Looking good in a passport photo

Learn how to get a good passport photo, without paying a professional photographer

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?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    8th Nov 2017
    No matter what I try I still look awful!
    Polly Esther
    8th Nov 2017
    passport photo - driver's licence photo - it is impossible to look remotely good.
    Never seen a good one yet.
    Possibly the equipment used, the lighting, the operator, are all to blame?
    The bottom line I suppose is, does anyone really care? and anyway when they are flashed about most can be good for a giggle. :-))
    8th Nov 2017
    I always feel mildly insulted that my identity is never challenged at border control on the basis of my passport photograph. I guess I really do look that bad!
    8th Nov 2017
    I didn't realise you were entering a beauty competition when you have to get your passport photo taken.
    When applying for your passport (via Australia Post and DFAT) and when entering immigration control, as if those people would be concerned if you didn't have make-up on, you had not cut your hair recently or you were wearing a patterned top.
    8th Nov 2017
    I only ever had a nice licence photo -- and that was after a REAL shocker and I went back and asked them could they do another -- when she saw the one they had done she laughed and agreed and it was a really nice on -- but since then they have been pretty awful.
    Not allowed to even smile anymore -- but who cares -- Big Brother bit by bit

    9th Nov 2017
    Its because most people are not happy when they have their photos taken.

    If youre glowing on the inside , then the photos look awesome.
    10th Nov 2017
    This goodlooking lady breaks the rules about smiling - not a suitable example for the article! The photographer taking my photo got as close as possible, taking only my face, hardly any hair showing, and certainly not neck or shoulders. Result, very unflattering. Perhaps you could let us know who took the picture of this lady???
    10th Nov 2017
    I agree Trish.
    The so-called example of the passport photos the writer has presented wouldn't meet the passport rules and so they would be rejected by Australia Post and DFAT as the lady is smiling and there is too much of her upper body.
    The writer gives advice on what you should be wearing (eg don't wear patterns such as checks or stripes and don't wear outdated clothing) but this would not be an issue if a proper passport photo was taken with the face taking up the whole of the photo.
    I think the writer deliberately presented a passport photo that is not representative of a valid passport photo to make a story out of nothing.

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