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, 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.
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.
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.
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.