A Model’s Tips for a Great Passport Photo

Model tips for a great passport photo!

You’re going to have your new passport for the next ten years – we’re sure that you want your passport photo to look as good as possible! No one wants to have a photo that makes them look older than they are, or ill, or unhappy.

Passportinfo.com recently caught up with a friend of ours in the passport and visa expediting industry. She’s a former model who knows all kinds of tricks to look great in front of the camera… and she’s seen thousands of passport photos, good and bad! She filled us in on insider’s tips to taking a great passport photo.

What to Wear… and What Not to Wear!

The first thing to consider is your wardrobe, she tells us. Keep in mind that the passport photo will only show your head and shoulders. It doesn’t matter what you wear below the waist, but the area around your neck will be visible in the photo.

If you’re renewing your passport, don’t wear the same clothes you wore in your last passport photo. If your new photo looks too much like the old one, it could be rejected because the Passport Agency won’t be able to confirm it was taken in the last six months.

Clothing DOs and DON’Ts

  • DON’T wear glasses! Your photo will be rejected and your application put on hold if you submit a photo with glasses.
  • DON’T wear anything on your head – no hats, headbands, or scarves. If you wear religious headgear on a daily basis, you are allowed to wear it in your passport photo as long as your face is clearly visible. You’ll need to also submit a letter explaining your religious headgear.
  • DON’T wear a uniform of any sort. The Passport Agency will reject photos that show you in uniform.
  • DO opt for business attire or a collared shirt for your passport photos. This isn’t a State Department rule – they don’t care whether you’re in a sloppy sweatshirt or a suit and tie. But if you ever have to present your passport for a business visa, or show it to a new employer as part of your paperwork when you are hired, you’ll be very glad that your passport photo supports your professional image!
  • DO wear a shirt or dress with a high enough neckline that it will show in the final picture. “I’ve seen too many passport photos where the traveler was wearing a tank top or a shirt with a wide v-neck,” our model friend says, “and when it’s cropped and printed onto the passport book, it looks like she’s naked!” Again, this isn’t an official rule, but it might save you some embarrassing moments at the airport!
  • DO consider wearing a color other than black or white. Your photo will have a plain white background, so a colored shirt will help ensure your photo doesn’t look washed out. Is there some color you always get compliments when you wear? Go ahead and wear it for your passport photo!

Makeup – Put Your Best Face Forward!

Sad but true: photo retouching isn’t allowed in passport photos. You aren’t allowed to PhotoShop out your blemishes or dark circles. But you know what is allowed? Makeup!

Put on some makeup for your passport photo.Makeup can make a big difference between a mediocre photo and a fantastic one. Remember that makeup always looks more subtle in photos than it does in the mirror, so don’t be afraid to wear a heavier than normal coat of foundation and plenty of powder to keep down shine. (Another model tip: if your face is looking shiny, a brown paper napkin makes a great blotting paper in a pinch. Grab a few extras when you’re at the coffee shop!) Highlighting and contouring the face with light and dark makeup is a standard in the modeling industry; there are lots of great tutorials on YouTube if you want to give it a try. Our friend recommends starting with this quick 3 minute video on contouring and “buffing” the face to create a flawless look in photos.

And guys? No one will ever know if you used a dab of concealer on your under-eye circles, or a little bronzer or translucent powder to even your skin tone. It’s what celebrity actors do before they step in front of any camera!

Hairdos and Hair Don’ts

Our friend, the former model, confessed a secret to us. “When I renewed my passport recently, I had my passport photo taken right after I had my hair cut. Now, for the next ten years, my passport will show me with my hair professionally styled!”

Whether or not you decide to hit the salon first, here are some tips on how to style your hair for your passport photo.

  • Make sure your hair isn’t covering your eyes or eyebrows. All of your features must be visible.
  • If you have long hair, we recommend that you brush it back behind your shoulders so your shirt is visible. If your hair is covering up all your clothing, it’s another reason that you might look naked in the photo!
  • Don’t wear thick headbands, large hairbows, or scarves in your hair. These could be considered “headgear” and could get your photo rejected! Thin ponytail holders, bobby pins, and small barettes are just fine.

Strike a Pose

Finally, practice your pose before you head to the photographer. Your passport photo needs to show you looking straight forward with a neutral expression, but that doesn’t mean you have to look grim. Sit up straight and roll your shoulders back to elongate the look of your neck. Although you can’t smile widely or show your teeth, you can channel Tyra Banks and “smize” – smile with your eyes! Many people also worry about looking like they have a double chin in photos, which often happens if you tip your chin downwards. Don’t be tempted to lift your chin upwards to correct this – this will just expose more of the area under your jaw and make it look larger. Instead, thrust your chin forward an inch or so, as if you were a turtle poking your head out of your shell. It will feel awkward and unnatural, but it will make your jawline look firm in the photo.

Make Sure You’re Happy With Your Passport Photo

Don’t accept a photo with bad lighting (such as overexposure or shadows across your face), poor printing quality, or an unnatural color cast. If you are paying for a passport photo, you should get one that will definitely be acceptable to the State Department… and to you!

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