How to Look Good for Your Passport Photo

Three Parts:Getting Ready the Day You Take a Passport PhotoTaking Your Passport PhotoPreparing in Advance for Your Passport Photo

Are you headed out of the country? Time to get your passport! To apply, you’ll need a recent photo taken within the last six months. If you want to look good in your photo, you may have to do a little prep work. Your passport will be valid for 10 years if you’re over 16 when you get it, so be prepared to live with the photo for a long time.

Part 1
Getting Ready the Day You Take a Passport Photo

  1. Image titled Look Good for Your Passport Photo Step 1
    Style your hair. Don’t do anything you wouldn’t ordinarily do to your hair for a passport photo. Passport photos should be a good representation of what you usually look like so that you don’t get detained.[1]
    • Do not wear a hat or any other head covering unless you already do so on a daily basis for religious purposes. If you do wear a head covering, for a U.S. passport, your face has to be visible. The covering can’t hide your hairline or cast shadows over any part of your face.[2]
  2. Image titled Look Good for Your Passport Photo Step 2
    Put on approximately the same amount of makeup as usual. If you usually wear makeup, go ahead and put it on as usual. If you never wear makeup, you probably don’t want to put on a ton of it for the photo. You won’t look like yourself, and you could get detained.[3]
    • Wear a little oil-absorbing powder to prevent shine if you want to. This will be most useful on your forehead or nose.
    • Even if you don’t usually wear makeup, you may want to put a bit of concealer or powder over any dark circles under your eyes. These dark places can cause a glare (and make you look sick or tired). [4]
  3. Image titled Look Good for Your Passport Photo Step 3
    Dress appropriately. Remember that you may need to use your passport for many occasions other than traveling. (For example, sometimes you can use it to get a background check when you apply for a job.) [5] Try to wear solid colored clothing in muted tones. [6]
    • Wear something flattering and reasonably comfortable.
    • Don’t wear anything too flashy, or it will cause people to look at your outfit instead of your face.
    • Pay most attention to your shirt, since that’s what will be in the photo. Scoop or v-necks work nicely.[7]If it’s too low cut or if it’s a tank top, you might look naked, so check the neckline. [8]
    • Since you will be in front of a white or black background, avoid those colors. Choose colors that flatter your skin tone.
    • Wear a minimal amount of jewelry.
    • Uniforms or anything that resembles a uniform (including camouflage) are not allowed unless they are religious attire that you wear every day.[9]
    • Some people have reported that the passport office rejected their photo because it looked too much like previous photos (which means that the passport office couldn’t confirm that it was a recent picture), so you should dress a bit differently than you did in your last photo if this is an update. [10]

Part 2
Taking Your Passport Photo

  1. Image titled Look Good for Your Passport Photo Step 4
    Check your teeth. Be sure to brush your teeth the morning of your photo so that they’re pearly white. Right before the photo, you should also duck into the bathroom or pull out a compact to be sure there is nothing in them.
  2. Image titled Look Good for Your Passport Photo Step 5
    Take your glasses off. This isn’t a requirement, because untinted glasses are allowed in the photo, but sometimes they can cause a glare. Unless you strongly prefer the way you look in glasses, it’s a good idea to just leave them off. [11]
    • If you want to wear your glasses but are having trouble with the glare, tilt them downward lightly or turn off the camera flash.
    • Reapply makeup. In particular, if you tend to look shiny in photos, you may want to add a bit of oil-absorbing powder at the last minute. Be sure to also check for lipstick smears or eye makeup that has smudged. [12]
  3. Image titled Look Good for Your Passport Photo Step 6
    Check your hair. If you’re wearing your hair down (especially if it’s long), arrange it over your shoulders if you want. If your hair is short, make sure that it’s laying the way you want it to. Rub a tiny bit of gel or mousse between your fingers and run it over your hair at the last minute to keep flyaways at bay. [13]
    • If your hair is very long, you may want to only arrange one side of it over your shoulders. If it covers the straps of your shirt or hides the sleeves, you might look naked. [14]
  4. Image titled Look Good for Your Passport Photo Step 7
    Follow directions. Assuming you’re not taking your own photo, listen carefully to the person who is. The photographer wants to capture you from your most flattering angle. Follow his or her directions accurately and don't move from one pose to the next unless he or she asks you to. There are strict requirements about headspace in a passport photo, so you don’t want to ruin their shot.[15].
    • The photographer will ask you to face the camera directly, since this is a government requirement. If you’re taking your own photo, be sure to square your shoulders and look directly into the camera. [16]
    • Your head must be between 50% and 69% of the total height of the photo. Measure from the top of your head (including your hair and any headwear) to the bottom of your chin. [17]
  5. Image titled Look Good for Your Passport Photo Step 8
    Stand tall. Be sure that your posture looks nice and confident. Keep your shoulders down and back. Don’t hold your head up high to avoid a double chin, because it will make your neck look large. [18] Instead, thrust your chin forward very slightly (a little farther out than you would normally hold it, but not much).[19]
  6. Image titled Look Good for Your Passport Photo Step 9
    Smile! In general, either a “natural smile” (one that doesn’t show your teeth) or a neutral expression are permitted for passport photos. Choose an expression that you think flatters your face, but listen carefully to the photographer’s instructions if they tell you you look unnatural. [20]
    • If your expression looks “unusual” or you are squinting at all, the passport office may reject the photo, which will delay the process of getting your passport.[21]
    • If you choose not to smile at all, think of a happy thought so that your eyes will still appear friendly and pleasant. [22]
  7. Image titled Look Good for Your Passport Photo Step 10
    Get involved in the selection process. A good photographer will look at the pictures with you and recommend the ones he or she thinks turned out best from a professional point of view. Be assertive and choose the one you like best if you disagree with the photographer, but be sure that your photo meets the requirements.

Part 3
Preparing in Advance for Your Passport Photo

  1. Image titled Look Good for Your Passport Photo Step 11
    Decide where to get your picture taken. There are dozens of options, and they all have different benefits. Choose one that’s conveniently located and fits your budget. You can get a good photo without shelling out a lot of cash, but of course a professional photographer will offer the highest quality photo. Some places require appointments, so plan ahead. [23]Some options include
    • shipping centers (in the U.S., this includes Fedex and UPS)
    • places with memberships (such as Costco and AAA)
      • Costco offers some of the cheapest passport photos. AAA will sometimes do it for free if you’ve booked a trip through their travel services.
    • pharmacies and retail stores (CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens, and Walmart all offer this service)
    • professional photography studios
    • passport offices (many offer this service, but not all, so call ahead)
    • registered passport expediters (if you need it in under two weeks)
    • in your own home (but be sure to follow the strict requirements)
  2. Image titled Look Good for Your Passport Photo Step 12
    Get a haircut about one to two weeks in advance. Give your hair a little time to get over that fresh cut look by planning a haircut in advance if you need one. About a week or two should still leave your hair looking neat and tidy by picture time. Of course, if you want the fresh cut look and trust your stylist not to botch it, you can wait until the last minute.[24]
  3. Image titled Look Good for Your Passport Photo Step 13
    Pluck your eyebrows if that’s your thing. If you like to shape your eyebrows, it’s best to do it about a day in advance to get rid of any redness before the photo but not give strays enough time to return. You could also get them waxed if you want to shell out a few bucks for this special occasion. [25]
    • If you find that the skin around your eyebrows gets red after you pluck them, try applying cool, wet tea bags or a bit of aloe.
  4. Image titled Look Good for Your Passport Photo Step 14
    Get enough sleep. To prevent dark shadows under your eyes and redness in your eyes, try to get enough sleep for several days before you take your passport photo. This will also help brighten your skin and make you look healthier. [26]

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Official Travel Documentation