11 March 2015

DIY: passport photos (with an infant!)

Can I be super vain for just a second? I really dislike my passport photo. I know, that’s such a cliché because nobody likes the photos on their government-issued IDs. Except I did, on my previous passport.


(I mean, I know they look the same to the rest of the world, but still. Old one on the left and new one on the right, if it’s not obvious from the better lighting, better hair, better sardonic expression and lack of under-eye circles.)

With my name change upon marriage came a new passport and a new photo, and dang it, I’ve bemoaned the loss of the previous passport photo ever since. Both were taken at a Walgreen’s, so it wasn’t like a glamour shot session in which I could ask for a bunch of retakes. I just got lucky that the first $12 outlay resulted in a good shot, and the second $12 got me an inferior photo that has bugged me ever since.

This has been sticking more in my mind recently as I’ve been planning our summer travels, which includes a trip to Norway. Whee! Yes, we are those crazy first-time parents who are all “traveling with a six-month old to Scandanavia? NBD”. So Baby P needs a passport, which means he needs a passport photo. And the idea of heading back to a Walgreens – or anywhere, really – with an uncooperative eight-week-old to get a photo that met all the guidelines for a passport photo sounded like a huge exercise in frustration. Not to mention the actual monetary cost of the experience. Ugh.

But guess what. You can DIY it! And it is, in fact, way easier than going out in public – and it costs $1. Yes, one dollar.

Now, I am far from the first person who’s dealt with this, and the internet was here to help! There were many guides and tips for how to get a good passport photo, but this one was my favorite. The idea of positioning with a sheet on the floor seemed easiest, though Baby P was old enough to control his head without needing all the support towels underneath. But if you have a younger baby, those might be necessary!

So, one night (because we didn’t have the foresight to do this during daytime), we turned on all the lights in Baby P’s room, put him on a sheet on the floor and went to town. It took sixty-three attempts, and honestly that seems low to me, considering that we’re dealing with an eight-week-old who has no concept of “keep your mouth closed”.


Or “don’t smile” (honestly!).


Or “hands down”.


Or “show both ears”.


Or “look at the camera.”


Or worst of all, “be still”.




Oh for crying out loud.

(Of course, that last one can be mitigated a bit if you don’t attempt this at night and can have faster shutter speed, but then you’d have to be a Parent Who Plans Ahead.)

Out of the 63 photos, two (just two!) seemed suitable. I chose the cuter one, obviously... at least as cute as a baby mug shot can be.


I confess I brightened it up a bit to try to get rid of the shadows behind him (yet another rule!), but did no other editing because photos shouldn’t be digitally altered (ANOTHER RULE). I even left that little drip of spitup on his chest because I feared the authority figures would yell at me for photoshopping my baby for a government issued document.

Ok, so now we had the photo. How did I get it to the proper proportions? Fortunately, the US government has an online tool to help with that!


That’s cute, how the government has an outline for my baby’s nonexistent neck. Hahaha.

The online tool ultimately gives you a 600x600 pixel photo, which you can then print on photo paper with your own printer if you are willing to figure that out. I was not. And once again, I was fortunate to have a trailblazer show me to get the perfect 2x2” passport photo prints from Walgreens – for one stinking dollar. Here’s the excellent tutorial.

Basically, you need to make your photo 900x600 pixels (landscape, not portrait!) by adding white space on the sides:


(And don’t put a black box around yours, obviously! I just wanted you to see the white space.)

Then choose the “wallet” option on Walgreens online order form – which just happens to give you four 2x2” photos in one 4x6” print.


Now, apparently Walgreens might not be keen on you doing this because they are mad that they’re not getting the extra $11 to take a potentially crappy photo of you. We didn’t have any problems, but then again, they probably didn’t want to wrangle a baby for a passport photo anyway. So who knows – hopefully it goes as easy for you as it did for us!

The next morning, Mr. P swung by the neighborhood Walgreens for our photos. Again, let me reiterate: one dollar.


Then I just cut them out and we were good to go! We only needed one for the application, but I was convinced I’d lose it along the way if I didn’t have several on hand.


Now, I’d love to end this post by showing you Baby P’s passport, but we don’t have it quite yet (it’s not been a whole month since we applied). But fingers crossed that it all works out! If for some reason his application is denied due to the photo, well, I know how to get a new one for a dollar.

And when my passport expires down the road? You’d better believe this is how I’ll get a new photo. No more cringing at awful passport photos! If you need a new one, take it yourself – over and over, sixty-three times even, until you have the perfect shot!

2 comments:

Miles said...

Somehow a trip to Wags doesnt seem nearly as daunting as Norway, ha! I do believe youve come up with a way to DIY just about anything, though.

Sarah said...

@Miles, haha, I hadn't thought of how weird it is to be daunted by taking photos at Walgreens but not hauling a baby to another country :) Truth!