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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