You Might Want to Reconsider Taking Your Own Passport Photos

Jul 8, 2019

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Photos required for a US passport application, as well as for many visa applications, are simple 2×2-inch photos. For many of these applications, only one photo is needed — yet CVS charges $15 plus tax for two passport photos. Even AAA charges its Classic members $8. Since my husband JT Genter and I are budget-conscious travelers, who are happy to save money when we can, we figured there had to be a cheaper way when we needed photos to apply for our second US passports.

After searching “how to print my own passport photos” online and reading reviews for a few passport photo apps, we downloaded a promising-looking Android app called Passport Photo Booth by Travel Passport Photos Co, found a white wall to pose in front of and aligned the camera as instructed by the app before taking the photos.

The app creates .jpg files that contain six photos. We went to Walmart and printed a 4×6 sheet, which got us six 2×2-inch photos for just $0.54 total. We cut apart the photos and headed to the Atlanta Passport Agency since we needed expedited processing. However, as soon as we handed over our photos to the agent handling our applications she handed them back to us and said they weren’t acceptable.

Our rejected passport photos.

For the purposes of this article, we should have asked what was wrong with the photos. But frankly, we were just happy to be directed across the street to a CVS where we could get new photos instead of being turned away or told to return on a different day. We paid $33 at the CVS for two passport photos each and put the purchase on our Chase Freedom Unlimited to earn 1.5% cash back on the non-category spend.

Our accepted passport photos.
Our accepted passport photos.

Luckily, we were applying in-person and getting new photos only added about 30 minutes to our application time. But, if we’d been applying by mail, this mistake would have significantly lengthened the application process. After this experience, I won’t be taking my own passport or visa photos again — especially when applying by mail or applying for a foreign visa. But, if you do decide to take your own photos I recommend:

  • Following the requirements exactly
  • Ensuring the background of the photo is white
  • Using the US Department of State’s Photo Cropping Tool

Instead, I’ll plan ahead and visit a AAA office to get a set of photos for $8 as part of my Classic membership. Or, if I need photos at the last minute I’ll go to CVS and pay the $15 fee for a set of photos — and get extra sets for just $0.35 each if I’m planning on completing any applications within the next six months.

If we’d used a passport service instead of Passport Agency to apply for our second passports on our behalf, the service likely would also have noticed and known that our photos would be rejected. If you’re using a service for your next application TPG recommends Allied Passport & Visa. Mention The Points Guy on your order form and get a $5 discount just for TPG readers.

This story was originally published on November 4, 2018.

Featured photo by Bet_Noire/Getty Images

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