How To: DIY Passport Photo for Under $1

Been thinking about taking a trip out of the country, haven’t you? Is your passport due for an upgrade? If not, I got you.

No one likes to feel like they are throwing away money, am I right? This means, while I don’t mind spending $18 on a cute top or even on dinner at a restaurant, spending $18 on a passport photo is never in the budget, especially since the passport itself costs $110. When I took my first passport photo, it costs me a whopping $5. For that price to have jumped by over 250% in 10 years is insanity. I mean, how hard can it be to do this on my own? It’s not! The hardest step will be figuring the perfect picture of the many you’ve taken.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A white (or white-ish) background or wall
  • Good lighting
  • A camera that takes quality pictures
  • An assistant or a tripod
  • Program to size photos to the required size
  • Photo printer and paper or a pharmacy
  • Scissors
  • Soap, water, and a rag, optional

Take these steps:

Step 1 | The Set-up

Find a spot on your environment that has a white wall or background. Be sure that this area is well lit and has minimal shadows. I used natural light on a fairly cloudy day, so I opened the blinds and door to let in as much light as possible. I also used a standing land that is usually in one corner of the room.

If you’re using a wall, make sure it’s clean with no scuff or scratches. I used a warm rag and soapy water to wipe it down to ensure nothing would show up in my picture that I couldn’t see with my eyes. Note that your photo must be in full color.

Step 2 | Taking the Photo

You’ll need an assistant or a tripod. Luckily, my brother and sister were around, so I asked them to take the picture. I chose a picture taken by my brother. Due to his height (6’3″), his picture came out the most head on. A head-on photo is important, otherwise you risk the chance of your photo being rejected.

You’ll want to make sure your entire face is in the photo and that it’s taken close enough so your features are clearly visible. You can do this later in cropping, so leave room for that too.

Take as many pictures as you’d like! This is my favorite part of doing this myself. I was able to take a bunch and pick which few were my favorites. Note that a “natural” smile is acceptable but I would avoid showing teeth. That might be seen as too “unnatural”.

Step 3 | Crop, Print, Cut, Submit

Once you’ve taken the perfect picture (or 5), crop them all to the required 2 inch by 2 inch square. There are programs or online sites that can help you with that (like this one). Inspect them all to ensure your face is clearly visible, the lighting is good and there aren’t any shadows.

Once your photos are cropped, lay them out for printing. I used Adobe Illustrator because that’s what I have on my computer. I created a 4×6 document and was able to fit in six 2×2″ photos. I saved the file as a .jpeg and uploaded it to my local pharmacy’s photo service.

I printed 2 copies, just in case I screwed up with the cutting, for a grand total of… $0.68!


Sure this takes about an hour from start to finish, but what were you doing otherwise? Before submitting, make sure to check out the official passport photo requirements because there are more than what I mentioned.

And for those of you who are curious, yes, my passport photo was accepted. Check it out on my Instagram and leave the sparkle emoji ✨✨✨!



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