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You’re planning a big trip and you’re excited. But how much will a passport cost? It can be really cheap or even free! These tips will show you how to save money on passport photos. Once you’re familiar with U.S. passport photo requirements, you can take them yourself and print them cheap (or even for free). Here’s how to take your own passport photo that will meet all the requirements.
Updated October 2020
Before you can set out on your long-awaited international family vacation, everyone will need a passport. And, whether you’re submitting a new passport application or just putting in for a standard renewal, your application will need to include a passport picture.
There are many ways to do that. The most expensive is to visit a store that specializes in taking passport photos. There, a professional photographer will take the photo and print out a photo that meets all of the government’s passport photo requirements.
For slightly less (about $15 for two photos), you can walk into a UPS store, CVS, Rite Aid or Walgreens and get your passport photos taken by a store clerk who will run it through a program and print out the passport photos you need. AAA also offers passport photos to members if there is a branch near you.
That saves you a few bucks, but it can take a long time. On our last Walgreens passport photo run, we spent 45 minutes waiting for the photos to print after they were taken because the machines were running other orders. If you take the photo on your own and just submit it to be printed, you’ll not only save around $14 but you’ll also save time. You can drop by to pick it up once you know it’s ready.
How Long Does it the Passport Application Process Take?
One of the first things you need to keep in mind when taking passport photos is timeline. It’s great to go cheap and free but waiting 5-7 days for photos to ship when you’re on a tight turnaround? Not worth it. Currently in October 2020 passport processing times are running 10-12 weeks. Expedited passports are logging in around 4-6 weeks for the passport application process. If you have a life or death emergency you can make an appointment at your local passport office. They can issue passports in three days. This option will require travel documents and proof of emergency.
If you have time the post office can be a great spot to get everything done at once. They serve as an acceptance facility for passport applications and can take photos. You will need to schedule an appointment.
Learn more about bereavement fares.
Tell me how to get an Expedited Passport.
What are Passport Photo Requirements (USA)?
First things first. Let’s review the passport photo requirements for submitting your USA passport application.
If you’re going to make an effort to save money on the photos, you want to make sure you get them right the first time! It doesn’t help your budget if you need to retake them.
Passport photos must check these boxes:
- Taken in the last six months
- Photo must be in color
- No filters or selfies. This isn’t Instagram.
- Position yourself in front of a plain white or off-white background.
- You need a neutral expression. While you may be giddy to be traveling, save it for the plane.
- Your full face must show, facing the camera straight on. No head tilts.
- The photo needs to be printed on matte or glossy photo quality paper. No rips, holes, tears, stains or shenanigans.
- You cannot digitally edit the photo in any way, not even to remove red eye.
Things you cannot have in passport photos:
- No glasses. If you cannot take them off for medical reasons, you need a signed doctor’s statement.
- No hats or head coverings. (Please note: if you wear a head covering for religious or medical reasons, you may wear it in your passport photo. You will need to submit a signed statement confirming that you wear the head covering daily as part of the tradition attire for your recognized religions or a doctor’s signed statement outlining medical need.)
- No uniforms or camouflage allowed.
- Put those AirPods in their case. No headphones or wireless hands-free devices can show in the photo.
What is the Right Passport Photo Size?
Your passport size photo must be square, 2 inches by 2 inches. In that square your head MUST measure 1 inch to 1 3/8 inch from the top of the head to the bottom of the chin. Basically, this means make sure your head doesn’t fill the whole photo.
There are a number of ways to measure photo composition on different programs online that we’ll run through.
TravelingMom Tip: Questions always come up about kids and passports. Please consult this post devoted to passport photo requirements for babies for guidelines and hints on how to get a great baby passport photo.
We know that babies and kids look different from year to year. Please rest assured that although passport photos should be similar to your current appearance, exceptions are made for kids under 16. If your child doesn’t look like the photo in her passport due to the normal aging process, she can still use it.
How to Take a Passport Photo
Grab your digital camera or phone and find some favorable light. Your photo will need to be well lit, but not washed out. You want a plain white background. This means you can’t use a door that has a bunch of ridges on it.
There are a few easy ways to accomplish the white background. Find a white wall or create one. You can put up a piece of white poster board or hang a sheet over a door and stand in front of it.
Honestly, taking the photo is the easiest part. With the capabilities of iPhones and other mobile devices, quality photos are in your hands at all times. Sizing, cropping and meeting of the other passport photo requirements is the hard part.
Enter apps. There are many, many apps that make meeting requirements a breeze. Gone are the days of pulling out the millimeter ruler to measure.
Getting the Size Right
Many online services offer a passport photo size template to ensure you’re following all requirements.
Passport Photo Booth– You can either import a photo or take one in this app for free. Use the template guide to ensure your photo meets passport size photo requirements set by the U.S. Department of State. Once you have the picture taken and sized, you can either email it to yourself to print on photo paper, have it printed at your local drugstore OR you order professional prints for under $6.
My Passport Photos– This website (there’s also an app) is fantastic for those who may also need visa photos. Filtering by country produces easy-to-follow requirements, and it will guide you through the photo taking process. Photos will be shipped to you for as low as .99. Two passport photos will run you about $5.99 at the time of this writing, half of what you’d pay at a drugstore.
EPassportPhoto– Upload your photos to this super simple tool. With two green lines as an overlay, the app will show you exactly where your face needs to fit and let you know if you aren’t compliant. Then just print the correctly-sized photos off at home.
Canva- Canva is a free design tool. It does not require a membership, although there is a membership option that will unlock more fonts, templates and other fun things that will last beyond your passport pic days.
What is the passport photo size in pixels?
This question comes up often when printing your own passport photos. Passport photos are 2 by 2 inches or 192 by 192 pixels.
How Can I Print Passport Photos and What Does it Cost?
There are multiple options when it comes to printing passport photos. If you have a photo printer or a printer capable of printing color photos, you can print passport photo sized prints at home for the cost of a few sheets of photo quality paper.
You can submit your order online to be printed and picked up at your local Walmart, which costs about $8.
You can also put the photo on a memory stick or take your phone to your local CVS or Walgreens. Use the store’s photo machine to print the photos. Please note for this option, it is easiest to create a collage of two photos side by side on a 4×6 to meet size requirements.
Already ordered an expedited passport and it hasn’t arrived in time? Here’s what to do.
Have you ever taken your own passport pictures? How did they come out?