Should You Take Your Own Passport Photo? (+My Photo Debacle)

I have a story. It’s an embarrassing story, but all the more reason to share it. So, passport photos…they’re awful, right? Deer in the headlights, neutral expression, stark white background, and an overly bright light in your face? Not exactly the equation for a super flattering photo. Not to mention that there are twelve hundred different rules and regulations that your photo must meet, lest it be denied by the passport photo gods, and your traveling dreams be squashed forever.
There are many places that will take your passport photo for you, for a fee. Generally they run from $7-11 dollars. Being the super researchy person I am, I asked Google if I could take my own passport photo. Forums told me that it was silly to pay to get a photo taken when you could take it yourself. “That’s right!” I said. “I CAN do it myself!” “I’m a strong, independent woman, and I don’t need no Wal-Greens employee to take my passport photo for me!” Okay, maybe I didn’t say that, but I did decide to take my photo myself and save myself enough money for two vanilla lattes, (barely).
So, I set up my tripod, my Nikon camera, and stood in front of the white door in the spare bedroom. I opened the blinds a bit to let in that natural light that everyone swears by, and set the self timer. I took approximately 8,000 pictures, changed my shirt twice, and restyled my hair 3 times. Then I uploaded all of my photos and painstakingly scrolled through each one, slowly eliminating any one with even the smallest of imperfections. This photo will be with me for TEN years! Each time I travel, more and more people will see it. It seemed so important. Finally, I narrowed it down to two, and decided to print them both at Wal-Greens. (Damnit, I guess I really did end up needing a Wal-Greens employee didn’t I?)  

The next day I picked up my photos, cut one into a perfect 2×2 square and stapled it to my passport application. Passport photo: complete! Now all I had to do was turn in my application. I had the next day off of work, and I intended to take my application to a post office about seven minutes away from my house. Luckily, I decided to call first, just in case. The sweet lady at the post office told me that they didn’t currently have anyone trained to take passport applications at that location. She suggested I hit up the City Hall in the next town over. I gave them a call and hallelujah, they were accepting applications….until 2:30p.m. It was 1:30 at the time and I was sitting on my floor with my laptop, contemplating a workout. That means that I was in sneakers, nike shorts, a zip up hoodie, and an awesome straight out of bed ponytail.
I figured that with a complete passport application, I could make the 20 minute drive and have more than enough time to hand in my application, and take my internationally travelling butt right back home for my workout. As you probably expected, it didn’t turn out that way.
Everything was going as planned, until the wonderfully kind lady taking my application asked her co-worker if she thought my photo was okay.
“Oh no, they’ll definitely deny that. The background is too dark.”
(Me in my head: Nooooooo!)
Wonderfully sweet lady: “We take passport photos here! They’re $10, did you want to do that?”
Me out loud: “Yes, please!”
(Me in my head: Nooooooo!)
Me out loud: “I’m going to take my hair down. I came looking a mess!”
Wonderfully sweet lady: “There is a bathroom around the corner!”
10 minutes later I walked out, mortified, but also laughing at myself. The text to my Mom read verbatim “Oh my gosh so funny they made me retake my picture and I came without doing my hair or anything lol”
I literally lost sleep the next few nights, thinking about my own misfortune and how this awful photo was going to haunt me for the next ten years. I couldn’t believe it. I had spent so much time on the perfect photo. I had beat the system! And then, the system slapped me in the face for being so cheap and shallow.
The reality is, the only important part of your passport photo is that it shows your face. The face in the photo is mine, and that is all that matters. The really significant thing is that I turned in my passport application! In 4-6 weeks I will have what I need to become an international traveller!

It was a pivotal step in my journey toward my dream. It was something that I had wanted to do for months and months, and I finally took the time to do it. I had the means to make it happen. I should’ve been thankful, not worrying about the silly photo.

This post took a turn, but the main idea; don’t take your own passport photo. Make yourself up in a way that makes you feel your very best, and let the professionals take it from there. Sorry Wal-Greens employee, for ever doubting you. 

This entry was posted in debacle, funny, passport, passport photo, photo, should you take your own passport photo, story, travel, travel advice, travel tips, trina wanders, us passport. Bookmark the permalink.

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