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Comprehensive Guide on How to Take Good Passport Photo

woman with a neutral expression

For many of us, taking a new picture for your travel credentials is a struggle. Just to think of it: once your photo’s done, it’ll remain in your UK passport for the next decade. No pressure at all, right?

But despite this and the strict rules of His Majesty’s Passport Office, there is something you can do about your looks in the photo. As a matter of fact, we’ve got lots of tips and tricks for you—they’ll help you nail your British passport photo and stay compliant at the same time!

Contents

Choose Wisely Where to Take Your Photos

The options are numerous! Even your local supermarket or shipping company office likely has a photo booth or small studio. Although very accessible, these options won’t cut it.

See, to look good in your passport photo, you need to be picky, and this is something you can’t afford if taking your pictures in a store or photo booth. Didn’t like your headshots? The only way to fix this is to pay for a set of new ones. Again.

Instead, either go to a professional photographer or take a digital passport photo online.

Photo Studio

studio with plain white background

These are usually well-equipped, highly skilled and have everything ready for a successful photo session. When taking your image, the photographer will also give you directions to help you look your best and will make some minor enhancements to your photo later.

DIY Passport Photo

woman picking the most flattering angle for her selfie

If you’re not comfortable with taking your photo in front of somebody else, this is the option where you can be as relaxed and picky as you like. Simply find a British passport photo app or online service and start taking your headshots! This format gives you room for experimenting and trying out the tips we’re gonna share below.

Tips to Prepare for Perfect Photo…

Once you’ve decided how to have your pictures, it’s time to get ready. Please note that some of the tips may be relevant for a photo studio and useless for self-made pictures, and vice versa.

Also, remember that an excessively thorough preparation can backfire and stress you out a bit, so don’t get too worked up over the whole thing.

General Advice

  • Make sure you’ve had enough sleep the night before your photo session (or better yet, sleep yourself out for several nights in a row). Red eyes, headache and a bad mood are a no-go if you want to take a passport photo you won’t hate.

  • Don’t take your picture first thing in the morning, even if you slept enough. If you’re still half asleep and your face is a bit swollen, it will definitely show in the resulting picture.

  • Have your picture taken after a workout. No need to take your photo all sweaty, panting and red-faced, have some rest first. Even an hour after the gym, you should have enough endorphins to make the resulting photo much better.

workout

  • Practice micro-posing in front of the mirror. No matter what tips you’ll use, it’s always better to try them out before a mirror at home instead of grimacing in front of the photographer later.

  • Pack a last-minute maintenance kit with essentials beforehand. It’ll help you in case your hair goes wild or your skin becomes too oily. So, pack whatever you may need—a hair comb and spray to handle flyaways, powder, eye drops, etc.

Dress For Success

  • Don’t overdress though. Technically, there are no stringent limitations on what to wear in your British passport photo. However, if you pick a too-bold style that seems very individual now, you may regret it a couple of years later.

  • Pick a casual and/or business-like style. It looks both cool and professional. The latter is especially important if you apply for a business visa someday: you’ll want to look presentable, won’t you?

dress appropriately

  • Put on something that has a high-enough collar. Say, a tank top won’t be the reason for the rejection of your passport application. Still, you may appear topless, which looks ridiculous and inappropriate, so put on a collared shirt.

  • Make sure your colours don’t match the background. If they’re too similar (UK passport photos have off-white plain background), they’ll merge into one. Overall, it’ll make your photo seem like your head is floating in the air.

Get Your Hair Right

  • Have your hair cut within a week before. Just try to pick a timeless casual hairstyle instead of something overly individual. We’ll say it again—a neutrally styled hairdo will work in your favour in case you need a business visa someday.

woman at hairdresser's

  • Don’t use any hair accessories. Headbands or clips for long hair—all of these are forbidden. Surely, a professional photographer will tell you that, but making last-minute adjustments to your hairstyle won’t help you take a passport photo that’s at least half bad.

  • Trim your beard if you have one. This may come as a surprise, but photos with beards are allowed on British passports. Still, we doubt that you want your beard rough and shaggy, so it’s a good idea to do some maintenance and trim it.

  • Pluck your eyebrows. Of course, if you’ve never done it before, this doesn’t mean that you have to start now. First and foremost, this tip is for those who fine-tune their eyebrows on a daily basis.

Use Some (But Little) Cosmetics

  • Wear makeup as usual, the UK passport office allows it. Yet don’t use too much of it: the new photo for your credentials must show the usual you. Highlight your eyes and lips, use concealer to make the skin tone even and that should do it.

wear makeup if you need to

  • Don’t hide your distinctive marks. Don’t hide your scars or moles—these are an integral part of your appearance and should never be concealed. Still, if there’s some nasty pimple, you can go on and cover it with no problem!

  • If your face gets shiny, apply some powder. By the way, this tip may prove useful for men as well. Say, if there are dark circles under your eyes, try dabbing them with concealer to make your complexion nice and even.

…Tricks to Use During Your Photo Session…

  • Push your head a bit forward. Such a pose feels awkward, but it outlines your jaw. FYI: an unpronounced jawline can completely change the way you look! By leaning your face forward a bit you make your jaw more visible and flattering.

  • Lift your chin forward. By doing this, you’ll also stretch your skin and avoid getting a double chin in the resulting photo. Plus, you’ll look way more confident.

woman lifting her chin up

  • Don’t slouch. Roll your shoulders back and open your chest: they’re hardly seen in the frame but your posture affects your face as well. So stand (or sit) straight, even if you don’t usually do—it’ll help you make a perfect passport photo.

  • Keep a neutral expression. Don’t try to find your best face, be your usual self. If your natural facial expression looks mugshot-ish, lift the corners of your mouth a bit (no smiling: even a natural smile isn’t allowed in UK passport photos!).

  • Pay attention to your hair: it mustn’t cast shadows or cover your clothes completely. If it does, it’ll look like you’re naked. In a really good passport photograph, we can’t have anything like that.

  • Don’t concentrate on keeping your eyes open, it’s a common reason why passport photos turn out so bad. Forcing your eyes open makes you look scared. Instead, forget about it: simply look straight at the camera and you’ll be fine.

  • Use natural light. If you’re visiting a photographer, you’re already set. When taking your passport photos at home, however, remember that natural sunlight is your best friend. Stand in front of a window and—voila!—you’ve got a source of perfect even light.

open window

  • Take lots of photos. The very first photo you take looks pretty good? Don’t stop and take more. What seems perfect at first, may reveal some flaws later. It’s better to spend a few minutes scrolling through images and pick the best one.

…And Some Follow-Up Pieces of Advice

  • Make sure you’ve got a great passport photo before going on. Made 20 pictures at a photographer’s and still don’t like any? Don’t be shy and ask for more! If this embarrasses you, remember: this photo remains in your passport for a decade.

  • Don’t get too enthusiastic about retouching your headshot. The only things you can edit out are temporary blemishes. The UK passport agency forbids any alterations to your photo (no filters, masks, eye colour changes and so on).

editing on laptop

  • Don’t overprepare. If you’re following this guide letter by letter, you’re overthinking it. Please don’t. Making it too big a deal will only stress you out. Just skim through this post and pick what will work best for you, and that’s enough.

One Last Thing to Help You Get a Good Passport Photo

As we mentioned in the introduction, there are requirements for the headshots used in travel documents. The tips we’ve just given you don’t contradict any of these rules, but your photo shoot might get messy if you try to keep in mind both the UK requirements and our recommendations.

This is where our free service comes in—should you choose to take your headshot at home, give it a go! That’s a great alternative to your local Tesco or photo studio. With us, you can concentrate on getting the best passport photo, and we’ll take care of the rest!