DIY Passport Photos


As we travel for the next few years, we’ll be entering dozens of countries. Each country has different requirements for entry; some are very easy, some require significant effort. If you're American and interested in determining what you need to have in order to enter a country, the best source I’ve found is the US State Department website.

One of the semi-common requirements for entry into a country is to obtain a visa. In preparation, we needed to get a bunch of passport photos. If you haven’t gotten passport photos before, you can go into almost any pharmacy, walmart, AAA, or even photo booth to get them. They typically cost around $10 for two 2x2inch photos. This is a complete and total rip off when you can get a copy of normal photos for pennies.

We wanted to get 10 photos each, which would cost nearly $100 if we went with one of the traditional passport photo options. This was unacceptable and we decided that there had to be a more economical way. What follows are step by step instructions for how we made Do It Yourself Passport Photos:

  1. Procure a digital camera, light source, empty white or off-white wall, computer with internet connectivity, and a photo buddy
  2. Have your buddy take your picture up against the wall. Some tips:
    • Stand close to the wall so that the shadow is minimized as much as possible
    • Put the light source above you to ensure the photo is well illuminated
    • Make sure that your buddy gets most of your chest and has plenty of room on the sides and top of your head
  3. Now, to the computer! Copy your photos onto your computer and visit the State Department page on passport photos
  4. Scroll about 2/3 of the way down and click “Start Photo Tool”
  5. Click “Choose Photo” and select the picture that your buddy took
  6. Follow the instructions on the screen and get your head aligned into those lovely green ovals
  7. Click “Crop Photo”
  8. Click “Save Photo”
  9. In your photo editing application of choice, create a new image that is 4 inches by 6 inches and add this photo to it. You should be able to fit it on twice so that you don’t need to print as many copies
  10. Save the new image to your SD card and bring it in to your nearest one hour photo department (we used Walmart). Print out the necessary number of 4x6 pictures

Instead of $100 we spent $2.80 for 10 passport photos of each of us.

For your viewing enjoyment, here are our passport photo bloopers (most of which are me being angry at Jordan for sucking at being a photo buddy):