U.S. passports are only issued in hard copy; you can't get the entire passport in digital form – at least not yet. But if you're applying for a passport, you can submit your passport photos to a third party electronically and receive hard copies back to include with your passport application. Some travelers also make copies of their finished passports before traveling – a practice that the U.S. Department of State encourages – in which case you could go the extra mile by creating a digital copy for yourself as well.
The DIY Passport Photo
If you're looking to take your own passport photos, then submit them electronically and have a hard copy delivered to your door, there's an app for that. Passport Photo Booth and ID Photo Print do exactly that, while My Passport Photos will have your hard copy photos delivered to a CVS, Walgreen's or Walmart near you. You can also take your own photos with an app like Passport Photo ID Studio, then take care of emailing them to a drugstore for printing yourself.
Here's one of the perks of submitting your passports digitally to be printed elsewhere: You don't have to worry about getting special photo paper or then cutting that paper down to the 2-by-2-inch size required for passport photos. (Sorry, nobody's cornered the market on passport-sized photo paper just yet.)
Check the Passport Photo Guidelines
You can take passport photos without using an app to guide you, of course – but aside from making the whole printing process easier, the other big perk of using a mobile app is that they help you obey some of the U.S. Department of State's more stringent passport photo guidelines, which include:
- Your face must measure between 1 and 1 3/8 inches from top of head to bottom of chin.
- You must look directly into the camera with your full face in view and a neutral expression.
- No hats, headcoverings, eyeglasses, headbands, headphones or the like unless you can prove they're for religious purposes or a medical condition.
- The background must be plain white or off-white, and the picture must be properly exposed to depict your skin tone accurately.
Making a Digital Copy of Your Passport
Before you travel abroad, the U.S. Department of State recommends making two copies of the photo page of your passport, leaving one copy with a trusted friend and family member and taking the other with you. The information on this page is invaluable if your passport becomes lost or stolen, and in some countries, carrying a copy of your passport is considered sufficient identification, so you can leave your passport in a safe place where it's not exposed to pickpockets. Some travelers go one step further by emailing themselves a photo or digital scan of their passport pages. Just keep in mind that if you do this, the security of your personal information is only as good as the security on your email server.