ERAS Residency Application Photo Requirements

4 min read

Your ERAS photo is a vital component to your residency application. At the very least, your photo will be stared at for hours by faculty members as they’re deliberating your candidacy for residency. And if you’re lucky (or unlucky), your photo will be plastered across the residency webpage and hospital roster in the years to come. So make sure to take one that leaves a great lasting impression to your future boss and colleagues!

1. Know the ERAS photo requirements.

  • Dimensions: 2.5 x 3.5 inches
  • File size: 100 KB
  • Resolution: 150 dpi

Photo must be in color. Frame must include frontal view of the person’s head and shoulders. Face must be centered in the middle.

2. Hire a professional or use a good camera.

Now is not the time to pinch pennies! Grainy low-quality pictures are not going to do you any favors. If you don’t have access to a real camera, seriously consider paying for a professional. You might be able to swing it with Portrait Mode on iPhone X, but an astute observer can still tell the difference. Realistically, there’s someone you know who likes taking photos and has a nice camera (Hint: they’ll usually have an artsy Instagram page) and would be willing to take a few photos for you in exchange for a free meal. Otherwise, spending $30 or $40 on professional headshots is a worthy investment for your future career.

3. Setting matters.

You want good lighting and a light or white background. Some programs specifically request that you avoid dark backgrounds. Make sure there are no poles sticking out behind your head or other distractions in the background.

The background is super distracting and there’s a pole sticking from his neck!

4. Research says suit up.

Recently, the Dermatology Online Journal published an article about The role of the Electronic Residency Application Service photograph in dermatology residency selection. The University of North Carolina Dermatology Department analyzed hundreds of applicant photos submitted to their program and found a few physical characteristics that predicted a positive match outcome: suit jacket, glasses, and hair down (for women). Jewelry didn’t seem to make a difference, and neither did male-specific grooming/styling practices (i.e., facial hair).

The study postulates that glasses make candidates appear “intelligent, successful, and hardworking.” As for the hair down observation (which might be perceived with “femininity” or whatever that means), that’s in-line with this ancient 1982 study showing that physical attractiveness of females correlated with better interview evaluations. We’ve clearly come a long way since feminism…

Obviously this is just one study and I think it’s ridiculous that females are held to a different standard than their male counterparts. And I definitely don’t think that you should be donning a pair of fake glasses if you have 20/20 vision or feel compelled to adhere to archaic standards of beauty. Regardless, you should still consider “dressing the part” and appear how you would to a residency interview. That means no white coat, graduation garment, or dressy attire. And definitely no cleavage.

Err on the side of caution and avoid anything too low-cut or tight.
Research suggests even business casual might be too casual.
And please for the love of god, do NOT wear a white coat.
Hair down, suit, and glasses. We’ve got ourselves a winner!

5. Smile!

Face the camera and try to look friendly. This isn’t a passport photo or mug shot.

Why so serious? Also, notice how the white shirt washes out against a white backdrop. Avoid looking like a floating head!

6. Consider photo retouching.

Photo retouching can do wonders for a mediocre image. You can remove flyaway hairs, smooth out a blotchy complexion, and even whiten your teeth. Obviously you don’t want to commit serious digital surgery on your photo so that you’re unrecognizable at your interview (like a deceptive Tinder date), but everyone could use a little bit of a glow-up.

Now go take that movie star ERAS photo!

For additional information on applying to residency, be sure to check out The Ultimate Survival Guide for Medical School and Tips for Filling Out Your ERAS Application.

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