DIY Hassle Free Passport Photos

Over the past few weeks, I've gotten a lot of questions about taking passport photos, and how to get them printed in the right size. To be frank, you shouldn't need to spend lots of money to have a professional printing service print you 2x2" photos - you can do it yourself! Here's how:


1. You need a well-lit photo of yourself. This is where you can ask a photographer or coworker to help you. Keep in mind, for some countries, like Canada, you're required to use a professional photographer to take the photo, and they even have to provide their credentials and contact information on the back of the photo itself! Here are some examples of a well-lit photo:

You want to make sure the eyes are not in shadow, the face has a neutral expression, and there are no strange highlights or shadows on the person or in the background. I recommend that my clients wear a lighter shirt to help reduce shadows under their chins by reflecting some of the white light.


Pro tip: You may need to use a flash behind the person, either on the ground or bouncing off another wall. This will prevent a dark shadow behind their heads. I use a Nikon Speedlite set at 1/32 power. On my camera, I have another strobe at 1/16 power to simply fill some of the shadows under the eyes and nose.


2. Once you've taken a few photos for options and variety, you can load them onto your computer. Check that your lighting is right, and perform any adjustments you need to with simple photo editing software to lighten or darken the image, or remove shadows. Make sure you save in JPG format to be able to use the next step.


3. Go to Oddprints.com and follow the instructions to load a photo into their software. Once their page loads, you can input the size you need the photo to be sized to (US: 2"x2", other countries have different size requirements, like China and Canada). You can also use the dropdown menu to select a premade template (2x2" for US comes up as India/US in the templates dropdown).


4. You'll see the photo uploads to the right proportion. Be sure the head is the right size. For the US, the chin to the top of the head has to be between 1" and 1 3/8" for passport requirements. You can either do a test print to measure with a ruler, or see what share of the photo it takes up. You can even do this on the computer screen with a ruler - the head must be 50-65% of the size of the square image. If you're in doubt, use and print several photos where the head is slightly different sizes, and then you'll have a few options to measure and choose from after you follow step 6.


5. Decide whether you want 2 photos to a 4x6" print by selecting "Tiled" yes or no. I like to have an extra photo printed (it's the same price) in case I can't cut in a straight line that day. The photos above and on the left below are for Canadian passports, so OddPrints.com tiled them vertically for a 4x6" print because they're sized 70 mm x 70 mm, and the photo on the right is for a US passport, which is a 2x2" printed on a 4x6". Make sure you print them as 4x6" photos, so the photos you'll cut out are the right size for the passport application.


5. Go to https://www.cvs.com/photo/same-day-photo-gifts and follow their steps to upload your photo. Reminder: choose a 4x6" print for your option, which could be right around $0.35 for you to print. If in doubt, print a few variations of your photo(s) so you have a couple to choose from and, if you're like me, accidentally cut through.

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