How to prepare for your passport photo

by Jenn

With Covid waning and travel restrictions slowly waving, 2022 sounds like a year of promise. Now that we don’t have to worry about a looming existential crisis, there’s room to revisit those travel plans. I mean, why not? Everyone else is on the go looking to grasp and make up for lost time and memories; perhaps it’s time you ticked a few of those locations off your travel bucket list too. But first things first, get your passport ready! Before you pack your bags and hop on to the next flight to Venice, you’ll have to pay a visit to the State Department for your passport renewal or application, and with that comes a raw, unfiltered headshot of you. Yikes! We all know how disheartening those natural shots can look in a world of picture-perfect snaps.

Prepping for your passport photo five ways

Passport photos can be between humbling to iconic, and though they may not seem as much, these little minted images of us mean a lot. No one wants to be stuck with an awkward snapshot on their travel credentials for a decade. If you’re anything like me and dread having to convince the guys at the airport check-in that you’re a living, breathing testimony of the bewildered, exhausted, sticky, bird’s nest-haired individual they are staring at on the passport, then this is for you. Five tried and tested tips to taking tolerable passport photos that you won’t hate for the next ten years.

Wardrobe play

Don’t sweat it; your favorite business on the top party at the bottom Zoom meeting looks are perfect for this photo session. As mentioned earlier, your passport photo will strictly cover your head down to the midchest area, nothing more, nothing less; this means you don’t have to worry so much about what you pull off below this point. For the top, however, anything collared, crew- or turtlenecked comes in highly recommended. Photography gurus also insist on light-colored wear for dark backgrounds and vice versa. While there’s nothing against sweatshirts, tank tops, and v-necklines, the editor point might end up with a naked-looking final image once the photo is cropped; we all know how embarrassing that could look.

Get your groom on

Get your groom on before heading down to the studio. You’d want to put a little extra time into your grooming routine if you want to get that picture-perfect shot. Remember that it is a passport photo, so the camera will probably capture the middle of your shoulders up to the top of your head; ultimately, this should be your area of focus. Schedule your hair appointment a day or two before you get your picture taken, have your brows tweezed and your upper lip waxed. Ladies, now might be the best time for that keratin treatment to tame those flyaways.

Bring face 

Hey, they said unretouched, not bare-faced; this is your loophole to armor up with your makeup essentials for a flawless, sculpted, and matte complexion. According to renowned makeup artist Mai Quynh, one looks far more flattering and photogenic when they go for a natural face beat; with that, you’d want to steer away from bold colors and stick to neutral-toned shades. Quynh also adds that total coverage products would greatly help with fading out those blemishes and dark circles for an airbrushed look. Don’t forget to wear a highlighter and bronzer to bring some dimension to your face under those glaring photo booth lights.

Pro-tip: Using powdered and shimmer-free products will block out that T-zone area shine for a mattified look.

Hair Do’s and Don’ts

The first requirement for passport photos is that the subject is visible; in other words, now isn’t the time to let your hairdresser talk you into cutting bangs or layering those curls towards your face. Instead, opt for a simple ponytail or slicked-back hairstyle so the camera can capture a complete view of your face. Similarly, hair accessories that cover your facial features like headbands, hats, big ribbons, scarves, and hairbows should take a backseat for this shot. However, people wearing head wraps for religious and medical purposes get a pass upon approval of their request by the State Department. Lastly, you might want to hold off on bold experimental hair colors and tones, especially if you’re out for an official passport snap.

Practice makes perfect

Thank God for selfies because now you can do your test shots at home. Play around with your camera, practice your posture, find out which expressions look best on you, try smizing like Tyra, and voila! You’re good to go. Let’s face it, most of us are barely photogenic; it takes a good ten tries before we can get a perfect shot, but with just the right amount of practice and trials, who’s to say we can’t master a tolerable passport photo face. 

Final thoughts

That government-minted picture plastered all over your credentials can do a number on you if you don’t get it right- and I’m speaking from experience. Rather than have your wheels up and ready to go, ill-advised passport pictures will be nothing short of a point of stagnation, constantly making you conscious and dreadful of walking into that airport. Frankly, no one wants that, and though sometimes we’re convinced we don’t have it in us to nail us, being photogenic is nothing more than confidence and a good set of tips and tricks. For the most part, I’d say you’re good to go. 

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