How to


My passport photo is atrocious. Full on serial killer-eyes, cat lady-hair atrocious. I took it under highly pressurised circumstances at Liverpool Street Station, while en route to get an emergency passport for a last-minute press trip to the US. There was no time to consider my make-up, hairstyle or how many weeks it had been since my last eyebrow threading appointment. Instead, I just had to get throw my last four quid into the slot and go for it. The results will haunt me forever - or at least until 2021, when the offending document will finally be up for renewal.

Having a good passport photo is one of those things that really shouldn’t matter at all, but somehow does. So if your passport expiration date is on the horizon, here are a few ideas on how to take a flattering new photo and make the next ten years of international travel that little bit more glamorous…


There are two basic options for getting your passport photo taken: A good old-fashioned photo booth, easily located in major train stations and vast suburban supermarkets, or the services on offer at photo shops like Snappy Snaps and Jessops. Despite my own, less than successful experiences, I actually prefer a traditional photo booth. The images are usually far less hi-def than you’d get from a Snappy Snaps SLR, resulting in a slightly blurry effect that acts like an Instagram filter for your face. Just what we’re after!


Generally, sleek hair works better in passport photos - Mariah Carey-style mermaid waves can look frizzy and make your face appear rounder (take it from someone who worked that out the hard way). Get some volume going up the top, and bear in mind that if you have long hair, it will probably be cut off from the breast bone down. Also unless you have perfect facial symmetry, a dead centre parting might not do you any favours under the harsh photobooth flash, so embrace an off-centre or sideswept style instead.


Resurrect a long forgotten ‘80s obsession and think about your ’colours’ - aka the family of tones that best compliment your skin and can therefore help you to look much more vibrant in photographs. As a general rule of thumb, those with yellow-toned skin look good in rich, warm colours, while cooler, pink-toned skins suit colours with blueish undertones. Opt for a simple, block-coloured top in a flattering shade and you’ll look at least 18% healthier in your photo. (Scientific fact).


You and your travel companions are going to be looking/potentially laughing at your passport photo for the next ten years, so this is probably not the time flex your fashion guns. Keep things simple in a sleek shirt or scoop neck t-shirt, and avoid patterns at all costs (stripes aside, most patterns date very quickly).


Shiny, sticky lip gloss always looks very ‘baby prostitute’ in passport photos. Ditto any type of sparky eyeshadow/bronzer, or even strong, smokey eyes. Aim instead for an amped-up natural look: nude tones on lips, lightly defined eye make up, maybe a delicate smattering of false lashes (although definitely no thick strip lashes) and perhaps even some - gentle! - contouring. On which note…


Photographs are where a skilfully contoured make-up look really comes in to its own. If you have no idea where to start, then check out this tutorial from Into The Gloss which will take you through a subtle way to accentuate your bone structure without ending up with a Boy George-style ‘jaw’ shadow.


Generally, having a bit of neck and chest on show will be far more flattering than a crewneck tee or polo neck. Just be sure to check that your face and neck are the same color as your chest (this is a general rule of thumb in life, actually; not just passport pics).


Passport photo regulations are fairly rigid so unfortunately there’s no scope to go crazy with your “photo face”. But you can wind the booth chair up so that your chin is slightly angled downwards, thus creating the illusion of slimmer face and a smaller nose.


If you’re the type of person who takes 47 selfies before posting a single update to Instagram, then you might want to consider taking your own photo. The website shows you how to take your own digital photo in adherence with government standards, then creates a passport photo sheet that you can either print at home or take into your local photography shop. Here’s to ten years of being the girl with the great passport photo. Smug Face.