Blue View – DIY Passport Photos

DIY passport photos aren’t that difficult

DIY passport photos aren’t that difficult

A few weeks ago, we applied for an EU extended visa (to be precise, it’s actually an extended visa for the Schengen countries). As it turned out, an extended visa is a very difficult thing to come by, and in the end, it wasn’t even necessary for our upcoming Via Francigena pilgrimage. We discovered that due to a technicality in the French rules, if we walk the route in the reverse direction – from Rome to Canterbury – we can stay in the EU longer than the 90 days usually allowed Americans. The discovery wasn’t made, however, until after we had invested considerable time and money on innumerable phone calls, a two day excursion to LA, reams of forms and documents, a hefty prepayment for travelers’ health insurance and some rather expensive passport sized photos.

When we were gathering all this stuff for our visa application, we called around to find a place that would make our photos and learned that the prices vary immensely – anywhere from $12 to $60 for two photos. The local Walgreens was as inexpensive and as fast as anyone, so we went there. Even so, with tax the total was more than $26 for our two sets of photos – kinda steep. I figured that if the 12 year old kid in charge of the photo section could whip them out, how hard could it be? Maybe I could figure it all out for the next time, if there is one, and save some money. As it turns out, it really is pretty easy to do it yourself.

Taking the Photo. The first step is to take the photo, and for this, you’ll need a digital camera. We used one of Marcie’s Canons, but I’m sure a newer phone will do the trick. You’ll want a light grey, beige or off-white background with no pattern. The photo must meet several criteria, and the U.S. Department of State has a good website that describes the requirements. Once you take the photo, download it to your computer.

Processing the Photo. I don’t have a photo printer, but one thing Walgreens does inexpensively is upload and print photos. All we have to do is get the photos into the right format. Most passport photos should be 2”x2” (51mm x 51mm), and the head size should be between 1” and 1-3/8” (25mm – 35mm), or 50%-70% of the photo size, from the chin to the top of the head. Some entities require a different size photo – for example, the Schengen visa must be 1.38”x1.77” (35mm x 45mm), and the head size must be 70%-80% of the photo height.

I’m going to use MS Paint to explain the processing of the photo, since anyone who has a Windows computer has access to it. If you are proficient in some other photo/graphics processing software, follow my example to get the idea, then feel free to use your own software.

I was planning to use Marcie’s photo for the examples here, but she says her photo looks just like a passport photo, and as such, no one but an immigration official will ever get to see it. My photo makes me look like a convicted ax murderer, which is unfair, since I was never actually convicted. So, I borrowed this handsome fellow’s picture from the internet to use for our photo lesson. After opening MS Paint, I use File-Open to open the photo. Note that I have the grid lines turned on.

Paint Ex1.png

Using the ‘Select’ tool, I’ll crop the photo to make the photo square and to make the head size correct. It takes a couple of tries to get it right, but here you can see I’ve selected a square area and if you count the number of grid lines from the chin to the top of the head (19), you can see that it is about 68% of the cropped height – perfect!

Paint Ex2.png

Now I’ll move the selected area to the upper left corner of the image.

Paint Ex3_4.png

And crop the edges of the Image area.

Now I want to resize the photo. The end result will be a 2”x2” pic, but if I resize it that much, I’ll end up with a very low res photo. Instead, I’ll resize it to 4x the desired size, or 8”x8”, which should give me plenty of resolution. The current size is 13.97”x13.97”, and we want to reduce it to 8” x 8”, which is a reduction of 8/13.97 * 100 or 57%. Clicking on the ‘Resize’ button and entering 57% resizes the photo to 8”x8”.

Paint Ex5_6.png

If I was making a 35mm x 45mm photo, I’d follow a similar procedure, but try to end up with a picture that was 4x bigger or 140mm x 180mm (5.51”x7.08”).

Now let’s copy our resized photo to the clipboard by typing CTRL-C (Press the CTRL key, press and release ‘C’ then release the CTRL key), then save the photo as “Handsome Guy 2x2”.

Next, we’ll set up our print size. There are a host of different sizes that can be printed - 4”x4”, 4”x6”, 5”x7”, 8”x8”, 8”x10”… just about any size you could possibly want. If you check the prices, however, the cheapest, by far, is a 4”x6”, so let’s set up for that. We saved our photos at 4x actual size, so we’ll create a print template that is 4x our print size, or 16”x24”. Create a new page using File-New, then modify its size using File-Properties, and change the Image Properties to 16”x24”.

Create a template for our 4”x6” print

Create a template for our 4”x6” print

Now paste the image onto the template by typing CTRL-V. You may have to change the size of the photo by dragging the corners until it is 8”x8”. Then copy the correct sized photo with CTRL-C, paste it with CTRL-V, and reposition it. We now have two copies of the photo on our template.

Paste the first photo, then the second, and however more will fit

Paste the first photo, then the second, and however more will fit

I made some 35mmx45mm visa photos as well and copied them onto the template, then saved it.

Printing. Now, choose the printer – in my case, Walgreens, and upload the picture. Specify a 4”x6” print, and in an hour or so, it’ll be done.

The total cost was 23 cents (plus tax, of course). Quite the bargain for five photos!

Next week I’ll talk about DIY driver’s licenses and passports. Just kidding – honest. Next week we’ll continue with the ‘Publishing Your Own Book’ series of blogs