8 Tips on How to Take Your Own Passport Photos

January 22, 2019 New York, NY, USA

how to take your own passport photo at home


Did you know that you can take your own passport photo? Here are some tips and tricks on how you can take a passport you actually like and also print them for under a dollar!

Passport Photos.
I don't know if it's just me but passport photos always come out to be unflattering when taken at your local CVS or wherever you take your passport photos. I could never understand it for the longest time, coming from someone who has bad luck with any sort of ID photos and specifically a passport photo. Not sure if it's the lighting, the person taking the photo, or the camera settings, there's some sort of disconnect where I just completely end up looking crazy. You're stuck with your passport for ten years so you at least want a decent photo, am I right? After going to my local CVS and paying for a horrendous passport photo last year (2018), I was just not happy with my photo. I did some research and was shocked to find out you can actually take your own passport photos at home as long as you follow the rules and regulations that is required for it to be approved. After taking a few photos and figuring things out, I sent my renewal passport application in the mail. I for sure thought it was going to get denied but lo and behold it was approved and I had a new passport with a picture I didn't hate. So here are some tips on how you can take your own passport photo at home and also save some money by printing it for less than one dollar.

Photo Background.
You need a white or off white background for your photo. Do not take photos with a colorful background, any type of wall art, or have anything in the background. It has to be a plain white/off white background for your passport to be approved. If you don't have any white/off white walls in your home to take your photos in front of, that's not a problem! Go to your local dollar store or craft store and buy a huge white poster board. Tape up the poster board on wall and take your photo in front of it.

Lighting & Equipment.
Lighting is always a deal breaker in photography but especially when it comes down to your passport photo. I always recommend taking photos during the day just because 'natural lighting' is more flattering as opposed to taking photos at night. Also photos taken during the day doesn't create a shadow effect like it would if you take photos at night. Photos that show a shadow will get denied so keep that in mind. Now when it comes to your equipment for taking the photo whether it's a phone, point and shoot camera, or DSLR- always use flash! A photo taken without flash is a bit blurry, doesn't show much clarity and detail that a photo with flash takes. If you do choose take your photo with you phone, make sure you use the back camera and of course use flash.

App Option.
There's actually passport photo apps available in the app store for you to make this passport photo taking process a bit easier. There's many free apps available that do the job and there's apps that require you to pay but all of them do the same thing. So if you want to go this route, this is just another option for you!

No Selfies.
You can't submit a 'selfie' as your passport photo because it will get denied! Last year, when I was taking my passport photo, I did a variation of photos that included selfies, photos taken on a tripod, and asked someone to take the photos of me. What I realized was that selfie photos didn't make the cut because it didn't align with the dimensions that is needed for a passport photo to be approved. Today, on the website it specifically states not to send selfie photos, I'm assuming many people have done so within the past year so they made it very pretty clear to not submit selfies. Put your phone/camera on a tripod or just simply ask someone to take the photo of you!

Attire For Photo.
Your photo will only show from around shoulder length and up. When it comes to your attire, I recommend wearing something neutral. You're not allowed to wear any type of work uniform and I would also avoid wearing something with visible logos and crazy designs. You're also not allowed to wear any headphones or hats in your photos. If you wear prescription glasses, you can't wear them for the photo. I believe this is a new rule that was implemented this year because it wasn't an issue last year. I'm assuming this is because of the glare that glasses give off in photos but who knows. If you do wear any type of religious covering/hat, you're allowed to take a photo with them on but you have to submit a written statement with your application. For more information on that (click here)

Photo Pose.
When taking your passport photo, you have to absolutely straight on towards the camera. There is no side angles or trying to take photos with your 'good side'. Your photo will be denied if your not facing straight on. I also recommend not smiling with your teeth showing just because when I went to CVS to take my passport photo, i was instructed not to smile with my teeth and just have a neutral face. Also at the DMV here in NYC, the also require not smiling with your teeth for a license photo. Even though the website states a "neutral/natural smile" is okay, I would stay on the safe side and just do a neutral smile (smirk) and that's it!

Photo Crop Dimensions.
Now that you've taken a photo you're happy with, it's time to crop it at the right dimensions. There is a very helpful tool (click here), located on the right side of the website, that you can you use to get the perfect dimensions. All you do is upload your photo, align it, and crop! If you used a passport photo app to take your photos, the dimensions are already set within the app but I would just upload it to the website mentioned above to make sure it's at the right dimensions. The correct size for a passport photo is 2x2 inches (51 x 51mm) and your head must be between 1-1 3/8 inches (25-33mm) from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head.

Printing Your Passport Photo.
Now that you have your photo cropped at it's right dimensions, please do not photoshop, facetune, or alter your photo in any way because it will get denied! To print your passport photo for less than a dollar, follow these steps! 
  • You have to make a collage with your cropped passport photo. You can choose to a collage of 2,4,6- it's up to you! You can use an app to make the collage or use a website just make sure you keep the right dimensions.
  • If you have a photo printer at home, printing your passport photo will be absolutely free. You just need to make sure you have high quality photo printing paper. But if you don't, this is the way how do it for less than a dollar.
  • Wherever you print your photos, whether it's at CVS, Walgreens, Target, Walmart, or Duane Reade do not print as a passport photo. You will end up paying the regular $13-15 fee which is the average price from these places that I've mentioned. 
  • What you want to do is upload the collage you've created and go to "prints". Now each place has a different price range when it comes to their regular prints but it usually ranges from 9-35 cents per print. The price can differ from week to week or a certain time of the month because there's usually deals/specials going on so just keep a lookout for that! 
  • Upload your photo, submit it, and pick it up within an hour, and you have your passport photo ready to go!

Youtube Video.


*I want to disclose that these tips only apply for United States passports. I don't know the rules and regulations for other countries. If you want to know more information about the passport photo requirements, here is the official website (click here).

Comment below,
Have you taken your passport photo at home before?

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