up session and have it retaken.  I’ve seen some very ugly photos.  In fact, I had one myself that could have made the all time top 10 worst photos list.

Don’t make that same mistake.

Final Thoughts

If you are serious about your career, it’s up to you to manage it wisely.  One aspect of doing that is to keep a current DA Photo.  At a minimum, I recommend you update your photo every 2 years.  Of course, that’s just my personal preference.  And any time you get promoted or receive a new award it would be a good idea to get your photo updated.  Whatever you do, just stay proactive and make sure you keep a current photo in your personnel file.  You never know when you will need it!

So tell us about your worst photo, or your best DA photo. Leave comments and questions below. Thank you.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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14 thoughts on “Army DA Photo Information”

  1. My girlfriend served and her only copy of her DA photo was destroyed, how can she get another copy? She deployed 2009-2010. I would love to help her get a copy of it. Thank you!

  2. I found that for the National Guard the VIOS web site will only link you to the DA Photo Lab within your state. This can be kind of a problem in larger land mass states. The lab in my state is a 6 hour drive from my HOR. The next state over has a lab and it is only a 3 hour drive but I cannot make a appointment using VIOS. Once I explained this the lab assistant he had no issue making me an appointment. Not sure if this would work if you had to use a Active Component lab.

  3. Interesting how they require a “formal” photograph – in full dress (is that what it’s called? Sorry!) in the military. I had assumed it would be a very quick, almost mugshot-like process that was more designed for efficiency than anything else. Nice to see that they allow for a legit picture to be taken, it’s dignifying in its own way.

  4. All this advice is great Chuck. Your DA photograph can actually “make you or break you.” Many judgement calls are made based on your photograph. Whether that is right or wrong, doesn’t really matter at this point. The best bet is to follow the advice given here and make absolutely sure your photograph meets all standards. When reviewing it, put yourself in the place of an officer who may be looking at your photograph and making a call on if you get promoted.

  5. I would say that if you are not happy with your photo that you say so during the review, not after you leave. It is not easy to get another appointment and per AR 640-30 re-shoots are only granted if the there is an error on the photographer's part.

  6. As someone who used to help photographers with portraits (non-military), your advice is spot on. Your recommendation to do another shave if your photo is the afternoon is right on the mark. The lighting that is used can really amplify if you haven’t shaved. Since these photos are used for many years and many uses, including NCO of the year packets, all of this advice is spot on.

  7. This is a comment I got via email.

    “On your site you posted “When you leave, you will get a CD-R with your photo on it”….this is totally incorrect as per AR-640-30.

    “Active measures must be taken to ensure the accuracy and integrity of all official DA photographs. To ensure integrity of all official DA photos, a digital computer file, disk or copy WILL NOT be issued to the Soldier.”

    Prints are no longer needed/issued except for a few areas like schools, job packets, TSU reserve personnel and E-5 and below as they are not uploaded to DAPMIS.”


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