Making Your Own Passport Photos?


Think twice about having those photos printed at Walgreens.

I recently needed to get passports for my 1 year old twins.  Coincidentally, I also needed to renew my own passport that had recently expired.  Many local drug stores charge $8 to take and print a set of two passport photos.  Going down this path would have cost me $24 for a total of 6 2″x2″ photos.  Being somewhat of a photographer I knew I could easily take the photos myself and get them printed for a fraction of the cost (less than $2).

I spent a few minutes reading the U.S. Department of State guidelines, as well as an online tutorial on how to easily make photos that fit within the specifications.  Armed with this knowledge I went down into the basement, set up my lights and tripod, wrangled the minimarts, and emerged 20 minutes later with a set of JPGs to be printed.

The next step was to find a place to print them.  I wasn’t too concerned with quality, so my first choice was Wal-Mart.  I’ve used their online 1-hour system in the past, and it has worked quite well for photos like this.  I uploaded my photos and an hour later I had them in hand without any problems.  There was a problem, though- my daughter and my photos were underexposed and too dark, I forgot that the small size of the images would make them appear darker than what I saw on screen.  I knew the passport office would reject them.

After returning home and fixing the problem I figured this time I’d send them to the new Walgreens a few blocks away from my office and pick them up the next morning on my way to work.  What a big mistake that turned out to be.  I went to the photo counter to pick up my images and the on duty manager asked if these were passport photos.  I responded “Yes”, to which she said “all passport photos had to be taken on-site”, but she’d let me have them this time.  I asked her a) “why are you looking at my photos” and b) “where does it say that in your store policy”?  She said the photos get printed at the front of the store facing forward, but she doesn’t go looking through all the images.  She also pointed at some small line of text in some obscure store policy that stated “Passport photos cannot be ordered on-line”.  Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time a customer has been denied trying to print their own passport photos at Walgreens, see the comments on this consumerist post.

Immediately after leaving the store I filled out their online “Contact Us” form, sent an email to their CEO, and posted a few tweets:

A few hours later I was told via twitter that there are no such restrictions and customers are free to make and print their own passport photos at Walgreens:

 So while it is possible (and allowed) to get your homemade passport photos printed at Walgreens, be prepared to put up a fight for them.  I know I’ll be going elsewhere in 5 and 10 years when it’s time to renew again.

24 Responses to Making Your Own Passport Photos?

  1. David July 31, 2012 at 8:09 pm #

    DIY passport photos are really taking off especially as printing consumables are improving in quality. Saves you a pretty penny too!!

  2. Jahfire December 5, 2012 at 3:16 am #

    Thanks for posting this. I am on a severe budget, and need to get several items for a new job, including a passport picture. You have saved me time, money and a strain on my sanity! Much appreciated!

  3. Mark Monst December 10, 2012 at 4:10 am #

    Srsly, a strain on your sanity? You’re already too far gone if easy passport pics prevent you from going crazy.

    Molehills aren’t mountains, babe. Don’t confuse the two.

  4. Cracker March 1, 2013 at 9:56 pm #

    You should of said it is none of your business what those photos are for.. problem solved..

  5. frozen01 March 19, 2013 at 9:37 pm #

    I really want to know how you did this. I tried to print passport photos at Walgreens… and Target, and WalMart, and FedEx/Kinkos… and none of them even offer the 2″ x 2″ size. I’m trying to print passport-style photos for myself and my fiance so that we can apply for a visa for him. He’s not in the country, so taking him down to Walgreens and having them shoot a photo is out of the question. We spent forever getting these photos perfect, and now no one seems to want to print them! So, yeah, I get Jahfire’s “strain on my sanity” comment completely.

    • Chris Martino March 19, 2013 at 9:42 pm #

      Hi There-

      I actually had the photos printed on a 4×6 with a big grey border so I knew where to cut with a pair of scissors. I had 2 photos on the 4×6, so I think I paid 18 cents for both photos.


      • Rejish August 19, 2013 at 11:41 am #

        Chris, I just had to go through the same experience. They charged me passport photo charges (12 $) for a print, when I had it shot and send the order online.

        • Chris Martino August 19, 2013 at 1:12 pm #


          That’s terrible! Send them a tweet or contact their customer service! That’s what I did, and they addressed my concerns.

          Good Luck!


  6. Carmen Rominger July 3, 2013 at 10:23 am #

    Dear Chris I am confused, could you tell me the real size I have to cut my picture for my passport?
    I really like your blog, it help a lot!

  7. Jim Chang October 26, 2013 at 1:09 am #

    My Walgreens just denied me. Told me to go to the local CVS down the block instead. If I wanted to argue about the policy, I would have to wait until the morning when the manager gets in.

    • Chris October 28, 2013 at 9:19 pm #

      So frustrating, isn’t it? What happened at the CVS?

  8. Lisa April 16, 2014 at 7:53 pm #

    I just had this experience today! And the store manager didn’t let me have my passport photo. That’s really non-sense! I’ve had no problem printing it at Target or CVS before. I was really pissed off, especially after spending 45minutes just to figure out how to transfer my photo to their machine! They lost me as a customer!

  9. Rebecca May 13, 2014 at 8:41 am #

    I recently printed my children’s passport pictures at CVS (with no problems) because the closest Walgreens does not have a one-hour photo lab. I think avoiding Walgreens is the easiest solution here, folks!

    • Chris Martino May 13, 2014 at 8:44 am #

      Rebecca- I think you’re right. I know the next time I need passport photos I won’t be going to walgreens.

  10. Marty June 30, 2014 at 5:20 pm #

    So… you spend how much time on this (researching, setting up lights, cutting, etc.) — what is your hourly rate? How much did you actually save over just standing there, saying cheese and forking over the $8?

    • Chris Martino July 9, 2014 at 11:26 am #

      I saved $24 (myself and my two kids). It wasn’t a paid project, so it
      was done on my own time. And now that I’ve done it once, it’ll be easy
      to replicate in the future, assuming I remember what I did in 5 or 10
      years when it’s time for a passport.

  11. Kevin March 11, 2015 at 9:52 pm #

    Just had the same Walgreen’s experience, today. “It’s against our policy” to print your own passport photos. Next stop RiteAid. Hopefully I don’t get the same story there.

  12. Ryan April 8, 2015 at 1:52 pm #

    I ordered 4″ x 6″ print and paid 29 cents online just for one picture with multiple pictures of the my 4-month-old son to keep it in my and my wife’s wallet. When my wife stopped by few days later to pick it from the store the store associate and assistant-manager said due to the company policy there is an additional $12 charge for that 4″ x 6″ print because “they believe the purpose of that print is for passport, because they looked at it and it seems like those are the passport sized pictures on the 4″x6″ print”.
    I asked if store manager is available, he was not. I told them I will call later to speak to a manager and follow up on this issue.
    An hour later I received an email from Walgreens stating that my online print order was cancelled for technical reasons, even though the the print order was fulfilled (personally saw it).
    So, by spending few minutes searching online for similar issues I saw Chris’s story (above) with similar situation. Clearly, this has to be addressed properly. Here’s what I did:
    – Called Wallgreens’ Customer Service and asked if they have the “$12-surcharge-policy” available online, they were not aware of the policy and forwarded me to Consumer Relations Dept (1-800-925-4733);
    – Filed a corporate complaint about this incident with Consumer Relations Dept at;
    – an hour later received a phone call from the store manager, he told me the exact same story about “$12-surcharge-policy” that they have in their store; To my question what this $12 is for if I already paid 29 cents for one 4″ x 6″ print he could not answer and said that’s just the policy and there’s nothing I can do about it. Why would they even look at the content of the prints that are ordered?;
    – Called back to Consumer Relation Dept and had the case escalated to the District Manager of Wallgreens corp. Was told that someone would call me within 3 business days;
    At his point waiting for the call and do not know what would my next step be if District Manager will tell me the same story about the bogus company $12 surcharge policy.
    I mean, come on, what is this $12 surcharge for, is it for their lunch-money, vacation or pension plan? I spent my own time taking a picture with my cell-phone, reduced the size and multiplied the same picture to fit in 1 print (did this with MsPaint and took me literally 5 minutes), and place the order online.
    My opinion is that they’re trying to make money on this bogus policy because they treat this as potential loss of revenue for not having me taking a picture at the store with the sh1tty quality. I understand and I do get it, but just filtering out the content of prints ordered online and denying some of the prints based on strictly the stores’ own policy that is contradictory to policy is sort of unconstitutional and violation of consumer rights. Most importantly, I believe this is violation of my consumer rights because the order was placed online and officially confirmed for pickup, and I only showed up at the store 4 days later after the confirmation, nobody bothered calling ahead and explaining this crazy rule so I didn’t have to waste my time to pick up my order.

  13. atomic3 January 30, 2016 at 11:43 pm #

    Yep, I picked up my photos and the employee at the photo desk said that she can give me a “ticket” for taking my own pictures. She also mentioned that the photos have been “flagged” and won’t pass as passport photos.

    I found it quite amusing that she began to explain how when Walgreens does the passport photo that it’s “official” and makes sure the picture isn’t photoshopped and the person in the picture is the person applying… Since when did Walgreens check your ID before taking a passport photo?

    I enjoyed the laugh and eventually got my photo but was told it was the final time. I just chalk it up as poor employee training at that location.

  14. Terri March 1, 2016 at 3:50 pm #

    Hi! I’m trying to figure all this out as I’m in need a passport photo for my husband and myself. I’m a photographer as well just never dealt with passport photos before. To avoid the Wal-greens issue of them suspecting they are passport photos, couldn’t you just take the photo as a 4×6 then crop/cut it yourself at home into a 2×2 square?

  15. NORexpatinMA July 28, 2016 at 7:09 pm #

    just came back from Walgreens in West Roxbury, MA empty handed…taking your own kids photo ids is VERBOTEN! I have to drag two 6 month babies to their store for their ‘service’. Needless to say, that’s the last time our family set our feet in that store.

  16. Sathish June 29, 2017 at 4:08 pm #

    I had the same problem with Walgreens and I was so frustrated by the way they treated me. I ordered a wallet sized photo for purposes in no way related to a passport (I dont need a US passport). I need these photos for financial purposes or my wife could use it for the purpose it was intended for – to have it in her wallet!

    I they refused to sell me the clerk was so rude to me saying that she cannot do anything about it. She would never listen to my argument that it was not intended for a passport. I felt the same way as Ryan, that my rights were violated and why would they even send me an email for pick up and then deny it when I got to the store. I will try to reach Walgreens just to teach them that there are million reasons why a customer wants a photo of a similar size as a passport photo but not intended for a passport.

  17. henry November 6, 2017 at 11:44 am #

    same here at walgreens at weston ave of waltham ma. Horrible.

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