My family and I travel while I run my company Purveyor of Geekery
Applying for passports takes a lot of work between filling in paperwork, turning in the applications, waiting (find out more about the process here)…and the photo requirements are kind of strict (Reference: US,, UK, CAN, AUS). It’s not for the faint of heart and it can be intimidating, but just remember that millions of other people have gone through the process as well and have done it successfully. Just not all of them have had the pleasure of doing it with kids as well. Enter parent time, where normal things take 6 times longer.
1. Have passport photos done “professionally”
If your children are old enough, taking them to a place that specializes in passport photos will save you a ton of time and heartache…again, assuming your children are old enough to hold still and face the camera on command. For younger families with babies, toddlers and young preschoolers you can skip this option or you’ll wind up wasting money. You can find places that do passport photos everywhere, from services in pharmacies (CVS and Walgreens) and key cutting shops, to independent passport photo booths. These usually range between $10-$15 USD. I use quotes around “professional” because it essentially boils down to an automatic process or an employee folding out a screen, positioning the camera and click. You get one shot so you better look glamorous…ok presentable, not glamorous, no one will look glamorous after stepping off an international flight. Much like driver’s license photos, you won’t look presentable but at least they will be done.
2. Take the passport photos yourself, have them processed professionally
If you have a white wall and a camera that isn’t a potato, taking the photos at home of kids who are able to sit and face the camera on command can save your sanity from lugging everyone to a store. You can also take photos at home of babies, toddlers and young preschoolers, but get ready for a crazy adventure. The US Bureau of Consular Affairs has a nice tutorial on setting up your shot as does Canada, which covers things like lighting and clarity that are applicable to all passport photos regardless of nation. You basically need to remember:
- no shadows, not even behind them (have them stand close to the wall),
- no hats or accessories,
- no smiling (neutral faces), THIS IS NOT A FUN ZONE!!!!
- eyes open,
- directly facing forward.
Need some inspiration on a good passport photo? Check out ePassportPhoto.com’s Facebook Page and click “see all” on Other’s Comments on the right column. You can see user’s posts of pictures as well as whether they will pass official muster or not.
After taking the photos, you can upload them to www.epassportphoto.com which will help you line up the photos correctly, have them double checked for you and supply you with a file to print at home, your local one hour photo or delivered to your home. The best part is they can process photos for dozens of countries, taking the guess work out of sizing.
The prices on their website say “as low as $1.50” but from the reviews online, I’ve read that they can be as high as $8-9 USD. Their print to store or home delivery options are only for United States locations but they offer a downloadable version of your files for free that you can print on your own photo paper at home.
From their reviews, I’ve read that Walgreens is giving them a hard time for printing passport photos through their one hour photo service since it is interfering with their own business. We had the photos we took for O’s passport printed there without problems though, but I laid those out myself in Photoshop (see option #3 below).
There are apps available for phones as well, however I won’t link to them because with reviews like “USPS did not accept my photo for the passport because it produced a shadow behind me… This needs improvements” I won’t suggest that route until I have a chance to try them out myself.
3. Take and edit your own passport photos
Unless you’re a bit of a pro with a photo editing software, this may be a very frustrating adventure. If you choose to go this route, see a few of I Heart Family Travel’s articles to help with the process: