Friday, April 19, 2019

Passport Photos of Yesteryear

Some time back, I was going through my mother's things (she died in 2016) and came across her old passports. It was great to see all the places she'd been in her lifetime. The earliest trip I found was a trip to France in 1959. I was four years old but I still remember her and my dad walking across the tarmac to board the large twin prop plane while my grandmother encouraged me to wave goodbye.

Several things struck me while looking at her passport photo from that year. It was black and white, of course, but it appeared to simply be a 3/4 length snapshot of her sitting at a dining table - a totally casual image with a big broad smile on her face. I suppose in the 50's, the US passport office had ZERO parameters on what your image looked like.

Fast forward 60 years and only a minor amount of oversight on US passport photos has occurred. They now give you specs, such as 2x2", color, head size of 1" to 1 1/8", white background, but when you see what is being sold and delivered as acceptable passport photos by drug stores, you have to scratch your head and wonder if the US passport office actually ACCEPTS that level of "quality."

Seriously, I've had clients come to my studio, having just purchased their passport photos from a drug store and they're holding blurry, underexposed, orange faces on a pink background, with a 3/4" head size. On more than one occasion, the clients have told me they were shot with the store clerk's cell phone because their camera wasn't working. WHAAAAAT????

Folks, drug stores don't sell passport photos, they GIVE them away.... well, you pay for them, but they sell them so cheaply, they purposely take a loss on them. It's known as a "loss-leader." They sell them at a loss to get you in the door on the assumption that you'll buy toothpaste, eyeliner, and hairspray while you're there.

The photo dept clerks are very nice and knowledgeable about printing, but they're not professional photographers and do not possess any professional photography equipment. They often only use a very low resolution "point and shoot" camera with no flash or proper lighting equipment. You're going to be photographed under whatever lighting conditions are available. This often results in a color cast that is either orange or green, depending on if the light was tungsten or fluorescent. The camera will be hand-held at a very low shutter speed which often results in blurry photographs. The background will not be white, but cast with a pink or orange color or muddy gray at best.

WHY the US passport office allows such a deplorable level of quality is beyond me, because every other country on the planet adheres to a very very strict level of quality, so much so, that drug stores don't even attempt to do them.

If you're happy with them, well, good for you. I'm not, and my clients aren't either. They come to me because they want it done right. If you want superior quality in your passport photos, call us at 813-968-2810 and schedule your appointment today.

Thank you,
Newsome's Studio

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