How to Get a Good Passport Photo

Getting a good passport photo can be a challenge. The U.S. Department of State has strict requirements concerning passport photos. These are designed to keep passport photos uniform, not to make you look good. If you want to look decent in your passport photo, it is up to you. U.S. passports are valid for 10 years. If you take a bad photo, you will be stuck with it for a long time.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy
Step 1

Find an establishment that takes passport photos. While it is possible to take them yourself, it is not practical. There are strict regulations regarding the size and position of your head in a passport photo. An established passport photo setup ensures that you will meet these requirements.

Step 2

Look at other passport photos they have taken. If they make other people look horrible, chances are they will make you look bad too. Not all passport photo places are the same. Look for a place with screens, lights, a stool and a camera on a tripod.

Step 3

Groom yourself. Prepare for your passport photo the same way you would prepare for your graduation picture. Get your hair done and fix your makeup. After all, passport officials around the world will judge you by what you look like in your passport photo for the next decade.

Step 4

Dress nicely but not too nicely. You are asked to wear street clothes in your passport photo. Make them attractive and flattering, but not flashy. Keep the colors neutral. Fashion can change a lot in 10 years and you don't want to look hopelessly out of date in your passport photo. Some cultures are intolerant of suggestive attire. Dress conservatively and don't show any cleavage.

Step 5

Accessorize carefully. Hats and other head coverings are forbidden unless they are worn for religious reasons. You can wear prescription glasses if you wear them all the time,but sunglasses are not allowed. Jewelry on the head and face should either be conservative or removed.

Step 6

Practice your pose in the mirror. Passport photo requirements limit you to a single pose. It is full face, straight into the camera, not a very flattering way to look at most people. However, you can do a few things to make your face look better. Craning your face forward flattens out skin under your chin. Tilting your chin down can maximize or minimize the appearance of your eyes, nose and forehead. Experiment in the mirror to find what works best for you.

Step 7

Work on your expression. Passport photo requirements state that your expression should be neutral. You are not supposed to smile broadly or show your teeth. Think of something that makes you happy when they snap the picture so you have a pleasant grin on your face.

Kent Ninomiya is a veteran journalist with over 23 years experience as a television news anchor, reporter and managing editor. He traveled to more than 100 countries on all seven continents, including Antarctica. Ninomiya holds a Bachelor of Arts in social sciences with emphasis in history, political science and mass communications from the University of California at Berkeley.

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