Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Passport Fun

The embassy called on Monday to tell me that my passport photos were rejected. The print quality wasn't good enough (I printed them at home).

The street in St.-Aignan where the photographer's shop is.

I went into town to ask a professional photographer to print the photo from my digital file. I had carefully sized the photo to the American passport specifications - which, by the way, are different from the European standard, making it very hard to find passport renewal photos outside of the large cities - so that all the photographer had to do was print the file.

Which she did, but she said that the images were just too blurry and no good. Indeed they were. She offered to take the picture for me, but I had to explain that the Americans demanded pictures of a different size from standard European ID photos. Her boss got in the discussion at this point.

"But we conform to all the European regulations for ID photos," he said. "No hats, no glasses, no smiles."

"Yes, but I'm getting an American passport, and they have different rules, except for the hats and the smiles part." The photographer then suggested that I get my picture in the US. I had to explain that I live in France, and that I'm renewing my passport, and that flying to New York for two little passport photos would be just a tad expensive. We all had a good laugh over that.

The closest photographer that's set up to do American passport photos in our region is on the other side of Tours, about an hour away from here.

We discussed exactly how I was taking my photo, what camera, which tripod, how many megapixels and dpi, etc. They suggested I go home and try it again, which I did.

After much messing around with photos and photoshop, Ken and I discovered something. When I reduced the photo to the proper size in photoshop, the reduction process resulted in an image that was slightly more blurry than the original. If I left the image large, but told the printer to print it at the small size, the image was crisp and clear. And this was only apparent when the two photos were printed side-by-side (and when I put my reading glasses on).

So I made up a new file with the larger image, made sure everything was proportional so that it would reduce to the proper size on the photographer's printer, and took the new file back into town. She printed it and, voilà! A perfectly crisp image at the correct size.

Do you want to know what the photographer charged me for a 4x6 print with two images on it and all the time and advice they gave me? Forty-five cents (eurocents).

I'm sending the new photos up to Paris today.


  1. Sometimes in life everything is crisp and sometimes everything is blurry. The same for images which are the reflection of life do I have to remind it.
    Parfois dans la vie tout est clair et parfois tout est flou. Même chose pour les images qui, dois je le rappeler sont les reflets de la vie.
    One thing is sure, any administration (French or American)is always weird
    Une chose est sûre, toute administration quelle qu'elle soit est toujours bizzare.
    In concluding, all that is good for the trading.
    En conclusion, tout ça est bon pour le commerce.
    Kristana from Châlette sur Loing

  2. We did our passport photos at home with no problem, guess we got lucky. Lewis thought maybe the homeland security folks didn't like your home address lol.

    Rejections are hard to take, aren't they?

    I'm glad your photographers charged you so little and gave you blog material for us to enjoy. I think you'd have been charged $7 here for the same photo.

  3. Hi Evelyn, and we learned something about resizing photos in Photoshop as opposed to letting the printer driver do the resizing at print time. Learning experiences are always good, aren't they?

  4. Actually, I forgot to say in that comment that I did my own photo three years ago when my passport came up for renewal. I printed it on my inkjet printer. No problem. I think the U.S. has put in higher standards for the photos now.

  5. I'm surprised at all the cars parked on such a narrow street.

    Your flowers(yesterday) and Ken's(on other days) are so beautiful on the big screen. I'm making a list for an Easter visit to the Greenhouse to see them live. I know very little about plants. Never too old to learn and to enjoy.

    Maybe the Embassy would have been happy with half of you. I was!;-)

  6. kristana, so true!

    evelyn, my first photo was really blurry, but it looked ok to me without my glasses.

    claudia, enjoy the flowers!

  7. My husband had to get his renewed last month and the local photographer measured the required size which was printed on the application, converted it into centimeters, put it on their computer and spent 30 minutes resizing and recreating a clear picture.
    They were so nice!
    We expected to be presented with a hefty bill for all of the extra work, but they only charged us the standard €7 fee.
    Just when I go on complaining about customer service here, we find kind people to help us out.

    I'm impressed that you could do your own! I would love to get Photoshop one of these days.

  8. I've been lucky enough to have a photographer's in Rodez who has been able to do the US passport photos "to specifications," even though I was the first one I think they ever did. With two kids (renewal every five years) it's been pretty frequent. Renewing a minor's passport now requires a personal appearance, though, with BOTH parents! What a pain! When I first moved here it was done by mail, then it required personal appearance with one American parent, and now with both regardless of nationality.

    We just spent Wednesday afternoon in Toulouse getting that done. Luckily there's a small consulate there -- normally we would have to go to Bordeaux or Marseilles, but with begging and pleading they do some renewals in Toulouse.

  9. loulou, that was nice - I was kind of hoping that my photographer would do that, but I don't think it occurred to him. I think we got it worked out, though.

    betty, I didn't realize they needed to see the actual kids... how strange. You're lucky that you can take care of it in Toulouse.

  10. I've done both my carte de sejour and my US passport on my inkjet printer recently. It takes a lot of math, it is not just as easy as saying to photoshop make this 2x3. It depends on the original resolution, the target resolution, the original size of the photo etc. I could send you a link to the site that I used that had an easy to follow tutorial about it. It worked for both the US and France.


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