The Stupid Passport Photo Ripoff

by golbguru on January 14, 2008

I don’t know what to call this passport photo business, so I am just going to stick with “stupid ripoff” for now.

During the weekend, we went into a CVS Pharmacy Photo Center to get some passport/ID photos. We wanted a specific size (as they say “from chin to crown”), so we asked the dude who was attending the photo center whether he can adjust the size. Pat came his reply “No, we just print the standard 2″ by 2″ photo and we can’t adjust any proportions“.

I asked him “But, don’t you have a software where you center the face in the photograph and mark the upper and lower boundaries for the face? All we have to do is to adjust those boundaries and then we can cut the photographs to the size we want - and approximately in the proportion we want“. He didn’t seem too impressed with the knowledge and insisted that he won’t do anything other than the standard 2″ by 2″ without any editing.

So we left the shop, and wondered why the heck they charge $7.99 if they wouldn’t do anything other than click the photograph and print it. Camera rental charges or something? - perhaps they use expensive digital SLRs to get good pictures (wishful thoughts).

Anyways, we then visited a Walgreen’s Photo Center and again got the same story. Next, we again tried a CVS - a different one this time - just to see if one of these “Kodak Certified” dudes could get our photographs the way we wanted. But we met with the same disappointment at this location too.

Finally, we surrendered and asked the CVS guy to click passport sized photos for one of us. We confirmed the price and he said $7.99 for two copies - additional copies will cost extra.

We decided to try it out with two copies to start with.

While we waited for the photos to print out, I saw (with my own eyes) that the photographs were printed on a 4″ x 6″ photo paper - and there were 6 copies on it. Then the dude coolly cut away 4 copies, disposed them, and handed us the remaining two copies.


Man, does CVS implement this type of idiotic business at all it’s photo centers?

Plus, the photos he printed didn’t look sharp at all - pretty sure it was some crappy point-and-shoot camera that didn’t do a very good job of focusing. When we pointed that out, he was like “Oh really? don’t worry all photos printed here look like that and no one ever came back because a photo was not accepted“. Wow! that’s an awesome argument to complement a crappy service. :)

What’s wrong with these photo centers. Why should a passport photo - clicked by a mediocre digital camera - without any studio-type lighting arrangements - without any professional photographers, cost $7.99?

Just to be sure that I am on the right side of statistics, we checked out another CVS Photo Center and two Walgreens Photo Centers - and got similar less-than-average-quality pictures, overpriced at $7.99 for two copies - topped with a totally unprofessional approach towards clicking good photographs.

Eventually, we gave up on these photo centers and decided to make our own pictures. Bought a 2 yard long white cloth (for background) from Walmart for $2, used our digital camera, adjusted the brightness and contrast in Photoshop, used this free service that lets you size your photos according to your requirements, and printed them again at Walmart (through their online photo service).

Total cost for 32 excellent passport/ID photographs: $2 for the white cloth and about $1 for photo printing = $3 (took a little bit of time with the Photoshop editing, but we were absolutely happy with the end result).

Down with $7.99 for two crappy photos!

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{ 156 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mrs. Micah 01.14.08 at 8:00 pm

Being able to get a passport photo you can actually not feel ashamed of is a good thing. They don’t seem to have an incentive at the store to actually do what customers want…maybe because it’s a semi-captive market. Lots of people wait until the last minute to get their new passports, after all.

2 marylandterps 01.14.08 at 8:38 pm

AAA will take passport photos for free, if you have a membership.

3 Sharon 01.14.08 at 8:59 pm

OMG, Golbguru, I just recently went through the same thing as you did….. I thought my passport photo was crooked and looked worse than a mug shot.


4 Sandeep 01.14.08 at 10:09 pm

Excellent post!. I have personally gone through this same story in India. Every time the specification changes we have to get new passport size photo. Also with digital age instead of saving money we spend more every time as the photo guy prints the photo on a printer rather than giving us the negative with which can always print photo’s of our size.

In Singapore this is $6(4.19 USD) for 4 copies!

5 moom 01.15.08 at 3:09 am

UPS gave me the same story… the Australian Goverment had highly specific requirements. So I went to a professional in a small photoshop. They had the software etc. to resize the photo. Our first attempt was rejected by the Aussie Consulate in NYC. Second attempt succeeded. It was something like $12 at that store. In Britain there used to be coin operated machines that did this (in the movie Amelie there is one too). Maybe here in Aus too.

6 Ames Tiedeman 01.15.08 at 5:57 am

At least the amount of money we are talking about here is small. Just think the outrage if the fee was $250.00!

7 thisisbeth 01.15.08 at 1:21 pm

The county government center charged $14.00 for passport photos. I knew I was being ripped off, but I needed to get my passport renewal in the mail immediately, and there wasn’t another choice around my office. It’s insane.

8 Austin 01.16.08 at 1:32 am

Dude, man. Your blog was really informative!

I need to get 6 passport photos for filing registration abroad and a bunch of other crap. I’ve come across websites that charge really low fees ($5 registration fee) for creating passport photos but nothing for creating an unlimited number after. I even came across a website that shows photoshop users how to create passport photos.

But since I’m really strapped for time, I’m going to just sit it tight and just print them from CVS. I know, they’ll be expensive and will more likely than using a camera and a photo printer. But the main problem is that I have neither. I’ll be buying my camera at the end of the month as my research on camera purchases is just ending.

I’m assuming that 2″X2″ is the standard size for creating photo IDs. But this is no excuse for a photo to cost more than $0.25. Thus I gotta say, this passport photo scheme is not just a ripoff…it’s a scam. But it’s one I’ll endure. After I come back from Korea, my trip to CVS this week will be my first and last. A year from now, I’ll be looking into a decent photo printer.

9 Ames Tiedeman 01.16.08 at 7:04 am


Good points.

10 kevin 01.16.08 at 7:04 pm

The paper itself for the photo is probably worth a few pennies. The reason they can charge what they do is because the Post Office charges even more. I worked in a Walgreens photo lab and there are extra templates you can use it all just depends on who you get to work with you. But if you were trying to play the DIY passport photo trick on me I would send you to CVS.

11 Austin 01.16.08 at 11:33 pm

Trust me, these photos aren’t all that hard to create on your own! If I need no more than 2 minutes to google and find a website that gives detailed instructions on how to create a self-taken passport photo using photoshop, then something is seriously wrong with the system.

Anyhoo, I called my local CVS early this morning to find out their rates on passport photos. I found that the rate for 3 passport photos was $7.99 before taxes. After I got off work at 8pm, I went and took my photos. The first three supposedly came out dark, so the lady taking the photos had to reprint them. I’m assuming she trashed the dark-looking ones. Note that I told her originally I wanted 6 photos.

For some STRANGE STRANGE reason, I got 6 for the ! I normally try to be honest in how I live my life. Because of that, I was compelled to ask the photo-taker why I wasn’t getting charged for the extra 3. They state that they charge $7.99 for three, but I get 6 for that price. I went home thinking this was rather strange. I’m looking at the photos now, and I’m seeing that the lady didn’t stuff the photos that came out dark with the last 3. She just printed out another 3…???? This is just strange. I’m starting to wonder whether this whole photo-printing business is in any way a set-in-stone scheme.

When I initially bought my $.19 photos at CVS, I was informed online that unless I made a purchase of $4 (or was it 5? I don’t remember, but just for the sake of convo, let’s just note that CVS had a minimum purchase), I would get charged an extra $1.40 processing fee. I sighed inside and said “whatever” as I clicked the checkout button and waited for my confirmation e-mail to be sent to me after that 1 hr informing me that the Joe/Jane at the CVS store had processed them. I didn’t. 6 hours later after I had finished making dinner, I call in. Turns out they finished them. I waltz in casually knowing what to expect. I walk to the front, give them my first/last name, then show them my photo ID (as if this were necessary, who the heck steals photos!). The lady who picks up my photos for me what is commonsense by asking her manager whether she just needs to scan the barcode and charge me. Strange…the manager–a short middle-aged man of Middle Eastern descent–just says no and tells her to enter the photos manually into the cash register. Long story short, I end up walking out with 3 $.19 photos, with NO PROCESSING FEE. /=-/ Something’s weird, and it kind of makes me wonder (once again) what’s the deal here!

12 tom green 01.17.08 at 8:04 am

golbguru - appreciate your kind words about the - pleasure to assist…

–tom - the internet passport photo booth

13 Money Blue Book 01.17.08 at 12:06 pm

It’s like $14 at Kinkos where I got mine - I decided to pay just to get it over with. Comparatively, yours was a bargain!

14 Austin 01.18.08 at 12:34 am

Yes, I know mine was a “bargain.” But my main complaint and question at the same time is this: Why is the passport photo business so arbitrary? Why do prices differ greatly so much??? I would understand the reason why flash memory prices differ from company to company: (1) Established brands will be likelier to raise their prices and do so with confidence customers recognize their high quality (2) Lower prices could be the result of one company’s ability to offer discounts without sacrificing too much of their profit margins (3) Seasonal holidays.

But with passport photos? It’s a goshdarn ripoff designed to get our money! Luckily I’m getting a camera soon so the next time I go abroad, it’s NO MORE OF THIS NONSENSE.

15 Used vans girl 01.18.08 at 1:38 am

Don’t they have photo booths in the US that are specifically for taking passport photos; we get them in most bus and train stations and many Chemists in the UK. They give you 4 passport photos, no smart comments and the whole process only takes 5 mins.

16 Paul 01.18.08 at 5:25 am

I used - did it at home with my three children and myself (we needed passports for a upcoming cruise) - I took the pictures at home with a white wall background and uploaded the pictures to and arranged for a pick-up. Total Cost: 84 cents!

I took the photos to the local passport center (post office) and they took them without any problems.

Just sharing my experience.

17 Jon 01.18.08 at 11:20 am

Try AAA. They can be free for members. The quality that I got was actually pretty good compared to other places that I have seen.

18 becca 01.18.08 at 10:03 pm

Costco is less expensive… oh, and I’ve heard that certain embassies (namely, Polish) require different types of angles than the standard. If you’re going to a certain country, be sure to check their online consulate for details before you do it yourself.

Hate to say it, but $7 US is a whole lot cheaper than anything in Euros!

19 MrsKruse 01.19.08 at 1:42 pm

I had mine taken at Walgreens back in June. It was $6 for two photos, but they used a digital camera and took several for me to choose from, at least.

20 Lazy Man and Money 01.21.08 at 3:10 pm

Do you really care about the quality of a passport photo? Sounds like the important thing is having the passport. $8 may be a little pricey for the service, but you are paying for the convenience.

How long did it take to make your photos at $3? Do you need 32 photos for your passport?

I’m just giving you a hard time. :-)

21 Fiscal Musings 01.21.08 at 4:20 pm

I used to work in the photo lab at a Walmart and would routinely do these passport photos. It’s true that they’re printed on 6″ paper, but that’s because it’s on a long roll.

I also know that they do have the ability to resize and do some other basic edits with their software. Not everyone always knows how to do it, but it can be done.

22 TheWalrus 01.22.08 at 8:57 pm

Passport photos are a matter of convenience and you’re not necessarily paying just for the materials & photo. Anyway, I enjoy reading your posts because they are pretty well thought-out. Keep up the good work.

23 Cliff 01.22.08 at 9:17 pm

Supply and demand (why do you think those super bowl seats go for 3k a pop?), its also done pretty quick.

24 Gayle 01.23.08 at 12:05 pm

Since I travel to some off the beaten track places I regularly have to get passport photos for visa applications. One thing I found out the hard way is to always carry extra passport photos. A rather sudden and radical change in plans required me to take an entirely different route home and suddenly required a visit to a consulate to acquire new transit visas. The hassle of acquiring passport photos in a place where I didn’t know where to go nor speak the language was colossal.

25 GP 01.23.08 at 12:13 pm

Hello golbguru and everyone
I may have an answer to all your frustrations. The reason they charge you $7.99 (I was at CVS last night and experienced it) is for the feature. To avoid this you have to print as a 6×4 print not as a passport photo.

To do this, convert your passport photo FREE into 6 of 2×2s on this site
and download to your disk and print at CVS. This would put the grid nicely on a 4×6 format and would cost you only $0.12 for 1 print of 4×6 but you would get 6 US passport size photos. Other countries also available.

26 j222 01.23.08 at 2:01 pm is simple and free. Follow the directions and you will get 6 2×2 photos on a 4×6 sheet.Print them on your computer and cut them out, pretty simple.

27 Maximo 01.23.08 at 5:29 pm

I went to CVS and had my passport photo taken. The guy took the photo, let me look at and asked if it was ok. I thought it was a poor quality photo, but after having it printed, took it home I had doubts of it passing to be a passport photo. I told the guy there was no flash and it looks blurry so he agreed to take it again. After the second round of prints it looked clearer, but he saturated the magenta so high it gave me red eyes making me look like a smoked a blunt before I got there. I wish I would have known about taking my own photographs.

28 Austin 01.27.08 at 1:38 am

Unfortunately while I was already aware of these low-cost measures, I am not currently in hold of a digital camera…yet. Until I have a 100% guarantee that my school in Korea has secured my position for me, I am NOT making anymore travel-oriented purchases.

I am in the process of getting my criminal background check report authenticated by another organization. Since the turnaround time is about a week, I will be lucky if I can get ALL of my documents sent out by the end of this month. Even if I send it out by the end of the month, my package will take a week or two for it to arrive at its destination. After that gets okayed, I will have to make two assisted visits to the Korean consulate in LA. Hopefully all goes well. Personally, I’m a little annoyed my company didn’t arrange this for me earlier, but what can I do?

29 Nihaochan 01.27.08 at 7:53 am

I work at a CVS Pharmacy and I agree that 7.99 is outrageous; we just print out 6 2×2 photos on a 4×6 print (this is because the system is designed for 4×6 to be the size printed). Normally, at our store, if 2 or 3 people in family want their passport photos taken, we will just put them all on one 4×6 — charging them for just one photo. This definitely isn’t company policy, but it makes our customers happy and hopefully that keeps them coming back. I guess it just depends on who is working at the time you go, and how strict the store manager is.

30 james 01.28.08 at 8:05 am

Good article. As far as $7.99 for convenience? It’s NOT convenient at most drug stores. My local Walgreens has nary an employee to be found, the place is a madhouse of caterwauling kids, and it would take me forever to track someone from cosmetics down and I’d most likely have to help THEM run the software.

Plus they can’t even spell “passport” correctly on their sign:

31 Tom 02.05.08 at 2:42 pm

I learned my lesson with my passport photo. Instead of going to CVS, I went straight to the post office, they did a great job and there were no hassles.

My brother had went to CVS and almost encounted the same problem!

32 Ardiril 02.07.08 at 1:36 pm

Good grief! It’s just a passport photo. Do you guys get all hyper about your drivers license photo too?

33 Chris 02.14.08 at 3:56 am

That is a funny, and true story! And, my last passport photo from the post office 10 years ago is worse than my last mug shot :-)

Nevertheless, your time must not be very valuable because it sounds like you wasted a good 5-10 hours on this menial task. For the value of my time, that would have been $500-$1,000 + the $7.99 that you paid at 3 different stores + the $3.00 you paid at Walmart.

Hmmm…$1,026.97…$7.99 is starting to sound pretty cheap to me! Today I’m going for a passport picture and I’ll be happy to pay the poor guy working at CVS working for minimum wage to snap a mug shot and be done with it!

Just my two cents - happy travels!

34 Tedd 02.20.08 at 3:25 pm

Yeah! I think all of those passport “photo” places are like that, crappy! It’s like Polaroid drivers license image. I remember when had my first one done in the military same kind of crappy image with my military green shirt, then I went to the on base photographer who kindly did some very nice black and white images back then. After reading your post, I see the technology has not changed on that end, so I’m going to take my own picture and work it in Photoshop.

35 Adfecto 02.21.08 at 2:54 pm

Unfortunately this is par for the course. I knew someone who worked in a photo lab like this and that is exactly what they did too. I went to my local post office to get my photo done. I can’t remember how much it cost but I do remember that the passport itself (aside from the photo) was insanely expensive too. I know it was at least $100 but may have been more. Ouch.

36 Rebekah 02.22.08 at 12:33 pm

US photographers’ guide. It’s nice to see that we are no longer *required* to have a photographers’ seal on the back! (photos for my first passport, purchased in 1993, were $14. second time around, Costco was in town and they were an accepted vendor. $5.)

With this, and the post link and photo booth* link I found in the comments, I’ll totally do my own from now on!

*photo booth photos, however, are generally not accepted, acording to

37 Fotouno 02.29.08 at 5:54 am

I own a portrait studio in Queens NY, I have been doing passport photos for the past 17 years.

I use a specialized passport camera and printer, especially designed for passport photos and ID photos.

I have a dressing room where my customers can check their hair, then I have them sit. I use a white background with a back light to eliminate shadows on the background. After I take the picture they can check it on my monitor, if they are not happy with it I will continue to take another until they are satisfied. I print the pictures on a special paper that is approved by the US State Department.
I then cut the photos with a special die cutter witch cuts exactly 2″x2″ inches. I put the photos in an envelope. I ask my customers if they would like a free copy of a US Passport appliction. I also specialize in doing passport photos for children. My charge for this service is 2- Photos for $10 tax included. I have many people who spend money at CVS and then come to me to re-do their photos. Best Wishes Peter

38 emilyg 03.03.08 at 10:35 am

I remember being in that same state of disbelief when I had my last passport photos taken. I couldn’t believe they printed so many and only used two, then charged me like I was paying for all of them. Arghh! It’s a rip-off. I didn’t realize that AAA provides them for free if you’re a member, though — I will try them next time!

39 me 03.11.08 at 2:46 am

the post office would have charged u alot more something like $15

40 Heidi 03.18.08 at 10:49 am

It is NOT about the looking good on the pic, it’s about getting the service you paid for!
I went with my family to Walmart to get our “passport” pctures taken for a trip. When I took them to office to apply for the passport I was told they were not correct since the face has to be within the oval circle and the correct size too.
Went back to Walmart and they wanted to charge me again! It is as simple as either having a program for it or use the little thing the office use to size the picutre…BEFORE charging the customer!

41 Heidi 03.18.08 at 10:51 am

It is NOT about the looking good on the pic, it’s about getting the service you paid for!
I went with my family to Walmart to get our “passport” pictures taken for a trip. When I took them to office to apply for the passport I was told they were not correct since the face has to be within the oval circle and the correct size too.
Went back to Walmart and they wanted to charge me again! It is as simple as either having a program for it or use the little thing the office use to size the picture…BEFORE charging the customer!
By the way….we had a baby and you can imaging how that went. Can someone explain to me how “SIT” still a 3 month old baby while the take the picture? And look in the camera with no holding of the head?

42 Spyponder 03.18.08 at 11:57 am

Thanks for the info on this post and comments. I went CostCo last night and got my passport photos for $4.99. They seemed like they knew what they were doing - had a very official-looking digital camera and a retractable white backdrop. The guy let me approve the picture before printing and the whole process took about five minutes total. If you have a CostCo nearby I would recommend them.

43 AN 03.24.08 at 7:33 pm

This passport photos of CVS and Walgreens is really stupid. It looks like an underdeveloped system in developed country. I had gone thru this couple of time but next time I will definitely try this site and print photos…

44 Sara - 03.30.08 at 12:06 pm

I don’t know anyone who likes their passport photo - much less having it taken!

45 BeachPalm 04.04.08 at 12:16 am

You can DIY using to get 6 passport photos on a 4R sheet.

46 Kelela 04.11.08 at 1:22 pm

I think I’ll end up going to Costco, too much time spent doing it myself, but thanks for the info for NOT going to CVS.

BTW, here in CA, this is what the website says for AAA (it’s NOT free):

Passport photos are available at any AAA Travel office: $8 to members, $15 to non-members.

47 Lisa 04.13.08 at 6:25 pm

Wow! That’s quite an ordeal you went through for a less than spectacular picture from CVS. Good for you for figuring out a less expensive and better image quality picture!!

48 JIM H 04.16.08 at 8:56 am


49 nigeria 04.22.08 at 9:11 pm

I had my passport pics done at Walgreens, the worst pics ever I thought until they were accepted by to post office, you can’t even tell what color my eyes are and my mouth and nose look like one big smore. I received my passport a week ago. Go figure.

I’ve since invested in a professional setup for doing passports in my current business, I figure I can do a better job than those chain stors. My service is free to my clients and $10.00 to non-clients. Film and paper costs are not cheap for my system.

50 Quin 04.23.08 at 7:52 pm

I find this article very informative especially because I need photographs for applying visa to Ireland. They require a different size of photos than the passport photos.

I never had this problem before back when I was still in Indonesia. The photo labs there could do pics with any kind of size you want… and LOT cheaper! For 6 pics, it will cost only $2.

51 brian 05.01.08 at 1:27 pm

i just used the free online passport photo tool and it was so easy. so i went to cvs to print out my one print, and they tried to charge me the $7.99 instead of the $0.29 (the guy asked me if the photos were for a passport, and i just told him yeah). i tried to explain to the guy at the counter that it was my photo and i just printed it, but he explained to me that it was part of their “service”. i flipped out. i refused to pay and just took the photo to another store across the street.

52 ripped off 05.05.08 at 10:22 am

i had to pay 17$ for 4 pp photos at wallgreens. It sucks and they took picture with a $50 camera. What a rip off. I came home and felt that i could have done the same with this online PP photo webware. Just go to his website upload your picture and then either get it through snapfish or download it to your system and send in for web print. So easy..

53 Myfinancebutler 05.06.08 at 1:49 pm

Yep… stupid ripoff sounds about right.

Always take your own photo’s (if possible).

54 Meg 05.23.08 at 4:21 am

I just had passport photos done at CVS in Jamaica Plain, MA. The girl took her time centering the photo and cropping it but they came out nicely. It was $7.99 plus tax for six (6) 2×2 photos. Maybe they read your blog.

55 Benjamin 05.23.08 at 12:52 pm

Thanks guys! Some of you used, so I tried it out. It is great, free, and foolproof! I took a picture at home against a white wall, uploaded it to their editor, and saved the edited photo to my computer. Then I sent it to Wal-Mart to print for about 25 cents!

56 Peter 06.03.08 at 11:26 am

Hey, I don’t have a digital camera, so I used my webcam to take a picture of me using Sightspeed, used to crop it correctly, sent it online to King Soopers, and got my 4 x 6 glossy with my 6 passport photos for 20 cents! Oh, I used my cream colored bed sheet for the background.

57 rgg 06.06.08 at 7:11 am

They charge $7.99 because they can, plain and simple. You say yours cost $3.00, but what about the gas to get to Wal-Mart? How much is your time worth? etc., etc.
I believe I paid $12.95 for passport photos 10-12 years ago, so the price has come down — significantly.
Your passport is good for, what, 10 years? That means your photos cost you 80 cents a year. BFD.
Want to complain about a scam? Go to Kinko’s and send a fax.

58 fred 06.08.08 at 1:48 pm

You failed to include the cost of Photoshop in your calculations. That might add a few hundred bucks.

59 chris 06.12.08 at 7:30 pm

OMG!!! I just did this. I can’t believe I just paid $8.51, to be exact, for passport photo’s. I’ve heard stories of people not getting their applications through bc of photo issues. So I went to Walgreens thinking it would be ok. Not to so much… I should have just taken them myself. The lady wouldn’t even let me see it before she printed them. ERRR! $8.51 for two 2×2 photos. I’m definitely in the wrong business!

60 Volkswagen Van Dude 06.14.08 at 2:37 pm

Why do we all look so weird anyway on our passport pictures, I sweat everytime I go through customes

61 Wow 06.15.08 at 2:12 pm

I have been getting my 6 passport photos printed on 4*6 at Walgreen for 19 cents for 2 yrs. Hahaha! Suckers

FYI, WalGreen is trying to stop us from doing this now. Just be careful, they’ll apply a new policy soon, I guess.

62 Wow 06.15.08 at 2:19 pm

“gas to get to Wal-Mart”?! “cost of PhotoShop”?!

What are u guys talking about?! Why don’t you include the cost of car you drive to Wal-Mart and WalGreen/CVC, or the computer you upload your photo, and the digital camera…..

63 Bob 06.17.08 at 6:39 pm

Walgreens sucks. I went in to get passport photos yesterday. I had no idea what to expect, since it had been 10 years since I last had this done.

Anyway, the guy pulls out some crappy $50 digital camera and pulls some white screen down. On the camera, the picture looks crappy, but whatever. Then he tells me to come back later, since there is a massive job being printed. I tell him no thanks.

I go home, get my digital SLR, and a sheet. Take a picture, upload to the computer and use the website to create a passport file to upload to Order one picture, $.19 + tax. All in all, about 15 minutes.

Next day, walgreens photo guy refuses to sell the picture. Speak to the manager who tells me that they have an obligation to review photos for indecency. It’s of picture of mine x6, whats indecent about that??

Long story short, ring up a big purchase of $0.21 on the credit card. If only they could have printed the crappy picture to begin with, then I would not have bothered…

64 jay 06.19.08 at 5:53 am

I think I would opt for doing my own, but in these days of environmental awareness it is almost unbelievable that someone would print 6 photo’s then throw away 4!!! You should check if the company has an environmental policy and then ask how they square this behaviour with the policy. (Everyone in the industry I work in HAS to have an environmental policy these days)

65 a 06.23.08 at 11:59 am

Walgreens sucks

66 Dave w 06.24.08 at 7:48 pm

So, I work at a CVS, and this is not how it works at all. We charge $7.99 for a 4×6 sheet, which contains 6 2×2 passport-sized pictures. These pictures are edited to adjust proportions for chin and crown, as well as center the bridge of the nose in the screen. Personally, I have to say I think I take a fine passport picture, I’ve never gotten any complaints or had any pictures rejected. So, people can take the pictures themselves, but good luck finding quality paper and a printer with the proper dpi to make a sharp photograph that will meet specifications.

67 Iva 07.02.08 at 8:19 am

I live in the second most expensive county in the US, but can easily find a specialized photo store in the local mall that makes 4 nice pictures for $10. I would be suprised to learn I am one of the few lucky people who happens to have such mall nearby.You paid $7.99 for 2 bad photos, $3 for the new ones and spent more than additional $10 driving all over the place to different CVS and Walgreen’s, not counting your contribution to pollution and all the frustration. That happens if you try to go for the cheapest deal!

68 Martha 07.03.08 at 9:15 am


It’s really bad to know that you have to go through such a bad experience. Anyways, I have something good for you now. Try! The website is very useful if you are looking for FREE FREE passport photos. The method is simple! Just take a picture, upload it and save it in your computer. Do you know that you can even use your home-printer to get prints. I had sent it to Wal-Mart to get the prints for only 25 cents!

Try it and let me know! :)


69 Victor 09.10.08 at 3:24 pm

People come to the photostudio i work at all the time.
They’re never happy with the walgreens passport pictures. Or CVS.
And all i tell them is that they sell medicine in thos places. Not photographs.
they end up paying more for 2 stupid photos.

PS. polaroid pictures suck.

70 Online savings 10.02.08 at 12:47 am

Not sure if you did that for a particular reason, but have excluded the the cost of Photoshop and time for dev. in your calculations. With that included we might possibly see an addition of some bucks.

71 Mary 10.09.08 at 11:31 am

I work in a chain pharmacy that has a film lab. The prices vary simply because they can. Shop around and get your passports wherever you want based on price, service, whatever.

I just wish people would stop coming in and acting like these are going to be hung on the wall for all the world to see. I can take 15 pictures of someone, and in the end, you still have to stand there, not smiling and looking straight ahead. They DO look like mug shots. If I ask you not to smile, please do not tell your children to smile when it’s their turn. The rules are no different. Smiling makes people scrunch their eyes. We need to see your eyes. I’ve had people walk all over the store looking for spouses to get their opinion on a picture. I have 25 other things I am doing at one time. Please just pick one. Please don’t yell at me 3 weeks later if you haven’t gotten your passport. See the people at the post office.

I am really not trying to sound like a jerk here, but they really do stay folded up in your bag and no one sees them. I’ve had someone return a passport photo SIX TIMES because she couldn’t find the right outfit to wear.

Sometimes we just get a little scared when we hear “Do you take passport photos?”

72 Kim 10.29.08 at 6:30 pm

Hi! Wondering where the Obama video you had linked before went. It was up in the top right corner of your webpage I think??? If so, could you send me the link. Thanks!

73 Online savings 11.01.08 at 5:16 am

This is actually not related to the post but just wondering why you haven’t updated the blog for a while now?

Please looking forward to reading more post here.

74 prettyfish 11.18.08 at 6:44 pm

Hilarious. and more importantly, you just saved me $7.99. Thanks!

75 marckx 11.21.08 at 9:32 am

Thanks for the link to epassportphoto. I printed up 3 4×6’s at Walmart for $0.98. Came out just fine.

76 Dick Beninya 12.31.08 at 10:28 am

It’s a passport photo not a beauty contest ya sacks!

77 Elizabeth 01.14.09 at 9:24 am

21 cents. that’s how much it just cost me at WALGREENS, via snapfish and yours (and epassportphoto’s) ingenuity! Thanks heaps!

Peace out!


78 sundar 01.17.09 at 12:20 pm

hey buddy, thank yo so much…….u saved me lots of money mate……thanks and keep up the good work……….

79 Rich 01.25.09 at 4:23 pm

Went to CVS, they took pix, in 20 minutes was handed the photos, for only $7.95. CVS had the link to the state dept on line to fill out the renewal form, will send the stuff in the mail tomorrow. Such complaining for a lousy $7.95. The guy took several photos until we were happy. Couldn’t ask for more. Quit your beefing.

80 Scott 02.01.09 at 11:02 am

I also had to have my passport picture taken the other day and was totally upset with the guys at CVS. I refused to pay for the terrible photos they produced. I went online and ran into this wonderful website You take your own photo and send it to them. They do all the formatting for you. They even do any necessary color adjustments. You can get your digital passport photo through email, have the photo sent to the closest Walgreens for you to pick up or they can even send the photo through mail for you. The price was very reasonable for 6 photos. The guys at the post office asked me if I had my passport photos done by a professional photographer.

81 sthrnruby 02.12.09 at 8:00 pm

Add the 4 bucks for the gallon of gas it probably cost you this time last year when you wrote this post and you have basically spent the 7 bucks it would have cost you at Walgreens. Not only that, if you have the photo made at the post office if applying there, they charge you 15 bucks. Now thats a ripoff!

82 Ralph 03.18.09 at 2:35 pm

I went to Walgreens and paid 12.95 for four packs of four (the location was in Phoenix, AZ). They actually overcharged me (gave me eight packs of two), but I didn’t notice until after leaving the store. To add insult to injury the photos weren’t accepted for my visa because my head was cut off. I had to use an instant camera machine instead — and it was actually cheaper.

Also, they weren’t “instant”. I had to come back an hour later to pick them up.

It was certainly a waste of time and money.

83 Danny 03.21.09 at 8:22 pm

I spend around and about 25 dollars; on the passport photo. I have been to JC Penny, where a picture was taken, but my shiny bald head had the reflection like a Christmas ball, and the photos were rejected. Then I went to a local service. They had a setup where my face was towards a window, resulting in a shadow on my face (unacceptable). Also the photographer was weary about the requirements I had. Then I went online and saw a service. Now that may have been my own fault, because it was an online service like epassportphoto. I brought those to Walgreen and the guy came up with pictures that were as big as the palm of my hand.
The I gave up and went back online and stumbled on the story above. I took a picture of myself against a white wall (no flash) and photoshopped the background. I used the epassportphoto service and read the instructions on the paper size. I took the file it generates to Walmart and asked for the right paper size.
I now have 7 perfect passport photo pictures for 25 cents.
Thanks a lot for this artikel man … I wish I saw this earlier, but I now know to do it myself.

84 Tom Green 03.22.09 at 1:42 pm

a quick update from ePassportPhoto… we just blogged on the latest from our communication with Walgreens. Believe it or not, these Walgreens allow themselves to censor the content of your photo - do you think this is legal?

85 Tom Green 03.22.09 at 1:44 pm

oops… and the link to our story is: What’s Walgreens afriad of?

86 Malcolm 03.26.09 at 11:23 am

Walgreens is no better. The post office rejected the pictures we had taken at Walgreens. Had to go back and have it retaken.

87 Just Me 03.30.09 at 10:24 pm

Here’s my story i went to a local Wallgreens store to have my passport pictures taken, i am applying for US citizenship, once i had my pictures taken i had to wait for an hour or so, since they were busy, so when i went back to the store to pick up my photos, there was someone else, with no clues on where my photos were, this person gave me the photos, charged me, and i then rushed to the post office and sent the package to USCIS, once i drop the envelope at the P.O. i got this phone call from the previous store clerk, asking me if the photos were accepted, because someone else gave me the wrong photos, the ones that were darker, the better ones were still there at the store, and they were gonna give it to me for free, WTF…am i supposed to acept this? What if my photos are not accepted by USCIS? this something serius, when it comes to photos for documents, forms, etc… these are legal process we are dealing with here. we all have enough already with long paperwork process, burocreacy, and on top of that we have to accept this? i don’t think so, i am now wondering who can i sue, if something goes wrong? humm!!

88 Amirartist 06.05.09 at 9:50 pm

Guys stop being tight asses! pay for the service and and stop winning, after all u act like these people even want to take a photo of you they are doing it because your a tight ass to pay 15.00 as every one does when you get your photos made, I mean when you go to DMV do you ask to see which shot came out best for your ID u still pay and get stuck with a photo that u hate.

89 sparky 06.09.09 at 11:38 am

great post..thanks for the free software link… i had the pictures already. just needed to put them on a sheet so that i could print them quick..

90 Minnie 07.20.09 at 8:55 pm

Thanks so much for your much needed info. This passport photo scam has been going on for ages!
Just for info, at AAA, if you have basic membership, the passport photos are not free.
(Discount passport photos: $8 first set; $6 second set) pretty much in line with rest of the scammers!

91 Vivek 07.21.09 at 6:24 pm

I have had the same issue with both Walgreens and CVS. The issue is not cost, if the quality was good. But their photos dont even meet the guidelines. The lady at walgreens took 3 prints for me, realizing after each one that it is too dark, but was lazy enough not to take the snap again. The CVS photos had face too small for the Oval spec. The best part is the confident and stupid assurance by the sales staff at both these place - “Oh this is perfect! this is what a passport photo has to be. its 2 x 2 and has clean background!”. The passport photo in an automated photo booth in Japan, for $2 will put these guys to shame. Anyway they just dont know how to use there Japanese cameras well enough.

92 Amber 07.21.09 at 8:05 pm

I have been having some issues with my passport photo..I went to walgreens they took it for me for 7.99 but I didn’t really like the picture when I got home and decided to try to do my own..I took a picture of myself in front of my white wall & went to one of the photo computers at walmart to make a photo i.d. myself so I did then took it to the checkout back in the photocenter & the lady working said these aren’t right & you know your not allowed to smile in it..I said no I had one taken at walgreens & I smiled in it & they never told me not to..but anyway she said she would take my picture for me & so I said okay…well when she showed me the one she had took it was like really far back showing like my chest not just a little bit of my shoulder’s which I don’t believe is right but correct me if wrong..& she took 2 pictures & they were a little different when I looked at them & I thought they had to be identical..I just don’t want my picture to get rejected when I send it in so please help me anyone! & also I think I am going to try to get a refund for whichever place just screwed me..I mean I know it’s only 7.99 but like 16 dollars for 4 tiny pictures is a little if anyone could email me & help me out with this would be great

93 bopeep 07.25.09 at 6:06 am

I thought $7.99 didn’t sound to bad after my first attempt to find passport pictures led me to the post office where they are the totally outrageous price of $15.00. Now that is a GIANT rip off.

94 Dodo 07.30.09 at 2:04 am

Tom at epassportphoto sounds a very nice guy and you are giving to him your Biometric details…
Do you really know who this Tom is? was revued by The Times.
See link to its homepage.
The site is processing Passport Photos from photos uploaded.
It is enough to read the article to be extremely worried to use this website.
“However, the UK Passport Service spokesman issued a warning about the use of passport photo websites, stating that the public should be “aware of a number of difficulties they could encounter” because some website processes “deform the original photo” so runs the risk of “failing to be acceptable to facial recognition systems”. Furthermore, applicants are “providing their picture to an unknown organization who could then use that image for ulterior purposes”, and with many of the sites being based overseas data protection laws may not apply”.
The site does display any information (Address, Directors, Jurisdiction etc.) about the organization behind this site.
Giving your Passport Photo (Biometric face details plus other personal information that can be easily obtained) to this site is EXTREEMLY dangerous.
I would not recommend this site (This site is good?) without warning about the dangers.

95 Tomash 07.30.09 at 7:11 am


You’re uploading a photo of your face. You think that’s dangerous? Well, you better be careful when you walk outside of your apartment. Because someone might see your face. Or maybe I should call your face a “biometric detail” and then it will sound scary indeed.

If uploading a photo of your face to a Web site is dangerous, then I guess 300M Facebook users are in extreme danger. Maybe we should warn them.

Well, either you work for CVS, or you have no idea what you’re talking about.

96 Paul Weissleder 08.08.09 at 2:33 pm

I went to Walgreens first and they had a scam where they were
offering FREE passport photos for 7.99. When their site couldn’t
accept my credit card (one of the numbers on the back was scratched off),
I went into the store in person and was told that two photos would cost 8.99.

On to CVS - They had a machine that printed out 4×6 photos, so I went
to photoshop, made a 4×6 grid with 6 2×2 photos and plugged it into
their machine and I got 6 photos for 25 cents, glossy passport size.

97 Myke Hawke 09.24.09 at 5:23 pm

I got my passport photos done at Walgreens. The photos came with a little folder to hold the pictures in. I thought the photos were a little to upclose, but this was Walgreens and they had the “Great Seal of the United States” on the front of the folder, so I assumed Walgreens was experienced with taking passport photos; especially if you’re going to give out little picture folders with the “Great Seal of the United States” on the front.

When I got to the passport application place, they rejected my photos and explained to me that, yes, the photo were too up close. So, quickly I went to go take another photo at a random photo/copying store. I’m happy to say those photos were accepted, but the effort and embarrassment I had to deal with because of Walgreens’ incompetence is FUCKING AMAZING! When I went to back Walgreens to get my refund, the person who took the photo was dumbfounded when I told him the photos were rejected. Motherfucker…

Passport Photos - $9

Passport renewal fee - $75

Passport processing free - $25

Dealing with Walgreens’ incompetence - PRICELESS

98 Great markup 09.27.09 at 12:04 pm

The reason they charge “so much” is because they want to make a profit. I sell passport pictures in my shipping store for 10.95. The cost is about .57 cents. None of them are great but they work and your in and out in ten minutes. As they are leaving I say “Thanks for Lunch”.
Maybe your real issue is that 7.99 is a lot of money to you.

Oh, and let me guess, you drink bottled water?

99 jam 02.16.10 at 11:21 pm

thats true .. even me i went to wallgreens and wdh!!! there camera is like the first gen digital camera and the one who took the picture ,ohh my.. tell me abt it she doesnt even know i guess to use this crappy old camera.and when i get to see the picture its so blurry!!and i need to ask her to take pic again 2nd set of pic a lit bit better . but really i am not satisfied. huh i dont know i wasted my 15 bucks just for this crappy picture ..and i hate it….it looks ugly and to think i dont know if they accepted it

100 Nun 02.19.10 at 7:52 am

Photoshopping the picture is not allowed.

101 AM 03.18.10 at 4:55 pm

Really appreciate the post! Strong work. Used to create my passport photo sheet. Largely idiot proof, just make sure you use IE (it pains me to say that) as the upload applet does not seem to work on Firefox. I printed to the local Walgreens, 4×6, glossy paper. 40 photos (entire family) = 1.36 including tax. Compare that to 2 photos for 8.99 from CVS. Never buying from the store again.

102 Estella Pham 04.19.10 at 9:32 am

Thanks. You saved me a bunch of money, plus, I got nice passport photos. Those taken by Walgreens never come out nice.

103 muhammad 04.30.10 at 12:14 pm

Well all i can say thank you so much for your help. since i have little baby girl, i wanted her picture to come nice. my older son pictures was taken at US postal office while i was applying for his passport, they charge me about $20.00 and photo was dum and stuipd photo, i regret it but i had no choice.

since i am home, i took alot of photo of my newborn. she look beautyfull and printed alot alot alot of passport photo and diffrent look.

thank you

104 kj 05.05.10 at 5:39 pm

I was faced with this too. Soo when I went to CVS they let me make my own copies. I did 4×6 and then when the actually kodak lady was finished helping a costumer she came to me, and noticed the photo I was copying was a passport photo and said “its against the law to make copies of that without paying the full $7.99.” I was like WTF? Because I realize that shit I’ve done this before to get copies of this type of photo. I need it for my visas and other gov’t stuff for when I move back to JApan but she waS so hell bent on selling them to me for 8 bucks that she made some bullshit argument that its against the law to do what I was about to do.

105 Duncan 05.20.10 at 8:24 am

Things have got better at CVS. I went in yesterday to get my 10 year old son passport photo. The woman knew what she was doing. No flash, made sure there was no shadow. The device they used has improved and she was able to adjust the lines and center.. also to increase the brightness etc. She worked with me, asked me which one I wanted. After they had printed she compared them again a template/check.

Was that service worth $8 ? not really. The device is idiot proof and I could have done the lot myself. However it is ONLY $8 every 5 or 10 years. Providing you get someone who knows what they are doing and the end result is 2 decent photo’s which are accepted and all completed with 15 minutes max, then I am ok playing it.

106 Joseph 06.11.10 at 8:16 am

So buy a passport photo camera and start your own business. Something has to pay for the overhead and that is what you are doing. If you don’t like it try a portrait studio and see what ’studio lighting’ and professional results will cost.
You would probably complain if you were hung using a new rope.

107 Wood-Ridge, NJ 07.11.10 at 7:05 pm

On some CVS stores (such as in Wood-Ridge, NJ), if you take your own photo and print them at the store using their “29 cent” digital print, they will charge you $9 per image. They adjust their pricing on their supposedly 0.29 cent digital prints if your image somehow resembles passport photos. My photos were not even for passports.

108 Raj 07.15.10 at 2:55 pm

I went to CVS with my own Passport size photo and when I selected the Passport /ID option, it showed up as 9.99 for 2 photo’s. This is a scam. I came back and I am going to try Walmart or Costco

109 Mokoosh 08.20.10 at 9:06 am

Just wondering how you “do-it-yourselfers” get around the fact that the the photo must have the photographer sign and date one of the photos (at least according to Canadian passport photo regulations). Here’s the exact wording: “The name of the photographer or studio, the address and the date the photo was taken (not the date the photo was printed) must be provided directly on the back of one photo … This information may be handwritten by the photographer. Stick-on labels are unacceptable. Sufficient space must be allowed for the name of the applicant, the signature of the guarantor and the guarantor’s
declaration.” Or does the US not require the same stringency?

110 Center Street Photography 08.25.10 at 10:10 am

I take passport photos at our studio in Illinois, and we currently charge $15 for two 2″x2″ images (the requirement for USA). We also do FOID photos and other nationalities as well, so far a few Filipino and Canadian passport images. We are planning to raise it to $20 this fall and advertise it as a service that we offer (currently we’ve just handled them based on word-of-mouth and random inquiry).

Getting it done elsewhere might be less expensive, but we follow the strict guidelines and have only had one photo returned since we’ve been in business (it was my first Canadian passport). We believe it’s worth the extra cost to our clients to have a high quality result the first time, and to come to a place where the requirements are understood and followed.

I think being frugal is a good thing, but sometimes trying to figure out how to save a buck costs you three. If you spend four wisely to begin with you’re in the same place a lot faster with less headaches (-:

111 Nash 08.27.10 at 4:27 pm

After reading couple of good reviews online, I went to the camera shop in SF called Fireside camera in the Marina area to get couple of passport pictures. The guy said the price was $12.99 for 2 copies which seemed I went in what looked like a pathway to the restroom in a typical small restaurant. There was nothing inside other than 1 flashlight, and the guy was holding a cheap looking camera. He was about to take a pic without any tripod or such. I asked him if I could get a digital copy of the photo and he said it would cost another $10. I felt like I was being ripped off for nothing and I walked out immediately. Later I found this blog, and it looks like a common problem in the states. I am going to try it myself tomorrow at home or check out some other place.

112 notryan 06.08.12 at 10:47 am

I was ripped off by epassportphoto which has horrible customer service. Also, website is misleading. Website makes it extraordinarily difficult to access the “free download” option. At the point of choosing either free download or pay to send to a drugstore, the “tabs” for free download are inactive. The pay to send to drugstore option is highlighted and appears to be the only active option. You have to search and find the small, faint “no thanks” button at the bottom right to get out of the screen that shows both options but will not let you select the free download, you must find the button and say no thanks to paying for the service. I was suckered into paying for the service because I did not see the “no thanks” button. At the screen to choose a drug store I could only choose a name of a drugstore, not a specific address. After I selected a drugstore, there was no further choice, I was told I would receive information when my pic was ready to pick up. I received an email later–the email was not addressed to my name, rather it was addressed to a name I am not familiar (not even close to mine). As well, the pick up address was multple states away. I sent an email to customer service (because there is no other way to contact the company) and received a response that my refund was fulfilled –no apology. I was so irritated by my experience I wrote a letter to customer service expressing my disappointment. The response, “thank you for your feedback.” Will not use again.

113 Nomme de plume 06.14.12 at 9:41 am

Yeah, this whole passport photo thing has been a moving target for years. I don’t know how many years ago it was, but at some point I had figured out how to get a sheet of about 6 photos “almost” passport size for cheap, and then just cut them down by hand. I noticed they since removed that feature. Now if you go to CVS for passport photos they charge you 9.99 to do as you say: print out a 4×6″ picture with two 2×2 images on it. A total rip-off. There are ways around this (such as prepping an image which has the passport size photos on a 4×6 image and just printing out a regular print), but it’s a hassle. I guess from now on I’ll be getting this kind of thing online.

114 Moneybags 06.14.12 at 9:44 am

Oh… and by the way… I DID go back with a problem from my photos. I think most people just don’t bother going back to complain. (And no, they didn’t refund me.)

115 Electromagnet 06.22.12 at 12:18 am

Add the 4 bucks for the gallon of gas it probably cost you this time last year as you wrote this post and you have basically spent the 7 bucks it would have cost you at Walgreens. Not only that, if you have the photo made at the post office if applying there, they charge you 15 bucks. Now thats a ripoff!

116 Electromagnet 07.12.12 at 9:08 pm

They adjust their pricing on their supposedly 0.29 cent digital prints if your image somehow resembles passport photos. My photos were not even for passports.

117 Cancun Mexico 09.03.12 at 5:49 am

I got mine done at the post office, it cost a bit more but I knew they would do it correctly. Sometimes you can also find smaller more mom and pop shops that do the photos for a good price and customer service is always better.

118 Electromagnet 09.04.12 at 12:54 am

Hello golbguru and everyone
I may have an answer to all your frustrations. The reason they charge you $7.99 (I was at CVS last night and experienced it) is for the feature. To avoid this you must print as a 6×4 print not as a passport photograph.

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120 Electromagnet 10.03.12 at 8:04 pm

thats true .. even me i went to wallgreens and wdh!!! there camera is like the first gen digital camera and the one who took the picture ,ohh my.. tell me abt it she doesnt even know i guess to use this garbage old camera.and when i get to see the picture its so blurry!!and I urgently need to ask her to take pic again 2nd set of pic a lit bit better . but really i am not satisfied. huh i do not know i wasted my 15 bucks just for this crap picture ..and i hate it….it looks ugly and to think i do not know if they accepted it

121 outsourcing services 10.22.12 at 1:20 am

Thanks. You saved me a bunch of money, plus, I got nice passport photos. Those taken by Walgreens never come out nice.

122 Cancun Mexico 10.29.12 at 7:48 am

I got mine done at the post office that way I was sure it would get accepted.

123 outsourcing services 11.04.12 at 7:50 pm

but really i am not satisfied. huh i dont know i wasted my 15 bucks just for this trash picture ..and i despise it

124 outsourcing services 12.03.12 at 9:51 pm

Actually what ever you have been done this is really Weldon job here…i also thing that you will be just do their work in the similar way.

125 chung pham 02.11.13 at 1:41 pm

Check out my post on and see for yourself how the idiots who commented on my post genuinely think that isn’t a ripoff and that we are ignorant and stuff. Can’t believe how American people put up with this ripoff for that long.

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I did it at home all for free, for both me and my wife. We needed 8 passport photos each, so I wasn’t sure about spending nearly one hundred dollars on it. I went online, did a little google search, and found a website that allows us to upload our headshot and sends us back this same photo but in a print ready format. I used a standard color printer I’ve already had at home, some leftover photo papers from my wife’s project. That’s all it takes. Our pictures came out great. I actually used it for our Green Card application. Of course they accepted them and it shows up great in my Green Card.

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Just mount two 2×2 phoTos on a 4″x6″ background in any image editing software and use the photo option to print then in Walgreens. It will be $0.46 two photos. Bingo! Now they charGE $11.95 for two passport pics. I do not want to pay over $50 for photo s of a family of 4. What a rip off!

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