as a Profit Center
visitors - If you are not a photo retailer, you'll find much more useful
information about getting passports by clicking
I had a good friend, owner of a
camera store, who for years refused to take passport photos so as not to
"step on the toes" of a portrait photographer in the same block.
The portrait photographer would buy 5 or 10 rolls of color print film from
him every once in a while, when his bulk order from the photo lab he used
didn't arrive on time. Of course he expected my friend to let him have the
film at or below the wholesale price…
My friend finally realized how
much business he was missing and bought a passport camera. The first set of
passport photos he took provided more gross profit than an average month's
business from the professional photographer, and he realized that he'd been
keeping food out of the mouths of his family for years by not doing passport
While you can sell ID photos for
many purposes, the biggest single market is for the USA passport. What they
want is "two recent color photographs (white background 2" x
2") front view, full face printed on thin paper with a plain light
(white or off-white) background."
While Polaroid pictures meet the
specification, note that they must be color photos (the black & white
Polaroid films don't have the image stability needed, at least as far as the
feds are concerned.) The film must be of the peel-apart type, not the
integral film found in the popular Type 600 or Spectra cameras.
Polaroid and others make
specialized cameras that take nothing but ID photos. They have 2 or 4 lenses
to make several photos at once on the same sheet of paper.
Camera prices start about $350.
Choose a camera that uses the 3" x 4" pack film, the
4"x5" sheet film is much more expensive.
are now several integrated digital passport camera systems. The advantage of
digital is that you can take several shots and actually get the customer's
approval before making the first print. You'll save on film and increase
customer satisfaction. The system sells for about $2,000 including camera
If you have a digital photo
kiosk, it can also make passport photos just by using a digital camera.
One firm offers a hybrid
digital/film system, which uses a digital camera and a special printer that
prints on instant film. By using a digital camera, it's possible to take
several photos of the subject and inspect them before pressing the
"print" button. It's also possible to make multiple copies of the
same image, rather than taking several photos and asking the subject to keep
the same pose for all of them.
If you own a digital minilab,
it's easy to take the photos with a digital camera and print them on your
lab's RA-4 paper. Since a 4x6 print can hold up to 6 passport photos and
costs only a few cents, it's very profitable.
Whatever system you choose, set
up a dedicated spot where you can take the photos. You'll need a plain white
background about four feet wide so you don't shoot off the edge. Off- camera
flash can make your photos look better.
Your passport photos will have
to meet the specifications of the government: overall size 2" x
2", with a plain white or off white background. Head size from chin to
top of hair must be not less than 1" and not more that 1 3/8". The
pictures have to be capable of withstanding heat lamination.
Have your subject sit
comfortably. Have them point their knees to one side - if you take the photo
with the shoulders square to the camera it makes the photos look like mug
shots. Have the subjects give you a pleasant, natural
expression without an open-mouthed smile.
Brian Noble, one of the most
creative marketers in our industry, has been kind enough to share his
customer brochure on passport with us. Here's the PDF
file of the brochure. You can download this file to your computer by
right clicking on the link above and choosing "save target as."