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A Quick Guide to your Best Passport Photo

Let’s be real. Passport photos certainly aren’t glamourous, but hey, your vacation in Paris will be so who cares, right?  In the U.S., you’ll need to plan to get a passport photo taken and printed to submit with your hard-copy application.  Here’s a general approach to get that done in the easiest way with the best results.

Where to Get a Passport Photo

Depending on where you live, you may have quite a few options of where to go get your passport photo taken. Some standard places include:

  • Shipping centers, like most UPS or FedEx locations
  • Pharmacies, like CVS or Walgreens
  • U.S. Passport Offices

I find that going somewhere like a CVS or Walgreens is super easy and quick.  That said, no matter where you go, be sure to call ahead to see if you need a reservation or to find out what days they may be staffed to handle it for you.

passport photos dos and dont's
Passport photo rules: no, no, yes!

What to Wear

While this is not a fashion shoot, you should make some plans to look like the best version of yourself. A passport is good for 10 years so consider a classic approach to hair and makeup as a good bet to outlast any short-term trends you’re currently repping. The government does also have some fairly strict rules and most passport photo locations will make you stick to them, so be ready to make the most of it.  

  • Wear normal street clothes (no uniforms unless it’s daily religious attire). I recommend wearing something you love or feel comfortable in.  There was once a time, not too long ago mind you, when photos were in black and white, but those days are done. So if your eyes really pop in that royal blue sweater with the white collar, that’s a great option to consider.  
  • No hats, headgear or headphones that can obscure your hairline. You’ll have to save the fedora for the Plaza Mayor in Madrid.
  • No eyeglasses either (although there are some medical allowances that require a signed statement).  If you’re like me, cool glasses are a statement piece these days, but you’ll need to go without them for your photo.
  • If you normally wear a wig or hearing device, you can wear them in the photo. This is a fair exception to the many rules.
  • Leave your smile at home.  We all know you’re never fully dressed without a smile; however, they do not allow you to smile. The guidelines call for a “neutral facial expression with both eyes open.”  I suggest you spend some time in front of a mirror practicing your best smize. (A smize is a smile with your eyes. Tyra taught me years ago. Fierce!)

What to do Next

Once you have your photo in hand, you’ll need to fill out the passport form online (either for your first passport or for a renewal). Then, you’ll submit your photo with the form (and some money of course) either through the mail or via an appointment at a passport center. Then after waiting anywhere from 4 to 10 weeks, you’ll be ready to go!


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