Monday, April 6, 2015

DIY Passport-Type Photos (For 5 Cents)

This morning I (finally) registered for my USMLE Step 1 and sure enough was asked to provide a "passport-type 2'' x 2''" photo. Over the past year I've been asked more times than ever before to provide a photo -- for exam applications, for a travel visa, for CaRMS, for graduation ...certainly a first-world problem, but still a problem.
The first time I was asked for a "passport-type" photo for a travel visa, I naively went to a photo studio to have one taken. Since then, I've been printing them myself.

The only tricky thing about cheaply printing your own 2" x 2" photos is that photo centres invariably charge more to print wallet-sized photos than they do to print standard 4" x 6" photos. Not to worry, with a little copying and pasting, six 2" x 2" photos can be made on your computer into one 4" x 6" print, sent online to the Walmart Photo Centre, and picked up at the store one hour later for a grand total of $0.19.
From trial and error, I've found that even the most carefully measured 4" x 6" collage seems to get cut off on at least one edge when developed by the photo centre. To avoid this, I put four photos, rather than six, on a 4" x 6" print, leaving white borders at the top and bottom edges.

To make the process even simpler, try using a website like PassportPhoto4You to arrange your wallet-sized prints onto a 4" x 6" print. This website is free, offers a wide selection of photo sizes (apparently as per 73 countries' passport/visa specifications), guides you through centering your face, and adjusts the brightness and contrast of your photo automatically. It only takes a few seconds to generate your 4" x 6" print and another few minutes to send it off to your local photo centre for developing (tip: choose matte, not glossy).
So, hopefully you won't be paying more than 5 cents for a passport-type photo from now on. If you're travelling, particularly in areas requiring visas, having a few extra photos on hand can save you an afternoon of sweaty wandering through the streets of Xian in search of a photo studio!

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