When you have been in Vietnam for a while it is inevitable that at some stage you will need to take your passport picture. You may be familiar with the procedure in the West and start looking around for the photo booth to self-print your photos – however, you may be surprised to find that although there are some photo booths in shopping malls there are not for the clear type of photograph you are looking for but instead for fun group photos only.
Instead, in Vietnam, if you need passport-style photographs then you need to visit a shop which will do it all – combining the photo, the touch-up and the printing.
Finding a place to have your passport picture taken
You will find that there are a huge amount of places that you can go to and have your passport picture taken. It is not always super obvious however where to have your photo taken – you may be used to looking for a fancy photography studio type of place – although these studios do exist these are for the very popular photo shoots of the new baby / the wedding couple etc.
Instead, most photo places double up as a photocopy shop. The word in Vietnamese is the same – so a good way to start is to look for shops which have the words “ photo copy “ on the sign above the shop. Some of the shops also have a large sign with a photograph sample on it to indicate that they do passport picture – although this is only for some and not all. As a result, it is a good idea to go into a shop which has the photography sign and ask. And even if they do not have the photo option they should be able to guide you to the shop along the road which does.
Having your passport picture taken
Once you have worked out that the shop has photography services then you may be surprised to find that rather than going off to a separate room for the photo, in Vietnam, you simply stand in front of a curtain or screen in a corner of the room.
Some places may have a mirror so that you can check yourself but this is not guaranteed.
If there are other people in the shop then you will be of great interest. Things will stop whilst everyone in the shop turns to view the excitement of a foreigner in the shop having their photo taken. However there is a need to simply accept this with a smile.
You may be concerned that with such primitive setups whether the photographs will come out of a good enough quality. However, you will be surprised to find that although it all looks basic – what comes out at the end is of a high quality.
Photograph shops may look basic but the result will be great!
Explaining your needs
If you are having your photograph for a visa then you need to have looked up all the precise guidelines and have those with you. Vietnamese photographers are not typically aware of the exact needs. For example, with a passport picture in the UK, the eyes have to be within a certain proportion of the photo. So, it is important that you take control of these guidelines so that you get a photograph that suits your needs.
After the photograph is taken you will be able to see it on the computer screen so you can guide the photographer further. They are quite happy to alter it according to your needs so do take your time to make sure your photograph meets standards.
Touching up your passport picture
In the West, if you have a photograph taken there are usually no – or at most – minimal touch-ups to the photographs. However, in Vietnam it is typical to spend time completing a lot of touching up – from removing any spots or blemishes on the skin ( including wrinkles ! ) / removing stray hairs that spoil the slick look / changing your skin colour so that you are a little lighter etc.
It is hard to explain that you don’t want touch-ups ( especially if they are for a passport ) so be prepared for the photographs to be similar but not exactly like you! – sometimes this can be to your advantage and you can look great, however, at other times you can look a bit odd!
Price and size
There are a lot of different sizes of photographs available in Vietnam – from super tiny to large. There will typically be samples on the counter. So if you are unsure of the exact name of the passport picture size you need then you can simply point.
Photographs are cheap in Vietnam. At the time of writing ( 2022 ) they are usually about 40,000 VND for a set of 4 passport size photographs. Prices are not typically displayed in the shop. However, be sure to ask the price before you have your photograph taken so that you are sure of what you are paying before you start.
The process of having your photograph taken, touched up and printed is remarkably quick. There is rarely a wait – so you simply walk in, have your passport picture taken in the corner, wait for a few minutes and then the photographs are printed out with the whole process taking about ten minutes.
Overall, getting your passport picture in Vietnam is a simple and quick procedure. There are a lot of shops where you can get it done and despite the shop often looking as if it would not be able to achieve something great, you will be surprised at the great quality and the ease which the whole process takes – so don’t worry when you inevitably need your photographs. It is all simple and easy!