How to take a decent passport photo

take a decent passport photoYou know what the strangest part about being married is? Changing your name. Sure, you don’t have to – but I am (sort of, staying Riley for work right now) but otherwise, I am changing my surname to Thorne. With that comes all the new formal documents you need to make it happen. Including a new passport (which when you only just got a new one three years ago is a tad annoying). But, in the process of applying it got me thinking about the photos. So here’s my little How to take a decent passport photo guide.

1. Face:

You want to go for a base with a bit of a glow, but keep it matte in the t-zone. Basically photo booth pictures can wash you out – so even if you leave the contour to Kimmy K on the average day. The day you take your picrtures is the day to use your make-up to add a little extra dimension. Add a touch of highlight to lift the cheeks. Blush so you don’t look washed out by the fairly strong lighting in these booths now. Plus a touch of bronzer/countour powder under the cheekbones, a little down the chin/neck area and on the temples to create a bit of definition. Obviously blend, blend, blend – you don’t want stripes, just the look of shape/lift where you want it.

If you’re not keen on trying contouring at all – then just make sure you have a foundation that leaves you with a natural glow. Mattify the t-zone and brighten under the eyes and add a pop of your favourite blush. If using a highlighter then keep the blush matte.

2. Eyes:

For the eyes, I went with my current love that is the Urban Decay Naked Basics Palette 2 – this is a great palette to use for Passport photos. I’d avoid coloured make-up as you don’t want A) your photo to get rejected and B) to look at your photo and cringe for the next 10 years. So basically rule out any trend-led make-up looks for these photos. These shadows work because they’re neutral and mostly matte – so they add definition but keep it looking natural. Just helping to make the eyes stand out rather than stealing the limelight.

3. Brows:

Define/fill in your brows – again, will help give your face some definition where it can end up washed out by the bright lighting. Don’t goo too heavy and risk a scouse-brow, and don’t skip this step and end up looking like you had none. My current go-to for brows is the Revlon Brow Fantasy – the pencil is quite pale, so hard to go wrong and the gel just keeps things in place. Easy.

4: Lips: 

Like the rest of the face, you want to keep it fairly neutral and natural. But to again add dimension I went for a nude pink gloss Clarins Instant Light Lip Perfector. Another good option is the bareMinerals Marvellous Moxy Gloss in Rebel – a classic shade that’s absolutely perfect for day to day if you want something a touch more glossy.

5. Hair:

Whatever your hair style or colour is – of course don’t go to lengths to change it for a passport photo. But do make your hair is tucked back and not covering your face or else you do risk the picture being rejected. Other than that, just give it a brush and you’re pretty much good to go!

6. Choose your booth wisely

As I said, they have come on a long way in recent years – with constant white light instead of a blinding flash that probably just makes you squint and look like a rabbit in headlight. But choosing where you get your photo taken can make all the difference. There are a few of these booths in mainline stations around London – I headed for the one at King’s Cross and found it to be a perfect choice. It was tucked away, so I wasn’t surrounded by people waiting for a train or anything that made it feel rushed. The same at Victoria – being near to the passport office it makes sense that they have a row of about 3/4 of them. They’re not in the main station area, so don’t feel surrounded or busy so you can take your time. Personally I’d opt for these over in-store photo options that places like snappy snaps or similar offer. Purely because I don’t want to feel under pressure or rushed.

When in your booth of choice, take a moment to position the stool to the right level. Check for any random stray hairs or smudged make-up and go for it.

7. DON’T Smile, but pose (ish)

Not as easy as it sounds. But for Passport photos in the UK you’re not allowed to smile. So I did try to pull my best Tyra Banks and do a bit of a ‘smize’, probably ended up looking more deranged than ANTM… but still. Shoulders down and back, chin a little forward and ever so slightly down (feels unnatural but works for a face photo), face forward (passport photo requirement). Then,  if you want, one little tip is to press your tongue into the roof of your mouth as it apparently helps give you a little extra shape to the cheekbones.

But as best as you can try to smize, it’s kinda hard not to look a little bit odd when not smiling.

8. Choose clothes wisely

Ok, so most of your clothes don’t show in photos now as the face is taking up most of the shot. But you still want to avoid some things that may just date or be unflattering in photos. Perhaps avoid roll-neck jumpers. Colours that clash with your hair/eyes. Any sort of overly-bright or busy print. Ideally you want a soft or subtle colour that flatters your colouring. It’s not the end of the world by any means, but my advice would be play it down. Although having said that – avoid white – unless you want to look like a floating head.  Oh, and don’t wear anything strapless or else you will look like you’re naked.


Now, I am far from a posing or photo-taking expert – but hopefully those tips will stand you in good stead to avoid raised eyebrows questioning you at immigration on your next trip… or just a plain old cringe whenever you have to pull out your passport. Any more decent-passport-photo tips to add, leave them in the comments! Happy travels!



  1. SaraGi
    October 9, 2014 / 1:12 pm

    Yours is one good looking photo!!!I always struggle with mine…great advice!

  2. October 9, 2014 / 2:44 pm

    You came away with a good photo! Mine is too embarrassing to share with the world! I wish I had this advice before I got my passport photo taken 🙂


  3. October 9, 2014 / 3:17 pm

    Great advise! I’m due to update my passport in 2017 which seems like so far away considering I got my last passport photo taken when I was just 16. I look so different now! I will definitely keep these points in mind for my update!


  4. November 4, 2016 / 10:13 am

    Nice tips! I think these tips will help people to take a decent passport photo.

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