How to get Passport Photos for $0.35

Getty images. Photo illustration: Charles Brucaliere

What’s that you say?  You need an abundance of cheap passport photos?

Please, for the love of Pete, do not make my mistake.  Do not go down to your local Walgreens or CVS store and get them done there.  It may seem like it is convenient, but here’s why it is a bad idea:

  • That kid working the photo counter was just trained yesterday on how to use the equipment and you’ll be his/her first customer.
  • Oh, and they’ll be able to get to you right after they check-out those 8 people in line in front of you.
  • You only get one try at your photo so you’d better make it a good one!
  • It’ll cost you over $10 per person for two (2) lousy photos of the proper size.

If you only need a couple of photos every 10 years for your passport renewal, this may be acceptable.  If you are moving to new country, applying for visas, international driving permits, and to foreign schools, you will need umpteen numbers of passport photos.  All potentially in different sizes, so…

Here’s what to do instead

What you need:

  • A decent digital camera
  • A full night’s rest
  • A white background
  • Daylight
  • A solid color shirt that is not a turtleneck (pants completely optional)

What you do:

Unacceptable Passport Photo
  1. Stand in front of your white background near a window on a bright day (but not in direct sunlight).  The goal is to stand/sit in front of the background in such a way that there aren’t any shadows being cast behind you.
  2. Have a friend take a close-up photograph of your mug.  Make sure your eyes are positioned in the upper half of the photo.  The closer, (usually) the better.  Oh, and make sure the photo is relatively level and that nothing but your chest is cut-off.
  3. Repeat Steps 1 & 2 until you are happy with the result.
  4. Navigate to OddPrints.com and upload your digital photo, select your needed passport size (US and UK are presets) or any other custom size.
  5. Click ‘Download‘ and this will crop and save your image to a 4″x6″ photo image.  If you select US passport size, this will fit two (2) images on one download.  A smaller UK passport size will fit eight (8!) passport images on one download.
  6. Save the image file to a thumb drive or keep it on your camera’s memory card.
  7. Hike over to your local Walgreens or CVS, insert your thumb drive or memory card into their photo print machine.
  8. Proceed to print out as many 4″x6″ photos as you need – all with two (2) or more passport photos on each print.  My local Walgreens charged me $0.35 per print.
  9. If the attendant behind the photo counter is available, you can even ask him/her to cut the passports photos to the appropriate size for you.  This is made easier if you elect to ‘Show Guidelines‘ (within the Extra Options) before you download your photo from OddPrints.com.

A couple of notes:

  • I think passport print shops are a racket and there is plenty of documentation out there to scare you that you can’t do this yourself.  For U.S. passports, simply follow these guidelines and you’ll be good to go.
  • If you’d prefer not to leave your house, you can also order your passport photos directly from OddPrints.com.
  • These instructions to not work for Canadian passports whose photos need to be taken by a commercial photographer.
  • If you search for cheap passport photos, one of the first sites in the results will be ePassportPhoto.com.  They advertise themselves as a low-cost alternative but when I uploaded my own passport photos and directed them to print at my local Walgreens, the price was still around $8 per person.  Maybe I’m missing something, but I prefer my method.
Jed - 2x2
Actual download from OddPrints.com. Please excuse the mass murderer stare.

38 thoughts on “How to get Passport Photos for $0.35”

  1. We did this when we had to get new passports for me and the wife and our 2 year old’s first passport. His photo was a little tricky and required a little photoshopping (which is a federal offense I think). All told I think we spent $1.44. $0.35 for the photos, a few cents in tax, and a buck to get them delivered to my mailbox because I didn’t feel like driving the 0.75 miles to the Walgreens in our neighborhood (time is money; see how I roll like a millionaire?).

    I think the passport office charges $15 or $18 per photo, and even walmart and the like are $8 like you say. Easy way to save a small fistful of bucks, and it makes paying hundreds of dollars for the actual passport fees for a family a little more palatable.

    1. Did you use OddPrints.com as well for formatting or did you do that yourself? I’m really a big fan of that site because it is easy to use, formats things beautifully given any size you want, includes guidelines on the photo for easy cutting, doesn’t make you create an account or provide your email address (no strings attached) and is completely free.

      1. I ended up using something like MS Photo Editor from office 2000 I think. I tiled six headshot pics onto a 4×6″ image (since they were 2″x2″ each, they fit in a 2×3 array). Just copy/paste/move for the most part.

        Next time I might use oddprints if I can remember it in another year or so when the girls’ passports come up for renewal. Or I might use GIMP (like photoshop). I bet they have a template for the min and max heights of head, hair, chin, etc that the passport office requires.

        We have only had passport photos rejected once, and it may have been an overly cautious acceptance agent at the USPS that denied them out of fear that the Passport Office would deny them. They said the backgrounds were too dark I think. That’s why I lightened the images this time around just to make sure the background was off-white and not gray.

  2. Hey, thanks for the write up. I just came across this on Google. I wrote OddPrints so it’s great to hear such positive feedback.

    I faced the same problem and the other “free” websites suck in various ways by adding logos and ads and stuff. I figured I’d just make it completely free, but with an option to order prints through me if you want. If you have any suggestions for how I can make it better, I’m all ears 🙂

    Cheers,
    Matt

    1. Great to hear from you, Matt. And a big thanks for creating OddPrints.com.

      It has really been a useful tool for us. Having moved to a new country, we’ve needed every size photo under the sun. It’s great now – when someone asks for a photo (and you need one for just about everything in Spain), I whip out my little folder that includes my entire family’s portraits in four (4!) different “passport” sizes. Couldn’t have done it (or as cheaply) without OddPrints.com.

  3. Hi,

    Used this great tip to format my wife’s photos and got them printed at Walmart.

    Cost me $.29 per 4″ x 6″. When I took it to the lady to pay, she told me I need not have used the Instant Photo kiosk, but rather the 1 hour kiosk as that costs just $.19 and the photos are also instant because there are almost no crowds at these machines. Pretty good.

    I also realized that if I turn off(0 value) the default tiling border in OddPrints.com, then I can get almost
    6x US(2″x2″) onto a single sheet. Just simple math. Would be a tad difficult to cut.
    That’s a lot of value for 19 cents !!! Thanks for the great website.

    1. Now I read that Amazon prints photos at an even lesser rate.

      6×4 prints of your favorite snaps can be had for just 9 cents. a 7×5 print comes in at 58 cents, while a 10×8 one costs $1.79.

      Its early, so I’d still wait for the reviews on the paper stock and quality.

  4. $10 is the going rate around here for a passport photo. I wouldn’t mind paying a local professional photographer that kinda dough, but I’ll be damned if that money were used to line the pockets of some CEO that already makes millions.

    I used the passport photo tool provided by the US government here http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/passports/photos/photos.html (right hand side) to get the proportions right, saved it, uploaded it to OddPrints.com, saved, uploaded to walgreens, handed the clerk 38 cents and she handed me two 4×6 photos (in case I spaz out and destroy one print with the paper cutter) . Moneys saved. Thanks!

  5. Thank you so much for this post. It came in handy and saved me money too.
    I used the government photo sizing app online and went to Walgreens. I had two 4×6 photos printed since I wasn’t sure which picture I wanted and it cost $0.85 total 😀

      1. I’m looking at PPTC054.pdf (“Adult Simplified Renewal Passport Application for eligible Canadians applying in Canada or from the USA”) right now , which states the following:

        [quote]
        The following must appear on the back of one photo
        – The name and complete address of the photo studio (not a P.O. Box) and the date the photo was taken. The photographer may use a stamp or handwrite the information (stick-on labels are not acceptable).
        – No signature is required on the photos.
        [end quote]

        As such, I’m not quite sure how to approach this. I suppose I could write in the name of the ‘studio’ as the name/address of the commercial location where I actually printed out the photos…? How would you approach this?

        1. Just found a bit more info on this:

          [quote]
          Canadians residing in the United States and abroad

          The requirements for passport photos in Canada are different from those in the United States and other countries. Photos must be taken in person by a commercial photographer and must comply with the Government of Canada’s Passport Program photo requirements. If not, your application will be rejected
          [end quote]

          Link: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/passport/apply/photos.asp

          Again, curious whether OP figures this won’t be an issue when using oddprints.com or similar.

  6. I had a very bad experience with Wall green photo center on Sunday Dec. 29, 2015 at Niagara Fall Blvd in Buffalo, NY. I uploaded 2 sets of passport type photos on their website using idphoto4u.com. When I went to pick up the print, I was told that they will charge me $12.99 for each set of 2 photos. I had 4 photos in one print, so this guy was going to charge me $12.99 x 4 = $51.96. I protested and refused to get any print. I reported the matter to their corporate customer service and the manager told me that it is their corporate policy to charge $12.99 for 2 passport size photos. What a scam? I had a total of 4 prints. So I paid $0.29 per photo for 2 prints and left the other two at their location.

    This is the message from the store manager:

    Shri, My name is Jim Prentice and I am the manager at Walgreens on NF Blvd. I have
    copied the page from walgreens.com photo that shows we charge $12.99. I apologize for
    any confusion on this issue but that is the price we charge for this service. We do not print internet orders for passports.
    Again I apologize for any inconvenience,
    Jim

    1. I just had a similar problem with CVS in Swampscott, Massachusetts. I took my own picture, arranged the proper 2″ x 2″ sizing and put two images side by side in Microsoft Visio. Exported as a JPEG, and sent it to CVS for a 4×6 print. Store manager argued that it was a passport picture and that he had to charge $12.99. I argued that I did not receive the service which is THEM taking the photo and processing it there. I only asked them to print my 4×6 image for 29 cents. Believe it or not the store manager actually asked me what the INTENTIONS of my photos were for. I told him that he did not have the right to ask me that question.

      IF and only if the photos were of an illegal nature (i.e. inappropriate, porn ,etc) I would understand the refusal to print said pictures. If they appeared to be copyright infringement they would ask me to sign a waiver releasing them from any liability. I get all that. But to charge me a different price based upon my intentions to use the print is flat out illegal behavior. The fact that it is store or corporate policy should lead to an investigation.

      When it was clear that I was an upset customer, the store manager told me that he would not charge me this one time. I was NOT relieved to know that I was the exception, and that CVS continues to enforce an blatantly illegal policy.

  7. Hey Jed,

    Can you clarify why you have a pic of a Canadian passport at the top of your blog post?

    As near as I’m able to find out (directly from the folks over at OddPrints.com, as well as the Canadian passport renewal government site), it would seem that using a pro studio is the only option.

    1. Hi Jim – I merely wanted a funny picture of a passport and originally looked for an equivalent that was from the U.S. but liked the Canadian one best. I’m going to update this post to avoid confusion going forward. Thanks for your updates and info.

  8. I just logged in to thank you for this post.

    I used OddPrints.com website to get the tiled 4×6 picture. Next, I went to walmart photos website, as soon as I logged in, I get an email for 25 FREE 4×6 photos. I needed six photos. I printed 2 4×6 sheets, and 6 (4×6 individual photos) in case the tiled photos do not come out correctly. All of that absolutely free.

    Also, I want to share my experience with CVS. As another user posted, they do charge $12.99 for EACH SET of two photos. Luckily I confirmed that just in time. It would have costed me over $40 to get these photos printed at CVS. What a rip-off. Just a word of caution for other users, always confirm the price of additional prints.

    Thank you again, and big thanks to Matt Burns!

  9. Love the idea. I’ve done this a couple times and it has not been without major drama!

    10 years ago, I took our photos, and marched down to Rite-Aid with my CD and printed out the photos from the kiosk. There was no attendant around. When I was finished I asked for someone to come to Photo so that they could get my picture from the printer and ring me up.

    The clerk pulls my picture out, glares at me and proceeds to accuse me of going behind the counter, taking my own photo and learning how to operate complicated photo machinery in the 10 minutes that she was away from her post. She then tells me to wait there while she ‘calls the cops’. So I waited about 10 minutes, started feeling ridiculous and left to call Rite-Aid Corporate. I went back later to retrieve my 29-cent photo, which they graciously refused to accept payment for.

    Cut to today – upload my photo to Walgreens and I go to pick up my print. Manager takes it off the printer and says he must charge me $14.95 because Walgreen’s has a policy against people ‘circumventing the system’. I told him he made it sound like it was a bad thing, and I left without my picture.

    Back to the drawing board!

  10. Wow, what a fantastic tool! It takes out all of the headache and frustration. Thanks for the info, with no gimmicks!

  11. TL;DR – Get it printed at Walmart, but be wary of surprises.

    I recently got to use the info in this post, and seriously, it was crazy cheap. It wasn’t for passport photos per se, but suffice it to say that I was asked to follow the passport standard.

    Here’s what we did:

    Trying to get a decent indoor shot with reasonable lighting was proving to be a challenge. So we went outside when it was cloudy (diffuse lighting), put a large sheet of white paper and taped it to the brick wall, then took turns taking the necessary pics. A few variations, just in case. Wide enough that we could zoom in a bit in post if necessary.

    Next, transferred it to the laptop, then (one pic at a time) uploaded to the official US passport site. There’s a cool tool which will let you zoom in/out/center the image, with the template overlay for proper alignment. From there, you download the finished image. Here’s the passport photo tool in question: https://travel.state.gov/content/dam/passports/FIG_cropper.swf

    Next, loaded it up into Adobe CS 6 (Photoshop for the unawares). Did a bit of cleanup, including a) auto white balance based off the white backdrop, then b) selected the person in the photo, inverted the selection, then used the fill tool to put white in there to replace the backdrop (it was starting to look a little less white). Nice, now it’s looking proper.

    Next, uploaded to Oddprints.com and selected the US format (had a bit of a problem, it kept selecting another 2″x2″ option, but that still works), downloaded the 2-up for a 4″x6″ print.

    Copied the image files to a thumb drive.

    Did this for each of us.

    Next, drove to Walmart and visited their photo department. Found a self-serve kiosk. We needed a lot of prints (more than one purpose) so we ended up needing to print 11 sheets of 4″x6″ photo paper. The kiosk menu eventually informed us that it would cost around $3.20. What. I totally didn’t expect that.

    Trying to check out was another matter. We were eventually successful (got bounced from one checkout to another, then back to the original), but check out this side observation:

    When we went to the first checkout (in the photo department) there was a woman in front of me making a purchase. I saw on the display something to the effect of “PASSPORT PHOTO” and then $48.00 x 6 (don’t quite recall how it displayed) for a total of $288.00. I was stunned.

    When I finally got to pay, I handed the cashier the stub which the kiosk printed (I didn’t look too closely at it) and the cashier told me something like $2.81. I started to tell him that the kiosk told me $3.20-something, then realized he wasn’t about to drop everything to get that corrected. I’m still not sure, either way. Paid it, got a paper photo envelope, and was on my way.

    Even if I’d paid $3.00 for 11 prints, that’s about $0.28 per print. Or about $0.14 per actual photo.

    Walmart, if you’re reading this, don’t be mad. This is proper customer service; I did all the work, you provided the printer and the paper. I would have even been fine paying $1.00 for each 4×6 sheet for the privilege of DIY passport photos. I actually feel bad for anyone paying $48 for passport photos, but honestly, if your employees are doing all the work, then it makes perfect sense to charge for the service. (That said, I know Walgreens will charge far less than half that for the “full service passport photo” experience.)

    Hope my experience helps someone else.

  12. Walgreens no longer lets you print passport photos for the same rate as other photos. Those weasels made it so that if you want to print a photo 2×2 size, you have to select the passport photo option and it costs $12 even if you take the photo yourself! Grrrr

  13. Followed your advice, used Oddprints.com, sent the 4x6s to Walgreens, they’ll be ready for pick up in 45 minutes. Printing two 2x2s on a 4×6 keeps the price at $0.29 each. I’ll have to cut them out myself, but that’s well worth the $10-12 savings on each photo. Just got the email saying they’re ready for pick up. Took about 10 minutes.

    Thank you very much!!!

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