For my upcoming Peace Corps action, I was required to get a few passport photos for my passport and visa applications, which ended up costing me nearly $30. Like anyone else who would be applying for these things, I just thought, “well at least it’s only a one-time expense!” That’s still awfully damn expensive.
So then I got my packing list, and it turns out that I have to bring 15 (!) passport photos with me. I checked the post office, a local photographer, and Walgreens for prices, which varied between $8 and $15 for two. Meaning I would have to spend at least $50. I decided that this was not okay, and so it was time to roll my own passport photos.
I looked up passport requirements and found the government’s “composition checklist” regarding what a photo is supposed to look like:
There are some other requirements as well, but they are pretty loose and basically consist of “don’t take too awful of a photograph.” Which I found funny when I looked at the one leftover “professional” photo that I paid $4 for. It was awful.
Anyway, I set my digital camera on its smallest setting (640X480 px), stood in front of a white wall, held the camera out with both hands to keep my shoulders parallel, and snapped a bunch of photos at different distances, angles, and with different levels of head tiltage. Then I popped them onto my computer and compared them with the samples provided by travel.state.gov. A few were good enough, so I picked one and opened it up for editing in the GIMP. What follows will only make sense if you are familiar with photo editors.
The printed photo has to be 2″x2″, so I resized the canvas to be 480×480 pixels and centered it. I then adjusted the color balance and contrast to make it look as close to my real skin tone as possible, and to keep it from being too washed out. I then scaled the photo down to 2″x2″. My plan is to run over to Walmart or somewhere similar where I can print dititals, but I know from the last time I used a machine there that the smallest size I could go down to was 4″x6″. So, I then increased the canvas size to 4″x6″ and duplicated the photo into a 2×3 grid, so that one 4″x6″ print would contain 6 photos! Now I am going to run down to print 3 copies of that 4″x6″ image, which run about 20 cents each, and then cut them out.
So I will have gotten 18 passport photos for under a dollar! Eat that, “professionals”!