Hate Your Passport Photo? Here’s What You Can Do

Are you one of those people who always cringes at their passport photo? You’re not alone. Many people are not happy with their passport photos for different reasons, such as poor lighting, bad angle, or lack of preparation. Fortunately, there are things you can do to improve your passport photo and increase your chances of getting approved. Here’s what you need to know.

Key Takeaways

  • Proper preparation is key to a good passport photo.
  • Make sure to follow the guidelines provided by your passport agency or embassy.
  • Angles, lighting, and facial expressions can make a big difference in how you look in your photo.
  • Avoid wearing anything that can cast shadows on your face or make it harder to identify you.
  • Consider getting a professional photo or editing your photo after it’s taken.

Why Do People Hate Their Passport Photos?

The most common reason people hate their passport photos is that they feel they don’t look good in them. Passport photos are often taken in a hurry, under unfavorable conditions, and without much opportunity for preparation or adjustments. As a result, people can end up with photos that don’t capture their best features, or make them look older, tired, or grumpy.

Another reason people hate their passport photos is that they are required to use them for a long time, often up to 10 years, depending on the country. During that time, people may change their hairstyle, appearance, or fashion sense, and feel embarrassed or outdated when they look at their old photo. Some people even avoid traveling or renewing their passport just because they don’t want to show their passport photo.

Tips for Preparing for Your Passport Photo Shoot

To increase your chances of getting a good passport photo, make sure to prepare well in advance. Here are some tips:

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Check the Guidelines

Before you take your photo, make sure to check the guidelines provided by your passport agency or embassy. Guidelines can vary by country, but common requirements include a neutral facial expression, no glasses or hats, a plain background, and a specific size and format. You may also be required to submit two photos, so make sure to take two identical photos.

Dress Appropriately

Avoid wearing anything that can cast shadows on your face, obscure your features, or make it harder to identify you. Clothing with bold patterns, logos, or colors can be distracting, while turtlenecks, hats, or scarfs can hide your neck or ears. Instead, wear something simple, comfortable, and contrasting to your skin tone. Bright colors can make your complexion appear more vibrant, while darker colors can create a more serious or formal look.

Practice Good Hygiene

Make sure to look and smell clean before your photo shoot. Wash and comb your hair, brush your teeth, and avoid wearing heavy makeup or fragrances that can reflect light or look unnatural. If you wear glasses, make sure to clean them beforehand to avoid glare or reflections.

Practice Your Pose

Practice your pose and facial expression in front of a mirror or camera to make sure you look confident and relaxed. Avoid tilting your head too much, closing your eyes, or opening your mouth too wide. Instead, keep your head straight, your eyes open, and your mouth closed. Imagine yourself taking a nice portrait, not a mugshot.

Different Ways to Take Better Passport Photos

There are different ways to take a better passport photo, depending on your preferences, skills, and resources. Here are some options:

Use Your Phone

If you have a good camera phone, you can use it to take your passport photo at home. Just make sure to set it on a stable surface, such as a tripod, stack of books, or wall shelf, and use the self-timer or a remote control to trigger the shot. You can also use a mirror to check your pose and framing. Once you take the photo, you can edit it using a photo app or software, such as Canva or Adobe Photoshop, to adjust the light, contrast, or color balance.

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Go to a Retail Store

If you don’t have a good camera phone or prefer to have a professional take your photo, you can go to a retail store that offers passport photo services, such as Walgreens, CVS, or Costco. The advantage of using a retail store is that they are familiar with the guidelines and requirements of your passport agency and can provide a quick, affordable, and reliable service. You can also get your photo printed on the spot, which can save you time and money.

Hire a Professional Photographer

If you want to have more control over your photo and prefer to have a personalized and stylish result, you can hire a professional photographer to take your passport photo. A professional photographer can offer better lighting, equipment, and composition, as well as more flexibility with your pose and outfit. They can also give you tips and advice on how to look your best before, during, and after the photo shoot. However, hiring a professional photographer can be more expensive and time-consuming than other options.

How to Edit or Retouch Your Passport Photo

If you have already taken your passport photo but are not happy with the result, you can edit or retouch it using software applications or online tools. However, make sure to follow the guidelines and regulations of your passport agency or embassy, as they may prohibit or restrict certain types of modifications or enhancements. Here are some basic tips for editing or retouching your passport photo:

  • Adjust the brightness, contrast, and color balance to match the environment and lighting.
  • Crop the photo to fit the size and format required by your passport agency or embassy.
  • Remove any red-eye, blemishes, or specks that can distract or obscure your features.
  • Do not modify your appearance or features, such as skin tone, eye color, or facial structure.
  • Do not add or remove any objects or elements from the background, such as logos, flowers, or text.

The Consequences of Having a Bad Passport Photo

Having a bad passport photo can have serious consequences, ranging from delayed or denied passport applications to border control issues, identity theft, or discrimination. A bad passport photo can make it harder for officials to recognize you, verify your identity, or grant you access or privileges. It can also make you stand out in a negative way or create suspicion or doubt.

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Real-Life Stories of People Who Had Terrible Passport Photos

If you still feel frustrated or ashamed of your passport photo, remember that you’re not alone. Even celebrities and politicians can have terrible passport photos, as these examples show:

  • BeyoncĂ©: Her passport photo was leaked online in 2014 and showed her with no makeup and a messy hairdo.
  • Justin Bieber: His passport photo was taken when he was 16 and showed a pubescent boy with a smirk on his face.
  • Kim Jong-un: His passport photo was leaked in 2014 and showed a serious-faced dictator with a bad haircut.


Taking a good passport photo can be challenging, but it’s important for your security, convenience, and dignity. By following the tips and suggestions in this article, you can increase your chances of getting a good passport photo that reflects your best features and personality. Remember to be patient, confident, and open-minded, and don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice if you need it.


Q: Can I use a passport photo from a previous passport?

A: It depends on your passport agency or embassy. Some agencies allow you to use a previous passport photo if it meets their guidelines and was taken within a certain time frame. Other agencies require a new photo for each passport application.

Q: Can I smile in my passport photo?

A: It depends on your passport agency or embassy. Some agencies allow you to smile in your passport photo as long as it’s a natural and relaxed smile. Other agencies require a neutral facial expression with your mouth closed.

Q: Can I wear glasses or contact lenses in my passport photo?

A: It depends on your passport agency or embassy. Some agencies allow you to wear prescription glasses or contact lenses as long as they don’t create glare or shadows on your face. Other agencies require you to remove your glasses or contact lenses for the photo.

About the Author

Latasha W. Bolt

Latasha is a travel writer based in Atlanta, Georgia. She has a degree in journalism and has been traveling the world since she was a teenager. Latasha is experienced in navigating the visa and passport application process and shares her knowledge and experiences on the blog. Her articles are personal and engaging, providing readers with a unique perspective on the joys and challenges of international travel.

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