How to Take The Best Passport Photo Ever

I’m going to Jamaica! 6 days to go!

So I’ve been putting off going to the passport office to renew my passport. Since I changed my name after getting married, I had to get all pieces of identification to match my new name and I tell you, it’s a pain in the ass! A few weeks ago I finally got ‘er done so that I can finally go on a vacation this year, and I’m so pleased to say that my photo actually turned out nicely.

How to Take Best Passport Photo

Because sharing is caring, I thought I’d share some tips and tricks I learned to get the best passport photo ever. These makeup and posing tips also apply for your driver’s license. This is important, guys! You know, just in case you get pulled by a cute cop (where you will for sure talk your way out of a ticket, ha!).

Photogenic Makeup and Hair Tricks

I know. That bright unflattering flash is not cool, man. So yeah, the odds are not ever in our favour for this situation, but there are some tweaks you can do in your makeup that’ll actually look good on that ID of yours. And honestly, this has to be the easiest makeup tutorial ever.

  1. Tone down the shine. Powder down your T-zone to take away potential hot spots that happen when the flash goes off.
  2. Hide the bags! My eye bags never lie about how much sleep I’m getting. To hide shadows under a puffy eye bag, take a lighter concealer than one you usually use, and highlight the shadow under the bag. This creates the illusion of a flatter surface and poof! the bag is gone. Check out this tutorial by Wayne Goss showing the technique. It’s pretty brilliant.
  3. Keep your eyeshadow matte and subtle. I used two shades: a creamy beige all over the lid, and a matte brown in the crease and lower lash line for some depth. That’s it.
  4. Define your upper lash line with gel or liquid liner. I didn’t do any fancy cat eye for this, and I didn’t need to. Just a good solid black line on the top lash line will do. Line the upper waterline with a black pencil for good measure to make those lashes appear thicker.
  5. Speaking of lashes, don’t be afraid to load up on mascara. Lots of mascara on top and bottom lashes is key!
  6. Contouring is very important. Make sure you go over the usual areas: temples, cheekbones, jawline, even (lightly!) down the sides of the nose. Don’t have any good contouring products? I got you covered right here.
  7. If you know that your photo will be in colour, blush is your friend. Don’t be shy and layer on more than you usually wear, as the flash will tone it down a lot.
  8. Your lips but better. This is not usually the time to wear a trendy bright lip if you think you’re going to regret it 5 or 10 years later. I mean, if that’s totally your thing, then go girl! Personally I went with the tried-and-true coral pink because it works for me.
  9. “Soft” hair. I went with a “body wave” instead of more defined waves and it really softens the overall look. Try to stay away from super sleek hair close to your head as it can look too severe in pictures.

Products Used

Lancôme Beige Diaphane 03 Miracle Air de Teint
NARS Ginger and Custard Radiant Creamy Concealer

Laura Mercier Vanilla Nuts and Cafe Au Lait Eyeshadows from 2012 Artist’s Palette
Hourglass 1.5mm Mechanical Gel Eyeliner
Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara

Giorgio Armani #1 Sheer Bronzer
Hourglass Diffused Heat Ambient Lighting Blush

NARS Descanso Satin Lip Pencil
MAC Richer Lusher Cremesheen Glass

Posing Tips

  1. The best photo tip ever is to tip your chin down a little, which I learned from Karen on Makeup and Beauty Blog. This creates more angles in your face and keeps it from looking flat. Try it out and meet your cheekbones!
  2. Ask if you can smile. The lady nicely told me “sorry, no smiling,” but it never hurts to ask. If you can’t smile with your mouth (I prefer a big toothy smile myself!), smile with your eyes by squinting a little, and put on a slight smirk on your lips. You’re not smiling, but you definitely look more perky and happy!

Before and After Smize
Before (aka deer in the headlights) and After (smize) 🙂

Now tell me, do you have any tricks for looking your best in ID photos?

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  • Great tips, Arianne! Jamaica: how exciting! Love your smize 🙂 My only tip is not to get it done when you have PMS. My last ID photo turned out waaaay puffy. Bleh.

    • That is a good one, Sunny! I’m the same way. Oh well, at least your last ID is not permanent eh?

  • shadowy_lady

    I wish I had read this earlier. I travel a lot internationally for work and unfortunately I JUST renewed my passport for 10 years 🙁

    • Oh no! Can you intentionally *lose* it? Haha j/k I feel your pain though, because I had renewed it for 10 years before our honeymoon last year, and had to pay for it again after a name change.

  • I had to renew my health card pic but held off on my license since I knew I’d be doing it again in a year. My photo turned out HORRIBLE so I can’t wait to use your tips post-name change!

    • Lots of time to practice your smize! 🙂

  • Your pics look fab, of course! I have to renew my driver’s license soon so this is really timely for me. I think I might accidentally lose my work badge too (*wink*wink*) because the picture on it is pretty terrible.

    • Hahaha hope your driver’s license turns out nicely Nicci!

  • Where were you when I was updating my passport earlier this year! I am stuck with that horrid photo until 2024 🙁 I think you win world’s best passport photo forever.

    • Oh no! I’m sure it’s not that bad. Thanks Julie!

  • YES that smizing trick is perfect!! My learner’s photo is SO bad — and I got it when you were still allowed to smile! >.< (Thank you, permanent resting bitch face. I really needed that to compound the fact that it is not a real licence. That was just great.)

  • GREAT photo and great tips! Congrats on JAMAICA! 😀 I went bananas when it was time to get my new married lady last name driver’s license earlier this summer, false lashes and everything. It’s not going to win any awards, but it definitely turned out better than it could have had I just waltzed in make up-free (did that about 12 years ago…NEVER AGAIN…my eyes…WHERE the hell were MY EYES?!?). AND GURRRRRL, you are not kidding on the name changing insanity!! Our 6 month wedding anniversary is Sunday and I still have a few places I haven’t dealt with yet on my name changing list. I just got my bank account changed over into my “new” name Tuesday. It’s a hassle, but it’s really fun when you get a new debit card in the mail with your married last name on it! 🙂 Enjoy your trip, boo!

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  • Anna

    Hey I read your blog after having two horrible pictures taken. I followed your suggestions more or less, but after 2 failed attempts I felt like it was me, not them. Really shatters your confidence! The tip that changed my last picture was “no sleek hair”, went for beach waves and what a difference! Also I went to a real photographer, instead of a chain pharmacy or a photocopy place at the mall/post office. It’s a picture I can live with for the next 10 years 🙂 Thank you!

    • Hi Anna, I am so happy that you successfully got your best photo using these tips. Thank you for sharing! 🙂

  • Benni

    that photo on the right, with the subtle smile was rejected when I tried it. I literally had to look depressed before they said it was ‘suitable’