A form I was looking at asked for customers to submit ONE photo of BOTH sides of their ID card. I spoke with the developers of the form and they are changing it.

But then it made me wonder is it really that impossible? Are there no creative ways to do it?

I prefer methods that don't use mirrors.

  • 5
    Depending on the country you live in, it might not be legal for you to take photos of your own ID card. Germany is one such country, where the Personalausweisgesetz forbids you to give third parties access to your ID. Copying (also digital) is included in that.
    – simbabque
    Mar 19, 2017 at 21:11
  • 5
    One photo is not the same as one exposure. You can make one photo with as many exposures as you can manipulate masks, multiple-exposures, overlays, reflections, and other photographic "special" effects.
    – Stan
    Mar 20, 2017 at 0:13
  • 1
    @simbabque There probably is an EU law that states the same, but if not, in the Netherlands it is also prohibited, except where specifically required by law. e.g. banks (they only make copies and retain them to prove that they have identified you, they are not required to store them by law), employers and healthcare providers can make copies, but need to adhere to very strict rules. If you want an interesting read about this, head over here
    – Gizmo
    Mar 20, 2017 at 19:47
  • 1
    @Gizmo It can't be that illegal in the Netherlands. The ministry of Economic Affairs has made a mobile app that allows you to take ID card photos, remove info you don't want to share and label it with the intended user of the photo, to prevent misuse: itunes.apple.com/nl/app/kopieid/id932970330?mt=8 Mar 22, 2017 at 2:41
  • 1
    Not enough reputation to post as an answer - but get 2 Sony xperia phones, they include the ability to link up and take a single photo using both cameras.
    – xorsyst
    Mar 22, 2017 at 16:50

17 Answers 17


Ok, since you've asked for creative ways, here we go.

Place the id card at the left side of the frame, take an under exposed photo with a long shutter time (5 seconds), fire a flash, turn the id card around and place it at the right side of the frame, fire the the flash a second time.

We now have both sides of the id card in a single shot without any mirrors. If the flash was located close to the id card and the background is far away, we can even have a nice black background.

  • 8
    Arguably, this is not really a single shot, but still two exposures in one frame. Still, +1 for cleverness.
    – mattdm
    Mar 18, 2017 at 16:16
  • 8
    But it is indeed one photo...
    – Zabba
    Mar 19, 2017 at 5:45
  • 35
    mattdm, I think it isn't as arguable as you might be thinking. The flash is used twice, but the shutter only actuates once. It is not a double exposure (in which case the shutter is closed and opened onto the same piece of film again).
    – ttbek
    Mar 19, 2017 at 11:32
  • 3
    @mattdm The OP never mentioned a single shot. The only stipulation was that the result was a single image. The OP also suggested that a right-reading image (no mirror) was desirable.
    – Stan
    Mar 20, 2017 at 0:19
  • 4
    @mattdm I fail to see how this is not a single shot. Is it the double flash that's important here? What if it was a 10 minute exposure without a flash, and the card was flipped over after 5 minutes? Is that a single shot? I've always thought of a 10 minute exposure as a single shot, given than I press the shutter button once, and get a single image at the end of it.
    – user3739
    Mar 20, 2017 at 13:38

Well, you asked for creative, you didn't say practical:

Gravitational lensing. Place the card edge on and behind a sufficiently massive body. Position the card and camera correctly and both faces will be visible, albeit substantially redshifted, one side worse than the other.

Obtaining the sufficiently massive body (neutron star or black hole) to do so is left as a problem for the user, as is protecting the card from the incredibly harsh environment that exists at the location it must be when the picture is snapped.

  • 9
    This is the kind of creativity I was hoping for when I saw this question. Mar 20, 2017 at 11:22
  • 3
    You could also use conventional lensing. That way the card can be slightly further away from the heavy thing. (You'll still need a very powerful flash though.)
    – wizzwizz4
    Mar 20, 2017 at 16:37
  • And make sure it's not too close, or you'll lose your light to the black hole as well :(
    – Cullub
    Mar 20, 2017 at 18:04
  • 2
    It could take a long time to get the card to the other side of a sufficiently massive body. Do we now have to consider the relativistic effects on this card now? I'd hate to see a card reach its expiration date because we flew it outside of the solar system and back =)
    – Cort Ammon
    Mar 20, 2017 at 19:56
  • You'll need a really big lens en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diffraction-limited_system Mar 21, 2017 at 16:49

Split the card along its thickness and photograph the halves side by side. Glue them back together if necessary.

Alternatively, lose the card, have it replaced, and then find the original. Photograph the reverse of one with the obverse of the other.

  • 34
    My dad did exactly this (split along thickness) in the 60's. IDs were paper back then and he wanted to make his single-sheet, double-sided, high school id look like university id which was book-like and side-by-side. His peers were very impressed. Authorities not at all.
    – Agent_L
    Mar 19, 2017 at 17:05

The solution is simple. Give up on that sissy 35mm or digital stuff, and get your hands on some film for real photographers: 4x5 film!

Then all you have to do is go in a dark room, wrap the film around the ID, and make a contact print (err... contact negative?) with a single strobe flash! If you can tune the flash correctly, there should be a difference in tone between the film exposed by the flash and the reflective white of the card below it vs the fiml exposed by the flash but no reflection because it was over a black surface.

Go big or go home! =D


It can be done with a single shot on a smart phone.

In this photo I stuck my "ID" (business card) on the end of a pen and started a panoramic shot with an iPhone. Once the card was out of shot, I flipped it and moved it so it would be back in shot again.

I cropped the photo to remove superfluous background.

Important to keep the card steady! You can see some artifacts of movement in the left side card especiallyenter image description here.

This solution is available to most digital camera users, without need for strobes, motors, optic fibre, film, neutron stars or other more exotic equipment.


One possibility might be to use an old film based moving slot shutter panoramic camera - these used to be used for things including photos of large groups of people (for example, school photos). To allow for the panoramic format, without excessively complex lenses, rather than using a conventional full frame shutter, the camera basically used a rotating (around a vertical axis) lens assembly with a slot (and I think it may have curved the film plane as well).

As the lens rotated, the slot meant that only a thin vertical strip of the film was being exposed at any time - a bit like a dual curtain SLR shutter at high speeds, except that I believe the panoramic camera may have controlled the exposure by changing the rotation speed.

So when you took a picture, it would start exposing at one side of the subject, and scan across to the other side. Apparently, if you were very quick, it was sometimes possible to appear in the photo twice, if you could get to the other end after it'd exposed your original position.

With a suitable close up lens, you might be able to flip and move the card to the other side before it exposed that part.

A more modern (and probably simpler) alternative would be to flip the card on a flatbed scanner, after it's scanned the first side.

  • We have a panoramic photo of my grandfather and his "twin" at a church picnic, c. 1930, that was taken this way. The original question doesn't say anything about how much of the frame the ID needs to fill, so this method would seem viable even without a close-up lens: just hold up one side towards the camera at the beginning, then run around the back of the camera while it pans and hold up the other side at the other end of the exposure.
    – 1006a
    Mar 19, 2017 at 12:32
  • 2
    As a cheaper alternative, the iPhone has a panorama function that requires manually panning across the scene, and you could certainly get one photo of both sides of the card using that, using the run-around-the-back technique.
    – N. Virgo
    Mar 19, 2017 at 12:43
  • My suggestion was also going to be the panoramic camera, but involved having someone running along behind the students holding up one side and then the other of the card over the head of each. Because it was funnier in my head. Mar 21, 2017 at 21:29

option 1. Get out two phones, take a picture of one of the sides with one phone, take a picture of the other side with the other phone. Then, show the images on both phones and use your camera to take a picture of both phones.

option 2. Cut the card into tiny strips and flip every other strip.

option 3. go into a dark (ish) room, set the shutter speed to 30 seconds and attach camera to a tripod. Put the ID card on the left side, click the button, wait 15 seconds, then quickly flip it over and move to the right side and wait another 15 seconds. You now have both sides in one exposure

  • option 3 is what I wanted to post, exactly… it will need a relatively strong light pointed at the card though, so that background is relatively dark and doesn't"overwrite" the card too much Mar 19, 2017 at 9:17
  • Option 3 was the one I was thinking about but other ideas seem more practical
    – Willemien
    Mar 19, 2017 at 23:10
  • You don't really need two phones for option 1. You can just use one phone + the card itself.
    – Jason C
    Mar 25, 2017 at 4:40

"submit ONE photo of BOTH sides of their ID card"

This is Stackexchange, we can do better!

Setup Camera and hold your ID Card so that one corner points at the center of the Lens, click.

Now you have a single photo of TWO edges and BOTH sides; so no matter what you think the word "side" means you have two, and you have the front and back for a bonus.

Technical Note: Other answers may result in injury, damaged Card, blurry image and likely would take longer to do - those pitfalls don't exist with my suggestion. 😉

  • 5
    "Other answers may result in injury, damaged Card, blurry image, or getting sucked into the singularity of a black hole".
    – aroth
    Mar 22, 2017 at 0:34

If the card is placed perpendicular to the camera, a large and powerful convex lens might be able to capture both sides, by virtue of bending the light back inwards. Two lenses in series is also an option: (image source)

enter image description here

Alternatively, two convex lenses alongside each other could be used to redirect the direction of projection. In this photograph you can see each lens is revealing a different side of the railing. (image source)

enter image description here


You could photograph one side, make a print, lay it next to the card with the other side up and photograph the two. But I agree, it's a silly requirement.

  • 3
    That's a photograph of one side of the ID card and the other side of a forgery of the ID card. Mar 18, 2017 at 18:19
  • 10
    Any photograph of an ID card is a forgery.
    – Michael C
    Mar 18, 2017 at 23:52
  • 5
    Take a photograph of each side, lay them together and photograph that. At least both sides will be equally forged!
    – TripeHound
    Mar 21, 2017 at 13:12

Solution with only one exposure. Illuminate the ID card from behind with a strong enough light, then take a picture from the front side. Both sides will be visible in the picture. Although the two sides are superimposed and not distinguishable, it's still technically a picture of both sides of the ID.

  • Excellent solution, at least as good as Rob's ;)
    – Benj
    Mar 20, 2017 at 14:34

Use a 3D photo camera and put the ID-card with one side towards the left lens and the other towards the right lens. i.e. put it "between the eyes" and make a cross-eyed photo. May result in bad quality :)


Take a 35mm movie camera (and more curiously, one that has capability of taking single shots). Take 2 shots of front and back one after another. Remove the film from the camera, develop it, cut it to the length of still 35mm film, take it to a lab and lie to their faces that this is a still film and you want prints from it.

A 35mm still frame is basically 2 35mm movie frames one next to another, so the lab guys will be tricked into printing TWO frames on ONE sheet of paper without even knowing they're serving your nefarious plan.

Laugh like an evil mastermind.

/edit: yes, in it's core it's a double exposure that has been mentioned already several times, but my point is to exploit the overlaps in existing infrastructure to do the double exposure for you.


Without using mirrors (or, less likely, prisms, fiber optics, or exotic non-photographic lenses), there's no way in one simple exposure, but it is trivial to combine two different shots into a single image. This single file could then be submitted to an online form.

I wouldn't recommend that from a UX perspective, since it's a big hoop that many non-technical users won't be able to surmount, but it's not hard for anyone who knows their way around an image editor.

  • and there are plenty of free editors, including built in to most desktop operating systems. It's not so easy on mobile though - most technical users would find it tedious /frustrating while many other users would struggle to find a way to do it at all
    – Chris H
    Mar 18, 2017 at 14:15
  • 3
    "No way in one exposure..." Are you sure...?
    – 10 Replies
    Mar 18, 2017 at 20:16
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    @mattdm Those caveats amount to "it's impossible to do in one exposure, if you rule out all the ways of doing it in one exposure".
    – IMSoP
    Mar 19, 2017 at 14:43
  • 3
    @mattdm I don't see any meaning of "exposure" on that list that would rule out every one of the other ideas on this page from counting as "one exposure"; even with multiple flashes there is "one click of the shutter", and some of the suggestions don't even require that. And the question was explicitly asking for "creative ways to do it", not "easy and obvious".
    – IMSoP
    Mar 19, 2017 at 15:31
  • 1
    You seem to be confusing "double exposure" and "single long exposure" which are definitely not the same. However, even with your stipulation of single short exposure, no mirrors and no prisms, your answer still isn't the only way because you didn't exclude lenses.
    – Kaithar
    Mar 24, 2017 at 17:23

It's an easy two-step process.

  • Obtain a bundle of optical fiber the size of the front element of your lens.
  • Bifurcate the bundle.

Take the card and camera into a pocket universe whose geometry is such that space-time wraps round upon itself in a short distance (the details of accomplishing this are left as an exercise for the reader). Hold the card so that both sides are visible to the camera, albeit at different apparent differences. Take your photo. Return to our universe with the card and camera.

  • 1
    Mike, this is interesting idea, but you do not provide any technical details, so please update your question. Mar 21, 2017 at 11:19
  • In this setup, you would see the same side of the card again and again and again, over greater and greater distances -.-
    – yeoman
    Mar 26, 2017 at 12:41
  • Of course, a pocket universe wit a WEIRD geometry would help, but these are even more annoyingly difficult and expensive to create and maintain.
    – yeoman
    Mar 26, 2017 at 12:43

Make a hologram of your ID card. You have to walk to see both sides, but they will both be there.

  • Note that holograms are taken on high resolution film, so they qualify...
    – Grimaldi
    Apr 19, 2017 at 13:42

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