What to Wear… and What Not to Wear!

The first thing to consider is your wardrobe. Keep in mind that the passport photo will only show your head and shoulders. It doesn’t matter what you wear below the waist, but the area around your neck will be visible in the photo.

If you’re renewing your passport, don’t wear the same clothes you wore in your last passport photo. If your new photo looks too much like the old one, it could be rejected because the Passport Agency won’t be able to confirm it was taken in the last six months.

Clothing DOs and DON’Ts

  • DON’T wear glasses! Your photo could be rejected and your application put on hold if you submit a photo with glasses. Especially if your glasses have a glare on the lenses.
  • DON’T wear anything on your head – no hats, headbands, or scarves. If you wear religious headgear on a daily basis, you are allowed to wear it in your passport photo as long as your face is clearly visible. You’ll need to also submit a letter explaining your religious headgear.
  • DON’T wear a uniform of any sort. The Passport Agency will reject photos that show you in uniform.
  • DO opt for business attire or a collared shirt for your passport photos. This isn’t a State Department rule – they don’t care whether you’re in a sloppy sweatshirt or a suit and tie. But if you ever have to present your passport for a business visa, or show it to a new employer as part of your paperwork when you are hired, you’ll be very glad that your passport photo supports your professional image!
  • DO wear a shirt or dress with a high enough neckline that it will show in the final picture. “I’ve seen too many passport photos where the traveler was wearing a tank top or a shirt with a wide v-neck,” our model friend says, “and when it’s cropped and printed onto the passport book, it looks like she’s naked!” Again, this isn’t an official rule, but it might save you some embarrassing moments at the airport!
  • DO consider wearing a color other than black or white. Your photo will have a plain white background, so a colored shirt will help ensure your photo doesn’t look washed out. Is there some color you always get compliments when you wear? Go ahead and wear it for your passport photo!

Makeup – Put Your Best Face Forward!

Sad but true: photo retouching isn’t allowed in passport photos. You aren’t allowed to PhotoShop out your blemishes or dark circles. But you know what is allowed? Makeup!

Makeup can make a big difference between a mediocre photo and a fantastic one. Remember that makeup always looks more subtle in photos than it does in the mirror, so don’t be afraid to wear a heavier than normal coat of foundation and plenty of powder to keep down shine. (Another model tip: if your face is looking shiny, a brown paper napkin makes a great blotting paper in a pinch. Grab a few extras when you’re at the coffee shop!) Highlighting and contouring the face with light and dark makeup is a standard in the modeling industry; there are lots of great tutorials on YouTube if you want to give it a try.

And guys? No one will ever know if you used a dab of concealer on your under-eye circles, or a little bronzer or translucent powder to even your skin tone. It’s what celebrity actors do before they step in front of any camera!

Hairdos and Hair Don’ts

Get your hair cut and styled before your pic, It will look nice and styled for the next 10 years!

Whether or not you decide to hit the salon first, here are some tips on how to style your hair for your passport photo.

  • Make sure your hair isn’t covering your eyes or eyebrows. All of your features must be visible.
  • If you have long hair, we recommend that you brush it back behind your shoulders so your shirt is visible. If your hair is covering up all your clothing, it’s another reason that you might look naked in the photo!
  • Don’t wear thick headbands, large hair bows, or scarves in your hair. These could be considered “headgear” and could get your photo rejected! Thin ponytail holders, bobby pins, and small barettes are just fine.

Strike a Pose

Finally, practice your pose before you head to the photographer. Your passport photo needs to show you looking straight forward with a neutral expression, but that doesn’t mean you have to look grim. Sit up straight and roll your shoulders back to elongate the look of your neck. Don’t be tempted to lift your chin upwards to correct this – this will just expose more of the area under your jaw and make it look larger. Instead, thrust your chin forward an inch or so, as if you were a turtle poking your head out of your shell. It will feel awkward and unnatural, but it will make your jawline look firm in the photo. As I always say "Forehead Forward"