DIY Passport Photos

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Our trip to Seattle and San Francisco is fast approaching!

When we are in Seattle, we want to take a day trip up to Victoria, British Columbia. Starting June 1, you have to have a U.S. Passport or Passport Card to get into Canada. Since we also live fairly close to Canada, it's a good idea for us to have passports for the occasional trip over the border.

I first got my passport when I was 16, right before I went to Europe (Spain, France, and Monaco), but it expired just this past November. Not only that, but since I'm now married, I have to get my name changed on it. Michael has never had his passport, so we both have to go through this process.

Fortunately, I'm able to renew by mail, but Michael has to go in person. Anyway, I called today to make an appointment to go into our local post office to figure all of this stuff out. For my mail-in renewal, we'll have to pay $75. Michael has to pay an extra $25 for a first-time processing fee, so his passport will cost $100. The guy on the phone told me that to get our photos taken on site, it would cost an additional $15 each. CHA-CHING! The passport fees are unavoidable, but $30 for the two of us to get photos taken?? No, thank you!

I immediately started looking into taking our own.

Following the guidelines on the U.S. Department of State's website, we took our photos after work today. Basically, you have to be on a white or off-white background, and you have to have a "natural" expression (no smiling!). There are also size/composition requirements, but rather than do a bunch of measuring and cropping yourself, I found the coolest little tool online! allows you to upload the photo you take, then takes you through a few easy steps to help ensure that your photo is compliant with all of the rules. There are some really specific requirements, like your head has to be at least 1", but not more than 1 3/8", etc. Thankfully, makes it simple.

Once you line up the guides, it resizes and crops your photo for you. Then it creates a printable passport photo sheet, like you see above. It's automatically formatted to print on a 4" x 6" piece of photo paper. You can either send it off to Snapfish to get it printed, or you can download it and print at home. Pretty cool, huh? And did I mention it's FREE?

We'll both be sending off our paperwork tomorrow. We're hoping for a fairly speedy turnaround. *fingers crossed*


Linda April 28, 2009 at 9:15 PM  

Thanks for posting about this. We need to get passports too.

Teresa April 28, 2009 at 9:46 PM  

That's a great site to know about! I still have to get my name changed on mine as well, and my H still needs to get one since, as you said, we're so close to the border and do often go up to Canada.

Blablover5 April 28, 2009 at 10:30 PM  

That's a great site, thanks for posting about it.

I miss the old days when you needed nothing to cross the border. About the only time we worried was when I went with my Dad and he was worried they'd think he kidnapped me or something so we brought my birth certificate.

Jacki,  April 29, 2009 at 5:57 AM  

I mailed my passport application (I needed one with my married name too) on April 3rd and I received it last week!
Crazy fast!
Michael's might take a bit longer since it's his first one. But it shouldn't be that bad.

Loni April 29, 2009 at 8:06 AM  

This site is so helpful - thanks for sharing! I've been procrastinating on getting a new passport with my married name for the last nine months, so any way to make it simpler is much appreciated!

Lesley Rae April 29, 2009 at 8:25 AM  

Hey! Victoria is gorgeous! I went there with my family during a trip to the Canadian Rockies - stunning! Thanks for the tips on passport photos, I will need to renew mine after we get back from our honeymoon (don't want the new name on there yet since nothing else will have it) and Steve doesn't have one at all. Good to know!

swedish fishie April 29, 2009 at 8:47 AM  

Thanks for posting about this. Mine just expired in March and I was not looking forward to going through the process. I will definitely be mailing mine in!

Mrs.GB April 29, 2009 at 11:19 AM  

That's awesome. When my husband and I got our passports, we thought about doing our own photos but just ended up paying the fee to have them taken. We didn't want to have to deal with all the strict requirements.

Hailey April 29, 2009 at 1:55 PM  

Thanks for posting this info. The husband and I need to get our first passports pretty soon.

Also, I just got back from Victoria a few weeks ago. It was my first time there (I live near Portland, OR). It was gorgeous and so much fun! You will have a great time!

nolasteph April 29, 2009 at 4:59 PM  

No smiling - really? I didn't realize this, but we had no problems getting ours. We had the pictures taken at CVS for our honeymoon to Costa Rica, and then I had it done again when I changed my name - big ole smiles for both of them. haha

Heather April 29, 2009 at 5:04 PM  

Nolasteph--I was smiling in my old one, too. But when I was reading the guidelines on the Department of State's website, it specifically said, "no teeth showing."

So, no teeth showing = no smiling! Totally unnatural for me (always gotta smile for photos!!); I was not a fan of it at all.

The guy at the post office said: "Yeah, no smiling. They want to make us all look like terrorists!" :)

Anonymous,  December 29, 2010 at 7:54 AM  

I always use IDPhoto4You website to create passport photos. IDPhoto4You lets to rotate and resize the crop frame uses face detection and knows a lot of print layouts (9x13 cm, 10x15 cm, etc).

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