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 Sinclairification by Grant Sinclair

Passport-sized photographs

01 May 2008

As you’re preparing for your travels, assembling your gear, tickets, camera and clothes, you may want to consider bringing along some extra passport-sized photographs.

To be clear; these are photographs that are the same size as those used for a passport, NOT photographs that are the same size as the passport itself.

Even if you aren’t leaving the country, you may find it’s handy to have some, as certain places you visit for an extended period of time.

If you’re traveling outside your home country, you’ll definitely want to bring some passport-sized pictures along.  I need one for my extended admission pass to Angkor Wat in Cambodia and people regularly need them for everything from local metro and long-distance rail passes to student ID cards and other forms of identification.

If you apply for any visas while you travel, you’ll need at least two passport-sized photographs, so bring more than you think you’ll need.  It’s better to have too many than too few.

Reasons you may need passport-sized photos while you travel:

- Visa applications (generally two photos are required)
- Extended subway/metro passes
- Passes for long term (generally two or three days or more) admission to archaeological sites, amusement parks or other tourist areas.
- Extended rail/bus passes
- Immigration cards
- Student ID cards
- Other forms of identification

A reason you may have not considered:
-  Home made personal medical information

When I prepare for a trip, I make one photograph of myself for each person traveling with me and ask for one from them.  We all trade photographs and on the back of each we have written the following:

- The person’s Name as it appears on their passport.
- Their Age
- Their Height in both US AND Metric
- Their Weight in both US AND Metric
- Their Hair Color
- Their Eye Color
- Their Nationality
- Their Blood Type
- Their Allergies

I also carry one of myself with all this information.

If you are traveling to a country that speaks a language other than English, you may want to write the above information in that country’s language.

In most places you could probably get the photos made when you need them, but it could be expensive, time consuming (having to wait in a long line) and you may not get to use a picture of yourself that you like.  Not to mention that you may not have the option of having your picture taken at all and may be flat out denied access to where you want to go.

The point of having this information is to assist medical personnel in case of an emergency.  If the situation is such that the person is unable to communicate and alone, hopefully the medical staff will be able to locate this information in order to better give assistance.

Because of the many rules regarding making your own photos to submit when you apply for a new passport (here are the rules for US citizens:, we recommend you go to a place that makes passport photos professionally.  Your local drug store should print up a pair of pictures for under $10.

However, when it comes to the photos mentioned in this article, there’s a quick, simple, inexpensive way to make your own.  Here’ what you need for this project:

- A digital camera, 4MP or better.
- A friend.
- A color printer.
- Good quality matte photo paper.
- Some decent clothes.

1) Get your digital camera.  Make sure it’s at least 4MP and set it to the highest resolution.

2) Get a friend.  They’re going to take the picture for you.

3) Wear some decent clothes.  For guys, a collared button down shirt would be fine.  No ties, it looks too formal.  No T-shirts or you’ll look like a bum, Ladies, also dress appropriately.

4) Make sure you look nice.  You’re shaved; wearing nice make up, your hair is combed, etcetera.  Remember, you may or may not be granted admission to a place based solely on how you look in this picture.  So stand up straight and look decent.

5) Remove any hats, sunglasses, scarves, boas, etcetera.  Don’t take the photo with your mouth open.

6) Stand inside.  You’ll have more control over the light.  Stand in front of a wall that is either light blue or plain white.  Make sure there are no posters, artwork, patterns, curtains, blinds or other distractions in the background.

7) Let your friend take the picture.  Measure it out so it looks close to what a normal passport photo would.  It’s better to take it too big; you can always crop it down to what you need.

8) Some people say to smile, others say not to.  I say, just look straight at the camera.  Don’t make any funny faces, but don’t look angry, upset or threatening, either.

9) Have your friend play around with the light.  Try to avoid using a flash, if possible, as it will leave shadows on the wall behind you.  Avoid having shadows in the picture.

10) Once your friend has taken the pictures, pick the image you like best and load it onto your computer.  Try not to fuss too much with it in your photo-editing software (i.e. lighten, darken, etcetera), but make sure you look presentable.  You’ll want the image to be from the top of your head to your shoulders.

11) Once you have decided on the final image, change the size to 2” X 2”.

12) Now that the image is the right size and you’re happy with what you see, use a program (like Microsoft Publisher; you may also be able to do it with Word.) to put the same image next to itself over and over again, until it fills the page.  With 2” X 2” photos on an 8 ˝” by 11” piece of paper, you should be able to fit four images across and five down, or twenty photos total.

13) Load the photo paper in the printer.

14) Print the images on a color printer on “Best Quality.”  Print more than you think you’ll need.  Be mindful of where you’re going and how long you’ll be away.

15) Now that you have a file with twenty passport sized photos, E-mail it to yourself.  If you run out of photos while you travel, you can download the file from your E-mail and print out more.

It may seem like a pain, but often times carrying a few small pictures with you is a lot easier than trying to get them made. 

© 2008

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