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Passport Photos Are Expensive, But They Don’t Have to Be

by Billie Cohen | March 31, 2016

Passport photos are some of the ugliest photos we ever take. And ironically, they are some of the most expensive too—you have to buy them in pairs that can cost as much as $15. And if you need more, you have to fork over another $15.

I was very frustrated by this recently because I’m preparing for a three-month trip in Asia and I needed to renew my passport and get photos for several visas (I also like to carry a few extra in my luggage just in case I need one at the last minute). And then I read about The site offers a few solutions to the problems mentioned above.

First, take your own photo. lets you take your own photo, and then sends you multiples for cheap. lets you take your own photo, and then sends you multiples for cheap.

There’s no reason to pay so much money to have a bad photographer take a bad picture of you in front of a white screen. Seriously, so bad. I went to a local drugstore and the employee used a fish-eye lens, arguing that it was the best way to get the right proportions. I would argue differently.

Luckily, anyone who has a phone or a digital camera can take their own photo these days (and keep taking it until they get a good one). The State Department even provides very detailed directions on its site so that you can be sure you take one that will be acceptable for passport use. Just stand against a white wall, look directly at the camera, try not to smile, and snap away. If you use you have even less to worry about: They’ll let you know if the one you took is acceptable and then size it for you.

Or upload an existing one you already have.

If you prefer to have your photo taken professionally, or if you have a leftover professional passport photo (and since they usually come in pairs, that’s likely), you can still use to save some money on multiples. Just scan in the one you have and continue with the next step.

Next, print it for cheap…or free.

Go online to and choose the country for which you need a passport or visa photo. Next, decide whether you want the final result mailed to you at home; printed at a CVS, Walmart, or Walgreens; or if you want to print them at home yourself. Then just upload the photo that you took (or scan in the professional one you had taken), and decide how you want to receive them.

If you choose the print-at-home option—which is free—the website has an easy-to-use cropping tool to help you tailor your photo to the passport or visa you specified. Then you’ll just click download and voila! You have a single sheet of four images, which you can print out as many times as you need.

Four of my mug shots, tiled on one easily printable sheet by I could print this at home, have it mailed to me, or have it printed at a local drugstore.

Four of my mug shots, tiled on one easily printable sheet by I could print this at home, have it mailed to me, or have it printed at a local drugstore.

If you don’t have a quality photo printer (I don’t), you can opt to have a drugstore or do the printing for you. In those cases, the website will take care of sizing the image, and then it will create a tiled sheet of the photo—meaning it’ll fit four passport photos on a regular-sized 4×6 photo sheet (you’ll get two sheets total).

I chose to have my order routed to a local CVS for printing. When they’d been sent on to CVS, I got an email from one of the staffers, who reminded me not to mention the words “passport photo” when I picked them up. As far as CVS knows, you ordered regular 4×6 prints online, and they’ll treat your order the same way as if you’d ordered pictures of your dog.

The order of eight pictures—eight!—cost me just $8.99, plus about 20 cents that I paid when I picked them up at CVS, for the actual printing. That’s less than I would’ve paid for two passport photos at CVS if I’d used the traditional route. And if I’d printed them out myself at home, they would’ve been completely free.

The final step: Grab a pair of scissors and cut the sheet into separate little passport photos…and use the money you saved to buy yourself a little something for your trip.


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  1. Klaus J Pientka

    Unfortunately, self taken passport pictures are not accepted by the Canadian government. Official regulations stipulate that passport pictures must be taken by professional photographers who adhere to stringent guidelines, and provide authentication of the photos they take.

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