What is the Cheapest Way to Take a Passport Photo in the U.S.?

At first glance a passport photo is a task that can be completed in half an hour for $15. That’s what photo services at chain stores and post offices cost on average.

Cheapest way to take a passport photo in the U.S. | © Unsplash.com

But if there’s a way to cut that amount by more than half, why not take advantage of it?

Let’s uncover all the ways!

Option 1: Take a passport photo at a chain store, drugstore, or post office

As we mentioned earlier, this is the most common way to get a pair of printed passport photos. It’s fine if you’re not aiming to save money, and if you don’t need digital images (you usually have to pay extra for them).

Here’s a rough price list for passport photo services in 2021:

CVS Pharmacy passport photo price: $14.99;

FedEx passport photo price: $14.95;

USPS passport photo price: $15.

Tip: Services at such photo centers have long been in the mainstream. You can be sure that the staff will not make a mistake with the format, size, and quality of the photo. But it’s a matter of luck how good you turn out in the picture. Speed is a priority here, and you won’t be photographed multiple times for the best result. So “rehearse” your facial expression and posture beforehand.

Option 2: Take a photo at home and process it with the official US photo tool

An official Travel State Gov photo tool is an opportunity to process a digital photo for free so that it will meet basic US passport photo size. The service sets the required size of the photo and can (*or cannot*, see this article that tells more about US Photo Tool problems and errors) place the head correctly. The tool does not change the background.

If you already have a digital photo taken in full-face against a light-colored background, upload it to the tool. The image will be automatically cropped to a 1:1 ratio at 600×600 pixels.

Check if the face is placed strictly in the center: sometimes the automatic crop tool doesn’t locate it correctly.

To take your own passport photo at home, follow these guidelines:

  • Use a smartphone or camera with resolution of 5 Megapixels or higher;
  • Choose a background: it should be a light (preferably white) wall without patterns or reliefs. If you don’t have such a wall, make a background out of a sheet, but make sure there are no folds on it. Clothing should contrast with the background.
  • The lighting should be such that the skin tone of the photo looks natural. It is best to take a passport photo in daylight. If this is not possible, adjust the lighting to prevent shadows on or under the face. Artificial light should come from several sources.
  • Your facial expression should be natural – no smiling, frowning or blinking. Look straight into the camera, so that your eyes are clearly visible.
  • Your camera should be at eye level, about 1.5 metres away. If you don’t have anyone to take your picture, use a tripod.
  • Make sure your head and upper torso are completely in the frame.
  • Take several pictures to choose the best one.

Tip: Photo Tool doesn’t prepare the photo for printing, so use it only in cases where a digital photo alone is sufficient. Also note that sometimes the program works with errors, which is covered more by the link above.

Option 3: Use paid services for passport photo processing

Yes, unlike the previous option, you have to pay here, but much less than in a drugstore or at the post office. And the photo can be taken against any background: a professional photo editor will replace it automatically. It will be ready for printing right away: you will be given a template with four separate images.

Find out how it works in this article US passport photo.

To print a digital passport photo, just find the printing service and order a print on 4×6 inches paper. Such chains as Walgreens or CVS provide the opportunity to make and pay for your order online, and then simply pick up the printout at the nearest store. The price of such a printing service is about $0.35 – pretty affordable!

Tip: save the digital passport photo and use it later for driving licence, visa or other ID applications.

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