How to Look Good in Your Passport Photo

How to Look Good in Your Passport Photo

In April I turn 26. It’s not a particularly exciting birthday, and I think the only thing the occasion marks is the expiration of my passport (Hallmark should consider producing a “Congratulations on getting to the end of your first adult passport” card.)

Everyone hates their passport photo, but my last one was particularly bad – I looked ill, greasy and severely depressed. So I was determined to produce a more flattering image this time around, and the result isn’t too bad. Sure, I wouldn’t make it my Facebook profile picture or anything, but it could be a lot worse, right?

If you’re also updating your passport this year here are my top tips on how to look good in your passport photo:

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NATURAL HAIR AND MAKEUP. ALWAYS.

This is not the time to experiment with contouring or any other beauty fads. Stick with natural hair and makeup and your headshot won’t look dated five years from now. Opt for a matte foundation (“dewy” translates to “oily” in passport images), brighten your complexion with a subtle dusting of bronzer (or Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder) and use a clear or nude gloss in place of bright lipstick.

PERFECT YOUR “HAPPY FACE”

For some reason you’re not allowed to smile in passport photos. (I can only assume this is because no one ever smiles in the passport control line at airports.) This sucks, because no one wants to be identified by their resting bitch face. So it’s worth spending five minutes in front of a mirror perfecting your “happy face”. Lift the corners of your mouth ever so slightly (so you’re on the verge of a smile), widen your eyes and think happy thoughts (Channing Tatum dancing to ‘Pony’ should work).

WEAR A FLATTERING COLOUR

Don’t assume that just because you’re taking a headshot it doesn’t matter what you’re wearing. The neckline of your top will be visible, so carefully select a flattering colour that gives you a refreshed, healthy look. And, as with hair and makeup, it’s probably best to keep jewellery to a minimum. Your tasteful statement necklace might collect compliments right now, but in 2026 it could be the equivalent of a Von Dutch trucker hat…

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Do you have any other tips for how to look good in passport photos?

P.S. How to find your hero haircut.

HAVE YOUR SAY

  1. Abby says:

    Haha, Channing Tatum and Pony will now forever be my go to happy thought!
    In my job, I see passports on an almost hourly basis as part of ID checks – and oh, some are sooooo bad.

  2. Noemi says:

    In Italy you should take your passport photo showing your ears, which makes it even more difficult!

    • cocos_tea_party says:

      That is sooooo odd!

      • Noemi says:

        I know! A friend of mine told me that now this is how you should take the photo but I saw some passports of friends who recently renewed their passports and the ears were not visible so maybe it’s not so true, hopefully… I’ll have to renew mine soon!

  3. Charlotte Fletcher says:

    If you didn’t smile a the though of Channing Tatum dancing to Pony, you probably need to re-assess your life.
    I once had to do unexpected passport photos on a day I was wearing no make up – cue running around Boots trying to figure out the cheapest capsule make up!

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