Travel Advice: A Guide to Passport Photos and Visa Photos - Independent Travel Cats (2023)

Recently we’ve been needing to apply for several international visas for travel in Asia and Africa, which means we’ve been filling outapplication paperwork for each country and obtaininga lot of visa photos.

Even though biometric passport and visa photos are just simple digital photos, most people have them taken professionally because they need to meet the country-specific requirements of the destination and in the case of passport photos, may be accompanying a person for afull 10 years.

Ethan and I have each needed almost a dozen visa photos over the past several months, and we became very frustrated with the cost of passport and visa photos at our local drugstores. After paying almost $50 for 8 photos (ridiculous!), we started researching the various places where we could get visa photos taken and exploring the do-it-yourself options where you can take and print your own photos. After our research, we have vowed to never pay $11.99 for two passport photos again!

In this guide, we’ll give you a list of places where you can have your photos taken, give advice on the cheapest options, tell you about how you can print your own passport or visa photos for free or little cost, share some tips of how to ensure you get the best passport or visa photos possible, and provide some additional visa photo advice aimed at long-term and frequent international travelers.

Note that some of this information is specificallyapplicable to those living in the United States, but the discussion of online services and the general photo tips are applicable to anyone.

Now, it should be noted that most placesin the United Statesadvertise their services for passport photos and prices are generally provided for a set of 2 passport photos that comply with the U.S. Department of State guidelines for those wanting to apply for a new U.S. passport or renew an existing U.S. passport.

Many places can also print visa photos that differ from the size requirements of the U.S. passport photos, but you need to be very clear of the needed size dimensions and any other requirements (size of head, background color, etc.) that may differ.

I would call ahead if you need visa photos of a size other than the standard 2 inchesX 2 inches(5cm X 5cm) as some places may not be able to print photos of any given dimension.

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Drugstores and Pharmacies

Many drugstores and pharmacies offer passport photo printing, such as Walgreens, Rite-Aid, and CVS. We checked some prices and found that current prices (2017) were $8.99 at Rite-Aid and were $11.99 at both our local Walgreens and CVS for two passport photos. Prices across store locations may vary but expect to pay about $9 to $12 at a drugstore for 2 passport photos

Check websites and store flyers for potential coupons as we saw discount coupons online for both Rite-Aid and CVS. Drugstores are convenient as they can usually take the photos immediately and can have the photos printed and ready within a fewhours; however, they generally do not offer the lowestprices.

Warehouse and Discount Retail Stores

Most Costco, Sam’s Club, and WalMart stores offer passport photo services. Costco and Sam’s Club offer rates as low as $4.99 for two passport photos and Walmart stores offer passport services as low as $7.99 for two passport photos. WalMart also offers an online serviceon their website where you can upload and create your own passport photo and have them delivered to your home.

Other retail and department stores with portrait studios are also likely to offer passport photos including Sears, JCPenny, and some KMart and Target stores.

The warehouse and discount retail stores such as Costco, Sam’s Club, and WalMart are likely going to be your cheapest place for getting your passport or visa photos if you want them taken professionally. I would start here if you have these stores nearby as you’re unlikely to find a better price unless you decide to take and print the photos yourself.

Local Post Office

Many USPS post office locations offer passport services where they provide passport applications and accept and review applications at the post office, and many of these locations also offer passport photo services. This generally requires an appointment be made in advance and the photos will cost about $15.00.

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Post offices generally just do this for U.S. passport photos. You could ask if they would also do visa photos if they are the same size, but while this can be convenient for your passport photos if you are already going to be in the post office for the application anyway, it is probably not your least expensive option.

AAA Offices

Many of the AAA branch offices offer passport services and can be a great deal if you are a member as many memberships come with a free set of passport photos. Some of the higher tier memberships also come with additional or even unlimited free passport photo services so check your plan. Otherwise, it is generally$15 for members and $20 for non-members for a set of 2 passport photos.

Printing and Shipping Stores

Many printing shops and shipping stores offer passport photos services, including UPS stores and Fedex Kinkos stores. The prices here generally vary from about $12 to $15 for a set of two passport photos.

Photo Booths

These are not common places for passport photos within the United States as it is first difficult to find a photo booth outside of a shopping mall and they don’t necessarily conform to passport or visa standards.

However, this is a common source of passport and visa photos in certain countries, such as the United Kingdom and France. In fact, most booths in the UK specifically offer a UK passport photo option and some even offer photos compliant for United States and India visa or passport photos. So if you are an American traveling Europe, look for a photo booth which are common in train and metro stations, as well as in large supermarkets.

Other Places to Consider

Your local photography stores, print shops, universities, or newspaper offices may also be places that offer passport photos. It never hurts to call and ask if you are having difficulty finding a place nearby or want to check for better rates.

Help, I Can’t Find a Local Place to Take My Visa or Passport Photo!

Now, for those living in small towns and rural areas, your options for in-person passport photos services may be limited. Consider any local drugstores, discount retail stores, photography studios, newspaper offices, printing offices, and local photographers.

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If your post office doesn’t take photos but accepts passport applications, they can probably direct you to someone who can take your photo.I grew up in a tiny town and our local post office, local newspaper office, and local portrait studio all offered these services. If none of these are available, you should consider the do-it-yourself option.

For the best prices, you should consider taking your own passport and visa photos. There is no requirement (at least in the United States) that the photos be professionally taken, they just need to meet the specified requirements for that particular passport or visa. This is a great free option for those applications you can submit online with a digital photo, and a very cheap option if the only cost is printing the photos on good quality photo paper.

This is a no-brainer for those with a little bit of photography skills as even a photo taken with your phone can be edited to be an acceptable passport or visa photo. But even if you don’t have any photography or photography editing skills, you can still take your own photos, you just need to know the requirements and use some photo editing software.

For any editing, you can use photo editing software you may have on your computer such as Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, Illustrator, iPhoto, or use a free online editing tool such as Canva. If it is for a U.S. passport, you can also use the free passport photocrop tool on the U.S. Department of State website.

If you need printed photos for the application, you’ll need access to a color printer and a sheet of good quality photo paper. Alternatively, you fit them to an 8″ X 10″ or 4″ X 6″ space and have them printed as 1 photo at your local drugstore or discount store for next to nothing (under $1.00).

Online Free (or Cheap) Services to Consider

You can just take your own photo, use your own editing software, and print them off in the specified size on your own, but for those who want a bit more guidance or who would like the use of professional printing services, there are actually several free or very cheap services online that will help you take a passport or visa photo and edit it online to meet requirements.

Depending on the service, you have the option to use the photo free digitally (online passport or visa applications), print it yourself, have it printed at a local drugstore for a fee, or mailed to your home for a fee. Two of these services are and Make Passport For some countries (including UK and France), you can also order passport photos from Snapfish.

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We specifically used which allows you to upload a photo you’ve taken with either your phone or camera. I like that they offer the free do-it-yourself option where you can print the photos yourself, although you do have to look around a bit on their webpage for the link but it is there. The photos were actually printed by Snapfish.

Otherwise you can have it printed at a local drugstore or mailed to your home for a low rate, and you get additional discounts if you order more than one set of photos.

Instructions were provided online on how to best take and upload the photo and the instructions are easy to follow. We used this service and paid $19.18 for 16 photos (8 for each of us) and this included shipping to our home. We were very happy with this service and would recommend it, and it can be used internationally for almost any country’s passport requirements.

Just note that when using for visas, you’ll need to just know the actual size requirements and then just select the size you need and disregard the actual country information as they are set up for passport photos not visa photos. In our case, we just ordered United States passport photos as the visa size requirements were the same as those for a U.S. passport photo.

1.) Know the passport or visa photo requirements and double check them. There is plenty of outdated and inaccurate information floating around on the Internet, so make sure that you get the most updated and reputable information (check embassies and government websites or call your local embassy for the latest guidelines) to prevent a lot of wasted time and effort. Be sure to note that the passport photo and visa photo requirements for the same country may differ so be sure to look up the correct information. Currently for a U.S. passport,the photo must be 2 inches-by-2 inches (5cm X 5cm) and in color. You must stand in front of a white background, face the camera directly and have a neutral expression. In the final photo, your head must measure between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches from the bottom of your chin to the top of your head.

2.) Put a little thought into what you are going to wear. Most passport and visa photo requirements specify a white, light colored, or blue solid background. Try to avoid wearing white or black, but choose a solid colored shirt that will stand out. Remember this is a professional identification photo so try to avoid shirts with messages, emblems, religious or political connotations, etc. and don’t wear anything that might be considered overtly sexual. Hats, scarves, and other head coverings not worn for religious reasons must be removed. The rules on head coverings for religious reasons vary by country so check on these, but generally you will need to ensure that if a head covering is worn that it does not cover or create shadows on one’s face and you may need to obtain a letter stating that it is worn for religious reasons.

3.) Make up is fine but don’t wear too much. Wear your hair down and as natural as possible and try to tame any flyaways before taking the photos with gel or hairspray. Prescription glasses should be worn only if they are normally worn, but you may need to tilt them down on your nose a bit to avoid a glare in the photo.

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Is there a difference between passport photos and visa photos? ›

Passport and visa photos are not the same. While they do have similar photo requirements, (white background, neutral expression, no alterations), their frame size varies. For a passport photo, you will need a 50mm wide x 70mm photo, and for a visa photo, you'll need it to be 35 mm by 45 mm.

Can I take my own photo for visa application? ›

While we recommend you use a professional visa photo service to ensure your photo meets all the requirements, you may take the photo yourself. Photos must not be digitally enhanced or altered to change your appearance in any way.

What are the rules for visa photo? ›

Sample Photo

The photograph should be in colour and the size of 2 inch x 2 inch (51 mm x 51 mm). The photo-print should be clear and with continuous-tone quality. It should have full face, front view, eyes open. Photo should present full head from top of hair to bottom of chin.

Can I use the same photo for passport and visa? ›

You cannot use the same photo as the one in your current passport. No eyeglasses, hats or jewelry can be worn. Have a neutral expression (mouth closed) facing straight to the camera. Photo must be taken against a neutral background.

Can I take a passport photo with my phone? ›

If you have a smartphone or tablet, you can use those. Just make sure your face is squared with the camera and the tops of your shoulders are visible.

How do I take US visa photos with my iPhone? ›

Stand about four feet away from your iPhone, facing the camera directly. Keep your head straight, with a neutral expression, eyes open, and mouth closed. Make sure your entire face is visible and framed correctly—including the neck and the top of your shoulders.

Do you smile in a visa photo? ›

Can I smile in my passport photo? Yes, but make sure both your eyes are open and your mouth is closed in your photo.

Can you wear a white shirt for a visa photo? ›

– Everyday clothing such as collard shirts and plain t-shirts are appropriate for passport photos. Avoid wearing tank tops, and no white. – Uniforms cannot be worn in passport photos.

Can I wear earrings in my passport photo? ›

They should be small enough to allow facial visibility. Studs and small hoops are great examples of acceptable earrings. They should not reflect light in the photo: Reflections from the corner of your face can disqualify your passport photo. You must thus avoid any earrings with such effects.

Why do they give you 2 passport photos? ›

While traveling abroad, you must carry extra passport photos with you. This is because you are required to submit passport photos for a Visa or for any other application forms.

What happens if your passport photo is not acceptable? ›

If your photo gets rejected, there is a 90-day threshold to change your photo and replace it with a perfect one that meets all the guidelines and passport photo regulation. If you don't take any step in 90 days, then you again have to apply for passport renewal and pay the fee.

Do I need a visa if I have a passport? ›

In fact, there are well over 100 countries that Americans with passports can travel to, visa-free. With just a valid American passport, you can travel to most countries in Europe, Central and South America, and the Caribbean, as well as many other popular tourist destinations.

Are passport and visa the same? ›

The main difference between a visa and a passport is that passports are issued by the government of your home country and permit you to enter and exit your territory of residence. Visas, on the other hand, are issued by the authorities of a foreign country and allow you to enter that specific territory.

What size passport photo do I need for visa? ›

Tips for Submitting your Photo

The correct size of a passport photo is: 2 x 2 inches (51 x 51 mm) Head must be between 1 -1 3/8 inches (25 - 35 mm) from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head.

Can I use the same photo for US visa? ›

To reflect your current appearance, your photo must be taken within the last six months. If you are renewing a previous visa, this generally means your photo must not be the same one that appeared on your old visa.

How do I take a picture of my passport for visa? ›

The image must be a color scan of the photo and personal details page (name, date of birth, nationality, expiry date, etc.) Make sure to include the signature page when applicable. All information must be clearly visible and no information should be cut off.


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