How to Save on Passport Photos and Get Them for Next to Nothing!

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INSIDER SECRET: If you want to save time and money by taking your own passport photos, be sure to follow the State Department’s rules to a T so you can avoid the hassle of having your application rejected because of the qualify your photos.

When you’re apply for or renewing your passport there isn’t much you can do about the $110 application fee. But you can take a bit of the sting out of the process by learning how to save on passport photos, and get them taken care of quickly.

With a Single 39-cent photo, I was able to get the pictures I needed for my passport application, International Driving Permit, and future mug shots!

Getting photos taken that meet the strict guidelines for a passport application can be unreasonably pricey and time-consuming. You can make a special trip to the post office, AAA, or a UPS store, but you’ll typically pay $10 to $20 for these services.

And sometimes the service is less than stellar. My wife was once told by a Walmart employee she’d have to wait an hour to pick up her already printed out passport photo because he “wasn’t certified to cut the picture.” That feels like a lame excuse and a bogus certification, but if there are any current or former Walmart employees out there, please let me know if I’m wrong.

Get Your Passport Photos Taken in No Time!

Last year I got my first International Driving Permit, which cost $20 and required passport sized photos. But AAA wanted to charge almost as much for the photo as they do for the permit, so I did a little research on cheaper options.

I ended up downloading an app called Passport Photo Editor. It was free to download, but I paid~$2 to unlock the background removal feature. I was able to take the picture at home, make some minor adjustments with the app’s step-by-step guide, and email it to a local drug store for pick-up. The whole process took ~10 minutes from start to finish.

Including the money I spent on the app, I ended up with 6 passport-sized photos (on one 4×6 photo sheet) for less than $3!

I paid a bit extra for the app’s “remove background” feature because I didn’t want to take any chances with the quality of the photo

I have no idea if this is the best or cheapest passport photo app. But I know it did the job for me, and I didn’t have to invest the time finding the best one, so I’m happy. If you have any favorite (or free) software or smartphone app for taking passport photos, please let me know in the comments and I’ll add the suggestions here.

Reader veeRob has used and had no issues having his photos accepted. It looks easy to use and it’s free, so if you need to get your passport photos taken I would suggest giving it a try.

CFosh pointed out that you can get passport photos at both Costco and Sam’s Club for ~$5.

Also, if you need passport photos for a family or group, you could easily cut and paste multiple people’s pictures into a single 4X6 photo sheet. The app I downloaded didn’t have that capability, but lots of programs do.

Make Sure You Meet the Government Guidelines for Passport Photos

When you’re taking your passport photos, you’ll want to make sure you’re doing everything by the book.

These are the US State Department’s requirements for a passport photo:

  • Your head must face the camera directly with full face in view
  • You must have a neutral facial expression or a natural smile, with both eyes open
  • Must be a high qualify image (not blurry etc.) that is not digitally altered
  • Taken in clothing normally worn on a daily basis
  • Taken in the last 6 months
  • Use a plain white or off-white background
  • It must be 2 x 2 inches and your head must be between 1 to 1 3/8 inches from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head
  • Printed on matte or glossy photo quality paper
  • Printed in color
  • You cannot wear glasses. If you cannot remove your glasses for medical reasons, please include a signed note from your doctor with the application.
  • You cannot wear a hat or head covering. If you wear a hat or head covering for religious purposes, submit a signed statement that verifies the hat or head covering in your photo is part of recognized, traditional religious attire that is customarily or required to be worn continuously in public. If you wear a hat or head covering for medical purposes, submit a signed doctor’s statement verifying the hat or head covering in your photo is used daily for medical purposes. Your full face must be visible and your hat or head covering cannot obscure your hairline or cast shadows on your face.
  • You cannot wear headphones or wireless hands-free devices
  • You cannot wear camouflage or a uniform or anything that looks like a uniform
  • Tattoos are okay
  • Jewelry or facial piercings are allowed as long as they don’t block your face

When you’re looking for a passport photo app, be sure it includes a feature for sizing your head correctly and adjusting the background.

Bottom Line

Taking photos that meet at the US State Department’s guidelines for passports doesn’t need to be expensive or time-consuming.

I was able to download an app, take and edit my picture, and send it out for printing in ~10 minutes. And all of that only cost me ~$3! For a family or large group, those savings could really add up!

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What is your favorite app or program for taking passport style photos?

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