Photos For A Passport
Previously I compared retail and professional photo printing and I thought why not do another comparison, this time of passport photo services. Now, as a professional photographer I’ll probably get hung up on some things the average consumer may not. I am, however, also uniquely positioned to critique technical elements of these images.
Passport Photos Price
During my research I found the average price of passport photos varies between $15 and $20. Some services provide both printed and digital copies and some provide only print outs. The number of printed photos varied between four and eight.
Passport Photos Size
The sizing specifications for passport photos are VERY specific. Photos have to be 35mm to 40mm wide and 45mm to 50mm high. The size of the face from chin to crown can be up to a maximum of 36mm, with a minimum of 32mm.
Passport Photos Requirements
Like sizing their are other very particular requirements for passport photos.
- They must be less than 6 months old.
- They cannot be retouched.
- They cannot have red eyes.
- A plain white or light grey background is needed.
- Lighting must be uniform with appropriate brightness and contrast.
- The face must be centred and looking square on at the camera without being tilted in any direction.
- Hair must be off your face.
- Eyes must be open, mouth closed with a neutral expression.
- Glasses must not be worn.
- Religious head coverings may be worn but must be plain, without any pattern, and worn in a way that shows the face.
- Jewellery must not obscure the face or reflect onto the skin.
- Hearing aids may be worn.
- For children under 3 years of age an open mouth is permitted.
Australia Post Passport Photos
Australia Post offer an on-the-spot passport photo service utilising a pull down white screen. They charge $19.95 and provide six printed copies and email a digital file.
With the exception of the store lights no additional lighting was used. I snuck a look at their camera when they put it down on the counter and they were shooting with an aperture of F5 and an ISO of 3200 which, not surprisingly, lead to fairly grainy and noisey photos.
Despite the queue being almost out the door when I arrived it moved remarkably quickly and I was in and out in around 10 minutes.
Printed images provided by Australia Post.
Digital file provided by Australia Post.
Officeworks Passport Photos
Officeworks also offer an on-the-spot passport photo service utilising a full length white screen. They charge $16.95 and provide four printed copies and email a digital file. They had a light on the backdrop and used on camera flash.
The first store I attended were unable to take photos as they were awaiting installation of a backdrop. I then called three neighbouring stores who all reported they were currently unable to take photos because of broken or missing equipment. I finally found a store that could take photos but when I attended they were disorganised with no queueing system. After waiting around 15 minutes for them to take my photo they were then unable to work our how to download and email the digital file, with three staff crowding around the computer. They said they would email it the following week. I didn’t expect it to happen but, low and behold, several days later the file did arrive and it was noticeably sharper and better focused than the Australia Post file.
Officeworks were the only place to provide a written report verifying the image met the Australian Passport requirements.
Printed images provided by Officeworks.
Digital file provided by Officeworks.
Ted’s Cameras Passport Photos
Like Australia Post, Ted’s Cameras charge $19.95 for on-the-spot passport photos. They utilised a white wall with a light directed on it and were the only place to have me sit for photos. They provided eight images, and handily pre-cut two ready for use. They charge an additional fee to provide a digital copy.
The process was pretty quick and I could have been in and out in 10 minutes if I hadn’t become distracted looking at camera gear. I can imagine though you may have a longer wait if sales staff were busy with customers when you arrived.
Printed images provided by Ted’s Cameras.
Kmart Passport Photos
It surprised me to learn that Kmart do not offer on-the-spot passport photos. They do have an online portal where you can upload a portrait and it removes the background. Their website states they guarantee acceptance of your images or a 200% money back guarantee. They charge $9.95 for a digital only option or $14.95 for a digital file and four printed photos with free delivery.
I experimented with their portal. It initially accepted an image of my daughter Piper with a hat on and her eyes closed. I placed my order and then received a notification that once an expert had examined it, it was not in line with the photo requirements. I then uploaded an image of a recent client wearing glasses and a non-religious, patterned head-covering. This image was accepted and the digital file provided although this would not been the requirements for an Australian Passport.
When you view the printed passport photos side-by-side you can see the variations more clearly.
Ted’s, on the left, has an almost yellow tinted background and pulls red in the skin tones but is a clear, sharp image.
Officeworks, in the centre, is overly warm making the skin appear yellow but their digital file was sharp.
The Australia Post image, on the right, has the best white balance and skin tones but is soft and almost appears out of focus because of the high ISO.
Printed photos from Ted’s, Officeworks and Australia Post (left to right).
For printed photo quality I would recommend Ted’s.
Of the two digital files I recommend Officeworks (despite the delay in actually receiving the file) over Australia Post.
For speed and customer service I recommend Ted’s if you can go in when they aren’t already busy with camera customers with Australia Post a very close second.
I would be hesitant to rely upon the Kmart automated system given it accepted photos that clearly didn’t meet guidelines.
Tips To Look Your Best
Passport photo are notoriously ghastly and there is only so much you can do to try and look good (trust me, I just went through this multiple times in the name of this experiment). I do recommend the following;
- Don’t wear white or a pale pastel, it will wash you out against the white background.
- Don’t wear a collar as it shortens your neck which is one of the few features you have in these types of shots.
- If you wear makeup apply it 20% darker than normal.
- If you are prone to sweating or shiny skin invest in some blotting papers and dab your skin with them before hand. You can get them from The Body Shop, Sephora or online from Amazon.
- Stand tall and drop your shoulders to elongate your neck.
- Touch the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth, just behind your top teeth. This has the effect of ever so slightly tightening up your jawline, slimming the face.