passport photosIn the United States, England, and across western Europe, getting a passport photo taken and printed will run you around $10 (7.4 euros) for basically a low quality head shot with a white background. There are two simple ways to get passports at a fraction of the cost and at home.

Do It Yourself

A passport photo (in the US) needs to be 2 inches by 2 inches on a white background, with your head taking about 1 inch from the chin to top of the hair. Any camera over 1 megapixel (essentially all of them now) will meet the US and most European requirements.

For the white background all you need is a white wall or clean sheet (showing no shadows) and your picture will be accepted. So many people worry about their passport photos being rejected and pay a ridiculous markup for poor quality wallet sized pictures just because they are called ‘passport photos’.

  • It’s important to know the requirements for your country (here are some for the United States, Brazil, and Germany for example). The ePassport Photo Blog has a full list (on the right column under ‘Tags’).
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Print the pictures on your photo printer or take them to a photo shop with a laser printer. I’d hesitate printing the pictures on an ink jet however. If you don’t have access to a color laser printer, head by the photo store, just don’t mention you’re printing “passport” photos since they may charge you extra, as James warns.

ePassport Photo

epassport photoThe service ePassport Photo lets you upload a photo, crop it to the appropriate portions and download the file for printing at your local store or on your home printer. ePassport Photo aides the do-it-yourself process above by giving you guidelines and a handy tool to make sure the pictures are cropped with the proper dimensions.

  • ePassport Photo also has the option of shipping your passport pictures internationally and having them verified by their staff before they are sent. The cost varies, but is around $7 in the US.

There are plenty of other services like ePassport Photo as well as tutorials on taking passport photos at home properly. For example, Minezine links to a detailed guide on making your passport photos using Photoshop.

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It’s Not That Hard!

Travelers often spend the money on store bought passport photos thinking that there is some magic requirement met by having someone else take the picture and charge you $4 per square inch of it. Most countries have very simple passport requirements that any amateur photographer (like yourself) can take at home against a white wall. Keep in mind if you wait until the last minute you might save on the cost of passport photos but pay extra for speeding up your passport application.

Have you ever taken your own passport photo or do you still pay someone else to do it? I’m curious to find out, let me know in the comments.

[photo by: privatenobby]