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Looking Like Your Passport Isn't a Good Thing

A better passport photo isn't magic, but it does take effort

Passport HorrorPassport HorrorErma Bombeck once wrote, "when you start to look like your passport photo, it's time to go home."

In my last driver's license photo, I looked a little like Charles Manson with a Dorothy Hamill bob. Well, maybe not that bad, but I cringed every time someone asked for it. "Is that really you???"

It is possible to get a decent passport photo though.

  • Even though you'll be asked to wipe all the joy from your face.
  • Even if you're smiling because you're going on a vacation.
  • Even though you haven't stopped smiling since you booked your vacation.

Want to know how to get a passport photo that doesn't look like a mug shot? Try these suggestions:

  1. Go for simplicity: Stay away from tops that have a bold pattern. Stick with a color you know you look good in - even if you opt for a black and white shot.

  2. Choose a style that looks good on you: A turtleneck will hide that tricky spot under your chin, but a crewneck can give your neck length.

  3. Close your mouth: Toothy smiles are prohibited anyway. Combat the joyless expression by opening your eyes as wide as possible and keeping your chin up (which makes you look thinner).

  4. Wear makeup: It may sound like a no-brainer but wearing makeup will make you look younger, healthier and less like a criminal. It's all about definition, baby.

  • Define your lips with a natural lip color, but pass on the gloss.
  • Wear eyeliner (heavier at the outside of your eyes) to make your eyes look bigger.
  • Swipe on some blush. Even if you don't normally wear any.
  • Use a matte base to cut down on the wash-out effect.

Voila. No more cringing when you hand over your passport to security.

Do you have any passport photo tips? Share them with us!

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All good advice. <p> I would further add: some of the places that advertise that they provide Passport Photo services are better than others. After you've been handed your photos, if they look bad, ask them to try again! <p> Biggest problems to avoid: a background that is not white; a bleached-out face (for Caucasians) that is similar in color to the background; a yellow cast to the picture; shiny pink or white spots on the face. We have a really hard time fixing any of these. Also, you can submit your own digital photo prints but they must be high resolution - if you can see the dots when you look closely a your print, that isn't going to come out as well. <p> The better a photo that you submit, the better your chances. Sometimes even a good photo will come out rather poorly though - sorry! We have to process a lot of applications every day and each time we judge an image to be too bad a likeness, and stop to rescan the photo, it takes an extra minute; multiplied by hundreds of instances, well, we have to say "good enough" to a lot of images.

Nice! Wish I'd seen this advice before I had my driver's license renewed!

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