Passport photos: where is the best place to get them?

To get the passport itself: Both the main post office and the UC Davis Campus Recreation Business Center are US Government Passport Acceptance Facilities and have weekday and Saturday hours. The Department of State website has more information on obtaining or renewing a passport.

An online approach is to use ePassportPhoto or, services that simplify getting valid-sized passport photos for free (you need to print it yourself for a few pennies with services like SnapFish).

For international passport pictures or for visa or citizenship applications, many times you have to go to a photography studio to have them clean up the image, size it correctly, and endorse the back of the photo. Ray Johnston Designer Photography studio offers all kinds of international and domestic passport, visa, and citizenship photos. Probably the easiest thing to do is to have your picture taken at UC Davis Campus Recreation for $15, where you can also apply for your passport all in one visit and closes at 8PM.

You can just take the photo yourself. You just have to make sure you follow the guidelines (e.g., 2x2, taken in the last six months, etc.) — make sure the head size is correct. There's more info here. Some websites recommend that you do not take the photos yourself because the requirements are strict and you might screw it up causing a delay. But what do they know? (I have to admit that I have not done this for a passport, but I've done it for a Visa and it worked fine. -cm)

Passport photos which are required for government documents can and are rejected if they do not meet the specific guidelines required by the Department of State. After all, these documents are used to positively confirm identity, not just show what you look like. While you are allowed to take and process your own photos, you do so at your own risk and are provided no recourse if the photos are deemed unacceptable. Contrary to the belief that "official photos" are a scam or rip-off, what you are paying for is a photo that adheres to stated guidelines and the assurance that your photos will be accepted (and important consideration to ensure your passport/visa is not rejected right before departure). Many stores offer discounts on reprints, some even provide you with a negative. If you do decide to take your own photos, please refer to the Department of State Guidelines for Photographs for U.S. Travel Documents. These guidelines list specific requirements for resolution, composition, lighting, perspective, and paper type, in addition to photo size. Digitally altering an existing photo that does not meet the requirements is not recommended.

Once you've taken your photo and used Gimp or Photoshop to whiten your teeth and make sure your eyes are pointing straight, you can have it printed anywhere (such as at CVS, though before 8:00 PM when their digital printing stations close) for around a buck. You can take it on a CD, a USB flash drive, etc. If your photo is 2x2, you can have them print a 4x6 photo with six copies of your pretty mug. Happy trails.

  • From what I understand, you are not allowed to do touch up on your photos. (Although, who would know?)

Doing it yourself... Most photoprinters (at CVS, Rite Aid, FedEx Office) don't allow you to print 2x2 photos (it's the man trying to get you to pay 15 bucks for two tiny photos). To compensate, take a photo yourself, crop it down to a 2x2 square, then copy and paste this into a 2 by 3 tile pattern (4x6 in. canvas size). You now have them print out a 4x6 photo, getting six passport photos for under fifty cents. (I just tried this at CVS and instead of the advertised $0.29 they asked for more than twenty times that, based solely on the contents of the 4x6" print. -Roy)

It's a good idea to take extra photos along with you on your trip, because some countries require photos for visa applications you may have to complete upon arrival, and if you happen to lose your passport for some reason, it's easier if you already have photos on hand... in countries where visa photos are required, you may end up running around for local currency or pay a ridiculous US dollar amount for the service. If you'll have internet access in the countries you're visiting, save a scanned headshot as well as a scan of your passport for online access in case of emergency.