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Photos for US Passports March 8, 2009

Posted by Matthew in Passports, USA.
Tags: , , , , ,

For those living outside of the USA, U.S. Passports can be obtained from your local US embassy.

Unfortunately, in Canada, obtaining a US-sized Passport Photo isn’t as easy as going to the nearest photo shop and paying the man/woman.

To take my photo, I set up my DSLR and took a bunch of different, well-lit photos, and picked the one that turned out the best. I loaded the photo into MS Publisher workspace measuring 4″x6″, and resized until my face was the proper size as indicated on the application form, and cropped around my head at 2″x2″. I then created a .JPG file with two copies of the 2″x2″ photo on it. (Two copies of the photo are required in an application.) I also made a version that was 5% larger, and one that was 5% smaller, to account for shrinkage/growth in the printing process. I sent all three copies to Costco for photofinishing via Costco’s online photo lab website. (I used Costco because each 4×6 cost roughly $0.17 after tax, so three copies came out to a whopping $0.51. This is much less than the ink cost required to print this on a photo printer at home, besides the fact that we don’t have any 4×6 photo stock lying around, nor a decent photo printer…)

I picked up my photos later that day and measured the photo size on each, and I used the one closest to 2″x2″. I stopped at Staples to use their large paper cutter to  slice the photos to the required dimensions. Stapling one photograph to the completed application I printed from sealed the deal, while the other photograph sat loosely in the envelope I took along to carry my documents in. (The second photo is for the passport folks to scan to create the ID page of the passport booklet)

Later that day at the embassy while submitting my passport application, I noted to the clerk that I took the photographs myself. She was surprised, and told me she never would have known had I not told her. She took a second look at the photographs, and told me that they seemed to meet all the requirements, so she didn’t have a problem with it.

6 weeks later, I went back to pick up my brand new RFID-encrusted passport, brandishing my digitized self portrait on the ID page. Boy, did that feel good 🙂

For those wishing to take their own photos, see the Guidelines for Producing High Quality Photographs for U.S. Travel Documents.

There’s also a tutorial on DPChallenge for making US Passport Photos in Photoshop.



1. planetcity1 - March 8, 2009

Thanks for the tips.

p.s. — I don’t know if it’s the case everywhere, but I was required to have my recent U.S. passport photo taken with my glasses off.

Matthew - March 8, 2009

http://travel.state.gov/passport/guide/faq/faq_881.html states:

“Eyeglasses worn on a daily basis can be worn for the photo. However, there should be no reflections from the eyeglasses that obscures the eyes,” but “dark glasses or nonprescription glasses with tinted lenses are not acceptable unless you need them for medical reasons. A medical certificate may be required.”

Often it’s the case of a photographer getting glare off the glasses from his/her flash. The trick here is to tilt your glasses downards, putting the stems of the glasses halfway up your head. It feels really weird, but it looks normal on the photo, and the flash light is reflected downwards instead of back at the camera.

2. Applying for Passport(s) for Dual Citizens in Canada « Dual Citizenship - March 12, 2009

[…] found on the Department of State website, print it out, and attach one of the photos you either took yourself or ordered online, and take the form with attached photo, the additional photo, and proof of […]

3. paspic - March 30, 2009

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