How to Take Your Own Passport Photo

One day, it must have been more than ten years ago, I went to get my passport photo taken. I knew the local drugstore was offering a good price for passport photos, so I went there. I stayed in line until they were ready to help me. Then a clerk came to take my photo. He brought out a digital camera, one that was very similar to the one I had at home. He had me stand against a wall and took the photo. Then he printed out the photo, cropped it to be the right size and gave it to me.

I was amazed that what he did to give me an "official" passport photo was something I could have done at home.

Ever since then, we have been taking our own photos and saving our money.

What You Need to Take Your Own Passport Photo

Directions from the U.S. Department of State about passport photo requirements. If you live in another country, you will have different requirements. When you get the application, the form will probably tell you the requirements, or you can look them up online.

digital camera

photography paper

software to edit the photo, optional

Scissors. We used a rotary cutter and ruler since we had it to make straight lines.

Patience. It may take a few tries to get the photo the right size, especially since you don't do it very often. But remember, you don't have to drive anywhere or wait in line, or wait for the clerk to do their printing and whatever else they do. Plus, you are learning some valuable skills in the process.

That's it. Now you may question two of the choices. Photography paper is not cheap, but you get many sheets in one package, so you will be able to use it for other things. Also, I have been able to find many sales over the years, especially through office supply stores, and often get my paper for free or for $1 or $2.

The other questionable item is the photo editing software. The passport agency specifically prohibits any doctoring of any photos. We will not be using the software to be air brushing out any blemishes or make you more or less attractive. The software is only required to re-size the image to fit the requirements, and only used if it is necessary.


Photo Requirements

Your passport photo must be:

in color

recent, within 6 months, and reflect your current appearance

taken with a white or off-white background

have a full view of your face

printed on photo quality paper

2 x 2 inches (51 x 51 mm) in size

Your head must fit between the range of 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches (between 25 and 35 mm) from the top of your head to the bottom of your chin

Take a Picture

You may be able to find a recent photo that meets the requirements. If you do not, you will have to take the photograph.

The first thing you will need is to make sure that you have a plain light background. Find a wall that fits that description. You might have to take some photos down. We wind up taping a bed sheet on the wall to take a photo. Check the lighting and make sure there aren't any glares or shadows.

Dress as you would normally. There are rules about uniforms, hats, and glasses that you will have to keep in mind. Make sure that both eyes are open and the photo expression is neutral. Do not smile for the photo.

If you have someone who can take the photo, great, let them take the photo. Otherwise, you can use the self-timer to take your own photo.

Photo Software

Upload the picture to your computer and open with your photo editing software. If you have Photoshop or advanced photo editing software, you will be able to measure the photo and resize it properly through your software.

If you have cheap software, like I do, you can simply play with enlarging or reducing the photo bit by bit to make sure it is the right size. I always use the original picture instead of making changes of changes.

Print it Out

Now print the photo and see how it compares to the template. For the first picture, I use a draft quality and print on copy paper. You know you will be cropping the photo, but the photograph needs to conform to the requirements. If it does not fit exactly to the guidelines, use your photo editing software to change the size of the photo. When you change the size, be sure you are changing the height and the width at the same time. You don't want to skew the image. You may have to do this several times to get the right size.

When you know you have the right size, print two copies using high quality on photo paper. Using a ruler, draw the trimming lines, and then trim to size, just on the inside edge of the lines so they don't show.

Taking Your Own Passport Photos

The first time you take your own passport photos, you might find that it can be frustrating if you are not familiar with your photo editing software, especially if you have to try several times to get the size printed correctly. But it can save you some money and teach you some new skills. You can use these skills to take additional passport photos for your family. It will also help you with any other photos you have to take that have size requirements. My daughter needed photos for her student identification card and for a visa. Eventually you will find that taking your own passport photos will save you both money and time.

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Comments 2 comments

Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 5 years ago from USA Author

Thank you fpherj48, having connections certainly does help.


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

OR.....you can be related to the guy who takes the photos and does it for you for free! You name it....I have a connection! But, your info is very helpful! FYI, I'm a Nickle-Squeezer. I see it as my daily challenge. It's become an art form...I like your attitude. Always thinking about how to SAVE? Good for you!

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