/ Motoring

Renewing your driving licence photo just got harder

Would you drive for half an hour just to renew your driving licence photo? Well, you might have to if you’re set on doing it in person – there are currently 753 DVLA-approved Post Office branches.

Driving licences have to be renewed every ten years so that the photo can take into account the signs of aging, which are probably down, in part, to the stresses of running a car.

Until relatively recently you could turn up at your local Post Office to get a driving licence form to send off with a photo to the DVLA. Now, although you can still apply by post or online, if you want to do it in person you have to visit one of 753 Post Offices in the UK. Only in these particular branches will they take your photo to the required DVLA standards.

Tracking down your nearest approved Post Office

So, what’s the problem? Well, according to the Save the Photographers Campaign, this initiative adversely affects consumers and professional photographers alike. Anyone who doesn’t live close to one of the 753 designated Post Offices, and would prefer to avoid sending important documents through the post, may have cause for concern.

When you consider that there are 11,818 Post Office branches in the UK, there are currently only 753 branches that offer the new DVLA Photocard Renewal service. For example, if you’re in Skegness, Scunthorpe or Shrewsbury you’ll have to travel for over half an hour by road to find an approved Post Office.

Likewise, the loss of revenue high street photographers have incurred is estimated to place 350 businesses in danger of closure with around 5,000 jobs at risk. And for what purpose?

How would you like to renew your licence?

Around 2.4 million people need a new or replacement driving licence each year. I expect a fair proportion of them would like to visit their closest DVLA-approved Post Office and pay the £4.50 it costs to have staff take their photograph (this is on top of the £20 DVLA fee).

What bugs me is, if you can send your own photo by post to the DVLA, why can’t you turn up to a Post Office and submit your own printed photo? I’m sure the DVLA has a reason, but I can’t think of one.

The Save the Photographers Campaign believes this is just part one in a larger plan to centralise photo IDs, with a similar plan for passport photos being the next logical stage.

I can see the benefit of this scheme (it’s trusted and they’ll do all the work for you) and it may suit some people, but does it have to be detrimental to those who might prefer to take their own photos or use a professional service? Surely there’s room for both?

Cliff Daniels says:
24 July 2012

It is about time this problem was addressed! Lets not forget the number of private sector photography jobs that are put in danger if this continues- co-existence has to be the answer.

Concerned Cliff 🙁

I respect professional photographers but equally I am aware that their days are numbered. Anyone can take photographs and many amateurs can take very good ones. As with phone boxes and cinemas, the demand is falling.

concerned says:
1 August 2012

Is the fact that “demand is fallin” a reason, a justification to accelerate it?!
The reality is that the provision of ID pictures is helping the photographers in continuing to offer the great services people like: wedding picturs, posters, canvas, personnalised albums etc… and even if less 4×6 pictures are printed, europeans still printed 16 billions of them last year! just don’t kill an industry that has been built on so much innovation and creativity!

I look at it from another way. I see it as fantastic that so many have a worthwhile hobby that does not need to be expensive. Taking photos for a driving licence has nothing whatsoever to do with innovation and creativity. As I said, I have a great respect for photographers but the demand for their services is falling. I had assumed that weddings would continue to keep photographers in business, but I have seen some good work done by enthusiasts with decent equipment.

Gimpel says:
3 August 2012

@wave change
Well actually you are mistaken…ID pictures have to go by heavy international regulations (the ICAO norm), these did evolve a few years ago and are stating many requirements including format, head size, position, print quality, paper quality…. So photographers (be it the booth or your local) have had to invest accordingly to ensure conformity. So not the most glittering part of the job but still requiring professionalism and investment in equipment and softwares.

I’m well aware that there are detailed requirements, Gimpel, but that has nothing to do with innovation and creativity. It is very well known that if you submit a photo that does not comply with a passport application, it will be rejected.

Maureen Howard says:
12 September 2015

Just had my license stolen trying to find a method of renewal is unbelievable I am not very computer literate being born too long ago and the whole process of finding a means to be legal I am just having a sob out of frustration what a mess we are in Help !

Aggravated Andy says:
13 August 2012

I agree completely Cliff, we need to save our photographers. Also, I’d like to challenge anyone to print a supposed official ID photo on a home printer and get that by the passport office!

A friend has done passport photos for several people and the photos were all accepted by the Passport Office. It’s just a case of reading the requirements and following them. If an automatic machine can take a passport photo then it’s not that hard for a competent person to do the same.

i think passport photos are outdated bureaucracy that the sooner it’s replaced by something digital the better. A few years back I renewed my driving licence I used a photo booth, apparently the image was too feint. Then went to the photographer who used flash and then the reflection of my glasses was not good enough (who never warned me and didn’t give me a refund!), then took another set which finally were good enough apparently. I ended up with 11 really bad pictures of myself that I spent over a tenner on (not to mention 5 trips running to and fro on an afternoon taken off work, before the post office shuts!) What a palaver.

Last time I did it, went to the post office, it was done by the same person who took it and signed it off, so no arguments, no time wasted. If a photographer relies on this to stay in business then perhaps it is the wrong profession? Or perhaps there should be a tickbox for £5 to be donated to a photographers guild in the driving licence application form, I’d happily tick it to save myself the bother.

After perfecting the automatic number plate recognition system for identifying offending vehicles, the next step is to develop a driver’s face recognition system so that offences cannot be denied or accepted by another party to avoid licence points accumulation by the actual driver. The post offices therefore have to have extremely sophisticated digital photography equipment and techniques to provided the degree of definition required and this no doubt explains the peculiar curtained enclosure that has appeared in my local post office where the operative cancapture a precise full-frontal picture. Well, I’m just guessing really, but you never know . . .

Isidore says:
27 July 2012

Rather like Jeremy Clarkson in the programme in Japan, the solution to this is to drive wearing a cardboard cutout face of a prominent personality of your choice. As to the issue of driving license photographs, you can be really curmudgeonly like me and insist on keeping your paper license for as long as possible. It really causes consternation (but I need to carry other photo ID sometimes)

No Isidore – the solution is to drive with due care and consideration and comply with the rules of the road. Tinted windows in the front part of the vehicle and quirky number plate characters have been outlawed yet drivers persist in trying to find ways of driving dangerously with impunity.

Daniel Bryan says:
10 September 2014

This is very true. If everyone takes great care in their driving and parking then the government will get screwed over because they will lose out on billions of pounds. plus if you let your licence run out of date then the only way the police will get you is if you have a crash so drive safely and carefully and government wont be theifing as much money from us. PLUS insurance might actually go down a conciderable amount if there are a lot less acidents

I don’t think that saving private sector photography jobs is the purpose of driving licences. For my last passport size photos, I printed six at Jessops from a USB drive for a total of 32p. However, we should be moving to a system whereby the only time the photo needs to be printed is on the driving licence or passport itself. People could take their own photos (subject to the existing strict guidelines) and upload them to the DVLA or IPS etc, if necessary for verification by a third party who knows the applicant. The current system of printing a photo, followed by scanning by the DVLA/IPS and then reprinting is technically absurd and inefficient.

Concerned says:
3 August 2012

Forgive me but your appreciation is Ill founded and the comment a tad absurd.
Of course driving licence’s purpose is not to save jobs, but the fact that an ID picture is required is a valuable source of income for photographers. Amusingly, driving licences are also a good way to generate revenue for the government .
ID pictures, and in particular for passports are governed by strict international regulations and as an individual you will struggle to conform with it, your suggestion that people could take their own picture can’t be a solution. A professional is required.
Scanning a high resolution printed ID picture is actually very efficient and cost effective for the tax payer (and by the way, once scanned, the pictures are being “re printed” in the sense you imply.
Last but not least, good on you if you really printed for 32p and that your pictures were accepted as ICAO compliant by IPS….do you believe you will be able to continue to do it at such a cheap rate in the future when the only place you will be able to get the service from will be post office, we all know the sort of impact monopolies have on prices!
It will be well in your interest to help preserving the British photographic industry and support coexistence with post office

I totally agree. This stupid idea of producing a paper photo, sending it to DVLA (or the passport office, you only have to do one btw), where they then scan it to produce an image far inferior to the origional of even the most basic digital camera is a total waste of time money and effort. The last time I tried to renew my passport on line they said they could not accept a digital file as there were ‘so many different types’, what utter nonsense. There are very few raw file types, most cameras handle TIFF or BMP files. If the don’t they soon would if they could be used for the intended purpose. Getting it done by an expert photographer was a disaster, the prints had printing on the back, a big no-no, requiering going to another to get them done again. Renewing my photo licence at the PO was much easier, but would be easier still it you could send it by file.

TIFF by all means and low compression JPG would be fine, but why BMP – a Windoze-specific format?

Amazed to see my small town’s ( 4000 inhabitants) PO has the facility but Carlisle – the main city of Cumbria does not !

I renewed my licence this way in May and it was very quick. I didn’t see it mentioned in the post, but I also had the option for the DVLA to contact the Home Office to use my passport photo. Sounds brilliant, but the photo has to be within the past 5 years and my passport is 6 years old and as the passport and licence are both renewed once a decade I guess I will never be able to use this option.

I found the Post Office quick as they took you straight to the booth if using it, and I could select the photo I wanted and I got the licence very quickly. In addition I disliked the way photo booths added a £2-3 premium for taking passport sized photos compared to their ‘fun sized’ ones – a clear rip off and I cannot see how they justified it other than exploiting the market.

I still have my old paper driving licence. It’s almost in tatters, but still legible. It lives in a drawer and instead I carry a scanned version with me when driving. About twice a year I feel a sudden compulsion to renew the licence, but then the feeling passes.

Photo driving licence is a useful/vital ID document and I would rather produce this when required than my passport.

I also still have my old paper copy in the drawer and only bring out when needed.
Mind you i forgot it when i went to Canada 2 years a go for a driving holiday.
I had to get it scanned and signed by a bank manager (notable person???) and scanned again with signatures and e mailed to me. Lots of grief at the time but it worked!

I have to hire a 7.5tonne truck shortly to help my daughter move house,, must not forget it and assume there is no “validity” issues with old style, still as yet?

I was one of the last to be issued a paper one and wish I hadn’t ‘upgraded it’, tatty as it was. The photocard is handy in Europe when they ask for ID to go with credit card transactions, and in the US for getting a drink. Downside is when it comes to hiring vehicles and digging through files to find the counterpart, and paying to renew it every 10 years.

Phil says:
27 July 2012

I still have my old green paper licence, it lives in it’s original plastic holder in my wallet and is in pristine condition. It’s still accepted as ID but I can’t remember the last time anybody’s actaully asked to see it.

Gimpel says:
3 August 2012

It will be mandatory soon….
Irony, after forcing photographers out of jobs, DVLA will require more ID pictures to be taken as paper licenses are being called back and “photo card” will have to be renewed every 10 years…. Where shall we all go to get our ID picture taken…. Post Office? What a nice monopoly that seems to be building up!

In view of the country’s recent experience with G4S, I think that we should welcome DVLA’s caution when allowing private organisation’s to carry out identity checks.

But renewing driving licences is not the only problem

A year or so ago the Land Registry consulted on plans to reduce its offices and effectively withdraw from south-east England and I raised the issue of identity checks for applicants wishing to make applications to it without using a solicitor or conveyancer.

We need a national identity checking service for all applications to public bodies with appropriate coverage.

I would like to see this centred on registrars of births, deaths and marriages with lower level checking delegated to local libraries under their online supervision.

Jeff says:
27 July 2012

And then when you have made your application in good time, the new license is dated from when the DVLA process your application. So you end up with a license that will need renewing 9 years and so many months from the expiry of the last one.
Why can’t it be like passports where the new one starts its time from the expiry of the old one? Or is this yet another way to increase revenue?

Ellen says:
7 January 2013


I wanted to mention about my experience updating my photocard license to warn others.
My license was due to expire in July so, being efficient, when I received it in June I completed & sent it back straight away.

A week later it arrived back but I lost out on a month’s validity as they issued the new dates of when they had processed it! Needless to say I was annoyed so I emailed them questioning why this had been done as it penalises me for being prompt & lawful.

I received a poor letter saying I wasn’t penalised & my license wouldn’t be amended as I asked.

I’ve since destoyed the letter but I feel like I can’t let this happen to myself & others.

Does anyone know of any further action that can be taken as it’s not fair on motorists at all! I’m always insured, taxed & legal so it’s only right that the DVLA should play fair too.

Thanks : )

I recently (April) reached my 70th birthday and of course received by post the requisite documents needed to complete to enable me to continue to drive. They also stated that I could apply On-Line so that’s what I tried to do, but as I was about to submit my application I find that I need a digital passport reference number. As I no longer travel abroad I no longer have or need a passport Plain or Digital.
Why is it not made clear in the documentation received that a Digital Passport is an essential requirement to apply on line?

concerned says:
1 August 2012

There is obviously a good solution that will both protect thousands of jobs and yet deliver a better service to consummer through a greater proximity with the tax payers or consumers however we are being called.
Any responsible politician, opinion leader, decision maker should make sure that the decisions taken don’t have a negative impact on employment, especially in the current climate.
It seems that this proposed scanning solution does it all! it will allow DVLA to improve their security checks, it will allow the post Office to offer a goos service in more locations, it will allow the photographers to remain part of the British High Street.
I have signed the petition and I believe everyone should do so! http://www.savethephotographers.co.uk

Steph says:
2 August 2012

This is of great concern to everyone in the private sector photography industry, as many jobs could and very well may be put at risk. The Government should act now to ensure that jobs in the photography sector do not become at risk as a possible 5,000 jobs could be lost. How will the Government tackle this? Unemployment is a great problem in the UK currently as adding to the issue by monopolising the Post Office even more, could have repercussions.

In the current economic climate the last thing the UK needs is to have another 5,000 persons unemployed. Something has to be done NOW before it is too late! I hope the Save the Photographers campaign gains growing support and I would encourage everyone who is as concern as I am to sign the petition online.
It is time politicians realise their mistake, pull out of this project and save the photography industry in the private sector.

Kje says:
2 August 2012

Securing employment is hard enough so why jeopardise more jobs with this restrictive system? 753 branches vs. freedom of choice where your photo is taken. The scanner solution detailed on the Save the Photographers site seems a logical solution giving a freedom of choice to individuals on where to have their photograph taken whilst allowing a visit to a local post office. More people should join the fight to make this happen. It is common sense.

Matt says:
2 August 2012

In my life I have yet to see a government project come in on budget – the government won’t even release how much these 753 machines have cost although the figure of 60 million pounds has been suggested. Let us be clear that this money is not even going to a British company (the booths are made by an American owned company).

So unless you want to see you’re tax pound going abroad and pay more money to pay benefits to another 5000 unemployed people (don’t forget a lot of these people will be homeowners at risk of losing their homes-further depressing the housing market) sign the petition at http://www.savethephotographers.co.uk/ and speak to you’re MP.

We’re in a tight place here folks, lets not waste a whole load more money.

Vicky says:
2 August 2012

Firstly, I would like to ask the government how they would feel to put so many people out of work. Personally my already low opinion of them would sink even lower if this happend and I’m sure I’m not alone.

Given the current ecomomic problems, we as a country need to be doing all we can to support the current services and business’s available. Plus, Unless I’m missing something.. I really don’t see what would be acheived by phasing out the current photo booths. Will it help prevent ID fraud? NO! A photo is just a photo afterall.

This is yet another example of the Government being narrow minded, not listening to an industry with many years of experience.
I would like to have it explained why they feel that their solution is the best option and why they feel that Co-existence with an established private sector isn’t an advantage? Has anyone been to the Post office recently in peak hours? It is already an affair that takes 20 minutes of queuing! In my opinion there is no way they will cope with the extra work load, meaning longer queues for the public within tight opening hours!
So the government want to destroy the private photographic sector and then when it’s gone and their plan is proved to be unworkable will have to invest even more resources to repair or indeed resurrect an industry that could have Co-existed in the first place, not to mention the millions it will cost with another 5000 people out of work!

Its frustrating and ridiculous that we have all come to this junction.

Mick Hames says:
9 August 2012

Yet another example of NOT letting the proffesional private sector services, who have provided the Nations Passport, Driving licence and other official ID’s for years, with NO problem….Then they try to do what has been done for years, in a short space of time…………
Surely rather that ONE controlling all, many helping resources that the public can choose from, should always be option, not being told this is now what needs to be done.
Sign the petition at http://www.savethephotographers.co.uk/ and write to you’re MP.

Ian McDermaid says:
16 August 2012

Thank you Which? for raising this very critical situation.

If it aint bust don’t fix it!

As you articulated, renewing your Driving Licence should be simple.

Turn up at your Post Office with a picture and form and send it, job done.

It would appear to me that the PO are moving on monopolising the market and are imposing their own restrictions to accomodate this.

Beware the Passport Mafia taking over the trade next!

The current situation lets people have the choice of how to require and process their ID requirements.

Lets keep it this way and not restrict people to only do it one way, please.

Please support The Save The Photographers as they are doing a good job to support an important part of our proffession and industry.

And Jonathon Richardson, hey 5 years or 6 years out, I’ll not tell if you don’t my friend. 😉