Saving on passport photos?
December 29, 2011 2:43 PM   Subscribe

PassportPhotoFilter: I need 15 passport photos, am not finding inexpensive places (in the San Francisco area) or discounts on more than two so I'm looking at the price for two times eight. Am I missing something to think I can get two, go to FedEx Office and copy them on one of their machines for 49 cents per photo? Definitely wouldn't want to ship these things overseas, learn that they are unacceptable. Thanks for thoughts and any tips on bargain places in the SF area.
posted by ambient2 to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total)
What do you need them for? Any entity that needs passport-style photos (especially for actual documents) is likely not going to accept photocopies. Can you scan the ones that you get and then print them on photo paper (if you have it--I would imagine that buying photo paper is not going to be much cheaper than getting as many photos as you need)?

I got a bunch of decent passport photos from a camera store (I needed non-US sized ones). I don't remember how much I paid for everything (maybe $10-$15?). They're also pretty cheap at CVS or their ilk, and they might be more likely to print you a bunch relatively cheaply.
posted by swingbraid at 2:52 PM on December 29, 2011

This is software you can do a passport photo yourself. I have used it several times.
posted by JayRwv at 2:55 PM on December 29, 2011

Yeah, meant to say I was wondering if scanning and printing on photo paper would work (not a basic photocopy), if there would be a difference between those pictures and those from a photographer. I need 'em as part of pursuing a work visa in the UAE.
posted by ambient2 at 2:56 PM on December 29, 2011

Are they for a passport? What country are they for? A college or something might be laxer, but different countries have different standards, and for most photocopies aren't acceptable. If you have a way to copy them that will be as good quality as the originals and on photo paper, you should be in the clear I guess, but I doubt Kinko's will be good enough.

Lots of places are fine with pictures you have taken as long as they meet the requirements (see the website of the relevant authority), my wife and I take all our own against a white wall with a DSLR and a tripod, crop and re-size them in Photoshop, and print them at Rite Aid from a USP stick, is a process like that possible for you?
posted by crabintheocean at 2:56 PM on December 29, 2011

USB, sorry!
posted by crabintheocean at 2:57 PM on December 29, 2011

If you can get a digital image that conforms, then look for a drugstore with a self-service printing machine that has the ability to run off copies at the correct size. Alternatively, ePassportphoto has good country-specific guidance and templates.
posted by holgate at 2:59 PM on December 29, 2011 [4 favorites]

Yeah, ePassportphoto worked fine for me for a visa to visit China. Took a photo of myself against a white wall, used the site to crop it correctly and generate 4x6 prints, and had them printed at a local store for free with an X-free-prints promotion they were having. Total cost: $0. If you meet the photo guidelines, print it on photo paper (a regular 4x6 will hold 6 copies perfectly), and cut them carefully, there's not too much that can go wrong.
posted by whatnotever at 3:29 PM on December 29, 2011

Snapfish - I think their smallest size would work (prints 4 to a sheet) and you can order it online and have it printed for (almost) immediate pickup at Walgreens or somewhere similar.
posted by dawkins_7 at 3:46 PM on December 29, 2011

Hi, in a former life I was the guy at the drugstore taking your passport photo.

The passport office accepting a copy on photo paper is not a problem at all -- since we took passport photos digitally, there isn't really an "original" in the first place. The problem with getting your picture taken and then copying it is getting a copy that's the exact same size; most photo copy machines tend to crop the image slightly, and if the picture was already cut to the required size you have to worry about getting it lined up straight, etc. You could also end up with an ugly color shift if the equipment isn't color-calibrated. I got customers coming in trying to do this every once in a while and it was always a huge pain in the ass.

A far better idea would be to take the photo yourself. It isn't rocket science: plain white background, straight-on shot at eye level, ears visible, no head coverings except as allowed for religious purposes, etc. The image quality of the camera doesn't even really matter, since the picture is being reduced in size a bunch. The tricky part is getting the photo size correct (don't recall the requiments offhand but they should be explicitly spelled out on the passport application). There are software packages to do this for you (looks like JayRwv linked to one) or you can fiddle around in your favorite image editor if you're reasonably adept at image editing. You'll end up with two copies of your image in a 4x6" layout.

Save it to a 4x6" JPEG (that'd be 1200x1800 -- digital photo printers are typically 300 dpi), bring it to your favorite photo lab, and print out a proof. Check the proof's size with a ruler, and if everything sizes up you can simply print however many extra you want. You'd have to manually cut them out but you'd be saving a bundle over whatever the drugstore might charge for the service.

(The drugstore likely has a die cutter that makes short work of the picture-cutting, but good luck convincing them to help you out when you're undercutting one of their most profitable services. Once we went digital, passport photos cost us approximately 10 cents in material, grand total -- the store cost of one photo print! The only other incidental cost was the time of the employee getting the photo ready.)

You could print the photos on a home inkjet printer, but inkjet prints tend to not be very durable in my experience -- they run when wet, fade, tear, the paper feels funny, etc. If you go to a photo lab, make sure they have a full minilab machine and not just an inkjet printer themselves.
posted by neckro23 at 4:01 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

2nding epassport photos. It was good enough for a State Dept diplomatic passport.
posted by k8t at 4:08 PM on December 29, 2011

(on non-preview, ePassportPhoto looks like a pretty good idea, and much easier than the DIY stuff I detailed in my answer.)
posted by neckro23 at 4:13 PM on December 29, 2011

Kinkos/Fedex will take them for you, but my secret discovery when I recently needed a passport photo for a visa was Walgreens! I think it was $10 for them taking it, plus 2 prints, but I imagine they can make extra copies for not so much money.
posted by polexa at 5:24 PM on December 29, 2011

I had mine done at Costco. I don't remember them being very expensive at all.
posted by magnetsphere at 3:28 PM on December 30, 2011

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