Looking good in a passport photo

Everyone turns into a stunned mullet or an ex-con in their passport photo. But with these five simple steps, you can get a good passport (or licence) photo, without paying a professional photographer.

1. The face
Good grooming is the first step to an acceptable passport photo (let’s be reasonable with our expectations here). The standard equipment used to take a passport photo washes everything out, so women should consider wearing stronger makeup than they normally would. Dark eyeliner, a coat of mascara and a light, matte covering of foundation and some rouge should help to stop you from looking completely featureless. Even if you don’t opt for the works, try wearing a darker lipstick than normal—this will at least ensure your lips don’t blend in with the rest of your face.

Men should ensure that facial hair is either freshly-shaven or well groomed, as a five o’clock shadow is likely to leave you looking more like a drink-driving offender than rugged and manly.

2. The hair
Make sure your hair is well-groomed. If you have long hair and normally pull it back, consider going for a looser, more relaxed style, as this will stop you from looking like you’ve recently had a buzz-cut.

Men should consider having a haircut about a week beforehand. This will leave you looking neat but a few day’s growth will save you from looking like you’ve tried too hard.

3. The clothes
Patterns, such as checks or stripes, do not show up well in passport photos. Bright reds and yellows can often bring out imperfections in the face, and beiges and creams will leave you looking washed out. Consider wearing a solid, dark colour, such as blue, with a classic neckline. This picture will be around for the next ten years, and you wouldn’t want your clothing to look dated towards the end of that time.

4. The expression
Although research shows that not smiling in passport photos may distort the face more than a natural (and attractive) grin, the powers that be insist on asking for a poker face.

Stress and worry will show up on your face, so make sure you get a good night’s sleep beforehand, and try to relax before you go in for your photo. You can also try smiling on the inside—think about something which makes you happy, or how excited you are about your upcoming trip, and this will shine out through your face, even if you can’t show your pearly whites.

5. The photo
As soon as they call you up, be prepared. Passport photographers are notoriously sneaky and will attempt to snap your photo when you least expect it. Think happy thoughts, remain calm, and make sure you are looking at a spot just above the camera the whole time, as this will help you to avoid the half-asleep mug-shot which plagues so many of us. Do not attempt to talk or interact with those around you until you are sure the deed has been done, and even then be ready for a do-over.

Do you have any tips for a good passport photo?

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