Visual information section provides resource for official photos

LogoFORT PICKETT, Va. – Fort Pickett and Camp Pendleton offer photo labs for Soldiers needing to have an official photo or portrait taken for a special packet or board as well as other photographic services. The Fort Pickett-based directorate of information management’s photo lab finished off summer with 240 official photographs and more than 1,000 event photographs.

To obtain a DA photo, Soldiers typically must first be a first lieutenant or higher, a chief warrant officer 2 or higher, sergeant and above unless the Soldier requires the photo for a board. All official photos are forwarded to the Department of the Army Photo Management Information System.

Army Regulation 640-30, Photographs for Military Personnel Files, outlines the Soldier’s responsibility when taking official photos. Soldiers must come in to the lab with a properly fitted and recently pressed uniform. Awards, medallions, and decorations must be correct in accordance with AR 670-1, Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia and AR 600-8-22, Military Awards.

“To prepare for your photo refer to your record brief to ensure you have the correct awards, service stripes and deployment stripes,” said Ronald Mason, VI manager.

Soldiers must also bring their DA issued Common Access Card with them and need to be prepared to verify their social security number, their date of rank, and their duty position.

Soldiers also need to know what size photo they need. A regulation DA photo is 4×6”, whereas some packets, like job postings, require 5×7”. Other boards, like Soldier of the Year, can require 8×10”. Command portraits, or head and shoulder shots, are usually done as a 8×10” photo but can be 11×14”.

Photos can also require different backgrounds. “Some photos need to have the Army blue background, some need to have a flag, especially for board photos” said Mason. The option for the American and Virginia flag are available for command portraits or board files. General officers require the general officer flag for their portraits.

Only official DA awards are approved for wear during DA photo sessions. State awards and some foreign decorations are not approved for wear during the photo which often causes confusion during many Soldiers first photos, explained Mason.

The photographer often takes multiple photos and lets the Soldier pick his or her best shot, commented Mason.

“I encourage all Soldiers to help each other,” said Mason. “Have another Soldier, first sergeant, or commander check over your uniform to make sure everything is correct before your appointment.”

Mason suggests bringing in the uniform on a hanger, not wearing it in, and carrying it in some kind of protective bag, like one would get at a dry cleaner.

“I’m not allowed to use Photoshop or edit the photo in any way,” Mason said. “If a uniform has wrinkles or dog hair, I can’t make it disappear.”

Soldiers require a new DA photo if they receive a promotion or an award equivalent to an Army Commendation Medal and should be scheduled within 60-days. Mason also suggests retaking a photo if there is a major change in appearance, such as losing a significant amount of weight.

The photo lab has two changing rooms for Soldiers to use. Mason uses a lint roller and can assist Soldiers with ensuring their awards and buttons are straight.

Official DA photos can be taken at Fort Pickett or Camp Pendleton at no charge to the Soldier.

In addition to official photos, the Visual Information section provides a number of services and equipment to units across the state and those visiting Fort Pickett or Camp Pendleton. “I take on an average of 15 to 30 photos and around 100 to 300 training, ceremonies and special event photos every week,” Mason said.

The VI section has a variety of missions within its scope of work. It has a variety of multimedia equipment available for short-term use and can provide presentation and consultation support. The list of available equipment includes: projectors, screens, public announcement systems, overhead projectors, digital cameras, helmet camcorders, DVD players, wireless microphones, and polycoms.

In addition to equipment usage, the VI section is also available to assist with indoor and outdoor audio/visual needs. Specialists can photograph and take video of changes of command, promotion, retirement and graduation ceremonies for the battalion-level and higher-sized units.

VI can also set-up a PA system for those ceremonies and works with units to ensure that the all their AV needs are met.

The section can also advise units when they are looking to acquire audiovisual equipment. They can help research types of equipment and match up its specifications with certain uses. From start to finish the section can design, layout, recommend and install equipment for conference rooms, classrooms, and briefing rooms.

To make an appointment for a DA photo, head and shoulders shot or a DA-style photo, Soldiers must make an appointment online at Appointments are not made by telephone. If Soldiers need to cancel their appointment, the photo lab requires 24-hours notice. Soldiers cannot reschedule their appointment on VIOS until the original appointment is cancelled.

The lab can be reserved specifically for units if they have a larger group of Soldiers. The lab is not limited to Guardsman. Active duty and Reserve Soldiers may request times for photos.

The Fort Pickett Photo Lab is located in Bldg. 1695, and appointments can be made for every Wednesday.

The Camp Pendleton photo lab is located in Bldg. 1402 and appointments can be scheduled for every other Thursday and Friday.

Soldiers receive a system generated e-mail that provides additional instructions and information.

For more information on regulations concerning official Soldier photographs, see AR 640-30.