Avoiding the Passport Photo Ripoff

My passport recently expired, and since I’m planning a European trip this summer, I need to renew it ASAP. I grabbed the passport application from the Post Office and zipped over to Kinko’s since I knew they took passport-approved photos there. It can’t cost more than a couple bucks for two small photos, right?


My local Kinko’s did not have a price listed underneath the large “Passport photos taken here!” sign. As the modestly-hot Kinko’s girl grabbed her digital camera and asked me to have a seat in front of the white backdrop, I casually asked, “How much will this cost?”

“Thirteen dollars,” she coolly replied, “and that’s just for the two photos. We don’t handle any of the paperwork or shipping.”

“Gasp! Hrgpt! Croak!” I wheezed as I blindly stumbled toward the exit, garnering the attention of the remaining customers and leaving the modestly-hot girl scratching her head in confusion.

Someone wants me to pay $13 for two lousy photos? I don’t think so. Some quick checking around found that Walgreens, CVS, and other competitors ALL wanted at least $8 for the same crappy service. No thanks.

An Alternative

If you have a digital camera (or can borrow one), you can take your own photo. Of course, it must adhere to certain guidelines, which means that you can’t use a LOLCAT or Hello Kitty as your passport photo. Bummer.

Seriously, the US Department of State has published the guidelines for passport photos, and they aren’t too hard to follow.

Once you’ve taken your photo, use a free service such as ePassportPhoto or 123PassportPhoto. I tried both, but liked ePassportPhoto better because it includes a nifty tool to crop the photo, keeping the distance from your chin to the top of your head in the proper ratio with the rest of the photo.

ePassportPhoto - Ensure compliance

Here’s my picture! See how my chin and (um…) ears are solidly within the green bars?

Passport Kitteh

Both ePassportPhoto and 123PassportPhoto will generate a 4×6″ photo containing six 2×2″ passport-ready photos.


To print my awesome new photo, I simply sent the single 4×6″ print to Wal-Mart’s online photo center and requested one color copy. Heck, I even splurged on their 1-hour service. Of course, any other competing online photo service should work just fine.

The grand total price, including tax? $0.20. That’s 20 CENTS! As you can see, 20 cents is clearly lower than 13 dollars. In your face, Kinko’s.

I even paid with a credit card. 🙂

Oh, for you tinfoil-hat-wearing types, new passports now come with a radio frequency identification chip (RFID). If this makes you uncomfortable, a quick smack with a hammer should permanently disable it.

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6 thoughts on “Avoiding the Passport Photo Ripoff

  1. Dude, with the dollar to euro conversion rate being so paltry -for the dollar- you’re going to need that 13 bucks. Yay lousy economy that makes us need to worry about 13 bucks.Jeez.

  2. Great advice! I’ve walked out of kinko’s many times for their high prices. I once needed to send a 5 page fax, and they wanted something like $5 for it!!! No way, I did the same…gasped and walked out.

  3. a quick update from ePassportPhoto… we just blogged on the latest from our communication with Walgreens. Believe it or not, these Walgreens allow themselves to censor the content of your photo – do you think this is legal?

  4. I have a much worse story. I went to Houston Passport office with completed application and two sets of good-looking photos of mine. The first window lady told me that the photos are not good. And waiting for a while I went to the second window and the lady looked at the two sets of pictures and told me that one is too large and the other is not clear. She advised me to go down and take a picture in the cafeteria or across the street at a drug store. I went down and took the picture at the cafeteria; with a throw-away camera and the picture was the lousiest of mine ever taken. Cost $20.00. I went up and the lady readily accepted it and trimmed it (She earlier complained that the photo I had taken was too large) and I was told that the passport will be mailed out. In a weeks time I got the picture. The photo is dark, faint and not even my wife can tell that it is mine. I am stuck with it for ten years. It is the biggest scam and the agents are receiving pay-back (kick-backs) from the photo agents. Do the superiors know or even they are on a take?

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