Melissa's Guide, Uncategorized

Melissa’s Guide to DIY Passport/Visa Photos

Hi everyone and welcome to the newest section on my blog, Travel! This section has been created because I am moving to Japan on the 21st of September, 2016. This move has happened really suddenly but I wanted to share some hints and tips on how to live and travel overseas (you know, once I’ve actually experienced it myself).

The first post I have for you is how to save yourself some money by taking and printing your own passport/visa/identification photos. You’ll need a lot of these pictures if you’re planning on moving overseas, so any money saved here can go directly back into your travel plans.
Keep reading below for how I created these DIY passport/Visa photos.

 The things you’ll need for this DIY
– A camera
– A tripod/friend to hold said camera
– A neutral background
– A computer/laptop
– A photo editing software (I use a dodgy version of photoshop)
– A place to print the photos (I used Kmart’s instant photo thingy)Now I know before we start this sounds like a long list of things to need. I know you’re probably saying, “Who can be bothered!?” But I’ll have a price comparison soon and you’ll start to understand.

Steps to taking a good picture

It’s a fairly easy 10 step process that should take about 15 to 30 minutes out of your day, depending on your editing skills and how far the nearest photo printing place is from you.

 Step 1
The first step to taking a passport photo is to make sure you look like you. So ditch the heavy makeup and go natural. In the photos I took, I’m wearing mascara and lip balm, that’s it and it’s all I’d wear for a long haul flight too! Oh and if you’re like me and wear glasses that are oversized or glare badly, you’re going to have to take them off because they’ll obscure your facial features.
Step 2
Step two is to find a place to take pictures, this can be a bit tricky because most guidelines state you need a white background, and I didn’t have a white wall in my house. However, you can use any plain coloured background in this DIY, as long as you have access to editing software.
Step 3
Step three is to set up your photo. I used a tripod, my SLR camera set to automatic and, self timer to take my pictures, you might like to use a friend if you don’t have these items. For lighting, I just used natural light from the window in front of my set up. As long as lighting is consistent with no shadows, you can always fix any tonal issues either on the camera or during editing. Below is a picture of my camera set up.


Step 4
Step four is to take the picture/pictures. When taking the picture you want to make sure the lighting is good and you’re not too zoomed in so you can easily crop the picture later. You’ll also want to keep a neutral expression and make sure nothing is covering your facial features.
Step 5
Step 5 is to then upload the pictures onto the computer and select the best one to be edited. I took about 5 photos and only one was usable. To figure out which picture will be usable, look at your skin tone and the lighting. If your face looks like it does when you’re looking in a mirror and there are no shadows, you have a good picture.
Step 6
Step 6 is where it gets tricky. You first are going to have to crop the image to whatever size photo you need. You’ll need to be careful to read the requirements for what you’re applying for carefully. In Australia passport photo’s are 45mm high by 35mm wide. However in the USA, the passport photos are 2inches by 2inches (which is the size show in the photos here, because it’s what’s needed for a Japanese visa, but more on the visa process later). Now to crop your photo you can use any photo editing tool and follow the rules for whatever country you’re in or you can use an online crop tool and save the photo from there.
Australian passport photo cropping tool
American passport photo cropping tool
Step 7
Step 7 is photo editing (you can always do this before step 6, but it’s up to you). Note, you cannot retouch your photos in anyway (such as remove scars or birthmarks) but you can edit contrast and brightness. Because I took my photo’s against a cream wall, rather than a white one, the first editing I did on this photo was to change the background colour. If you have any photo editing experience, this isn’t hard, but if you don’t just google it and there are a heap of examples. While I was editing my background, I did make sure to mask off the face, so that no changes were made to this area. I did all my editing in photoshop using selective colour layers and curves layers to edit the brightness and the contrast. Once my background was white, I added one more curves layer to make sure the whole image was correctly coloured. I saved this photo as a jpeg and you can see the before and after below.


Before editing


After editing
Step 8
Step 8 is to get your photo ready for printing. If you’re printing a standard Australian passport size photo, you can just save the picture to a usb and print it at a photo hub fairly hassle free. However, if you’re printing a US sized photo, you’ll need to do some more work. Depending on where you’ll be printing the images, you might have a few sized photos you can chose from. At the Kmart print hub, there was the option to print 8×8 inch, 6×6 inch and 4×4 inch square pictures (no 2 by 2 inch option :(). Therefore, what I did before printing, was to create a new 8x8inch photoshop document, then add as many 2 by 2inch edited jpeg images from earlier, as would fit in this area. I left space around the images so I could cut them out later, so ended up with nine ID photos in this area. This is wayyy to many, so I would suggest just printing off 4 instead (Using a 6 by 6 inch document). You can also do this trick with Australian sized passport photo’s if you wish (which in the long run will also be cheaper).
Step 9
Step 9 is to print them!  As I said I used Kmart’s instant print, which had the option to print Australian sized passport photos, or normal sized photos, or square photos. Because I was printing the 2 by 2 inch images, I used the square picture option. In total I printed 12 ID photo’s for $4.50 and I really only needed 2 photos, so I could have paid about 20 cents. Compare this to the price of passport photo’s from the post office, which cost $16.95, it’s a saving of $16.75. That’s a lunch out somewhere overseas, or a train ticket or the entry to somewhere awesome! And if you’re like me and need two sets of passport photo’s taken (in different sizes because of visa requirements), that’s a saving of $33.50, which is enough to spring for a cheap hotel room for the night.
Step 10
Stick it in, submit your documents, wait a few days and you might be off on the adventure of a lifetime. I know I was!
Of course, there can be some issues with printing your own passport photos. It takes a bit of time and fussing around to get them right and there’s also no guarantee a self printed photo will meet government standards (which can be found here). But, if you can get over those things, in the long run you’re going to save yourself a lot of money, which all adds up in the end!I hope this little guide helped you!

Until next time!


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