How to avoid regretting your passport photo

It is a sad fact, but many people live to regret their passport photo. They end up cringing whenever they see it and take desperate measures to make sure others don’t lay their eyes on it as well. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Before posing for your next passport photo, consider these five steps and avoid the likelihood that you’ll one day look back and hang your head in embarrassment.

Choose a simple hairstyle

Hair really can make or break a passport photo. That is why your safest bet is to choose a simple and timeless style. Also, avoid too many hair products as these can make you look rather greasy.

Watch what you wear

Avoid the urge to wear anything that hasn’t already stood the test of time. This means steering clear of clothes that have just come into fashion. If not, the picture might haunt you like a bad 80s prom dress.

Don’t pose

Make sure you keep a relatively straight face and resist the urge to flash a smile. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t pout and should instead focus on looking directly at the camera.

Prepare for the picture

Believe it or not, you can actually prepare for a passport picture. This includes getting a new haircut or plucking your eyebrows. Men might want to trim their facial hair so it is neat and tidy.

Don’t leave it until the last minute

If you leave your passport photo until the last minute, you’re just increasing the chance that it could go wrong. Instead, take the picture when you have got time to reflect on if it’s right for you. If it’s not, you should still have time to snap another before the deadline.

Look back and smile

It really is possible to look back and smile when you see your passport photo. Just make sure you follow these relatively easy steps and you could be grinning for years to come (or at least until it’s time to renew your passport again).

How to prepare in advance for a passport photo

Passport photos last for years, but it always seems to surprise you when a new one is needed (unless it’s a baby passport photo, of course).

However, that day does come round every so often and, when it does, you want to make sure your image is as perfect as possible. After all, you will have to use it for many years to come! Here’s how to prepare for the ideal passport photo.


Bear in mind that only your upper chest and above will appear in the photo, so dressing in your best trousers isn’t going to make a difference.

Focus on the shirt you wear, picking something that’s comfortable yet appropriate. Think about what you’d wear to a smart-casual event.

Also, ditch the jewellery and try to avoid bright colours, both of which can leave a less flattering appearance in a black and white photo.

Finally, don’t wear the same clothes you used for the previous photo. It has been known for people to have their photo rejected because the authorities thought it was the same one from years before!


Have it cut about two weeks before the photo, giving it a bit of time to grow out and look natural.

Also, don’t go for the model look on the day – just stick with the same hairdo you have every other morning. The photo is for passport control to recognise you, not a fashion agency to hire you.


If you have poor eyesight, ditch the glasses for the day. Although they tend not to cause problems, the glare off them can sometimes reflect in the photo.


Finally – and this relates to your eyes also – get enough sleep the night before and steer clear of any wild parties.

No matter how hard you try on the day, if you were downing shots the night before, those bags under your eyes will be impossible to get rid of. If you doubt this, just ask any student who got their registration card picture taken during Freshers’ Week!

Photo: by eflon licensed under Creative commons 2

What is facial recognition technology and how does it work?

All new passport photos must include unique, measurable physical characteristics which enable facial recognition technology. Such passports are often referred to as a biometric passport, an e-passport, ePassport or a digital passport.

This is a combined paper and electronic passport that uses biometric technology to identify the identity of travellers. Using the Paspic service will ensure that your passport photo meets the guidelines set by the International Civil Aviation Organization.

Every face has as individual shape made up of nodal points, or valleys and peaks, with each face having around 80. Facial recognition software measures and matches these unique characteristics through a digital camera and compares your face to the photograph recorded on the ‘chip’ in your passport.

It analyses the characteristics of a person’s face by measuring the overall facial structure, such as the distance between eyes, nose width, eye socket depth, cheekbone shape, mouth shape, and jaw line length.

There is a process involving four stages to fully identifying a traveller from their passport photo. The first stage is to capture the image; then there is the extraction of data from the photo, creating a template; a comparison is made between an existing database and the new photo; and a match is then found (or not in some cases). This process takes an average of five seconds.

Facial recognition is the least intrusive and fastest biometric tool to identify passengers. It works better than other points of recognition such as finger prints in which the user is required to place their hand on a reader. This process is not acceptable in some cultures as well as being a source of illness transfer. Human eyes can be individually identified too but this poses a more logistical issue of getting travellers to precisely position their eye in front of a scanner.

Within an airport setting, rather than having to go through the staffed system where your passport is reviewed by a Border Force officer, an ePassport allows you to use the automated gates. This means avoiding lengthy queues and is actually reported to be 20% more accurate than the average person at detecting fraud.

The six month rule: don’t let it ruin your holiday

You’re grabbing that last minute cheap break; your bags are packed, and you’ve got your passport. It’s valid and even your passport photo looks pretty good. You’re ready to hit the beach and top up your tan before the cold weather sets in. Now stop and check your passport again. Depending on your destination, your passport may need to have at least six months validity left before its expiration date.

Travelling to the EU

Until the government finally triggers Article 50, British citizens still enjoy the right to travel freely in the EU. And if your passport is in date you’re free to travel, even if it’s due to expire the day after you travel. If you do have to push things that close to the wire, be aware that you will need to contact your nearest British Embassy for a permit to travel back to the UK. It’s a costly and time consuming procedure and best avoided by planning ahead but the implication is clear – for travelling in the EU, so long as your passport is in date, you’re free to travel.

Going further afield

The situation gets a little more complicated when you travel outside the EU. Countries including Brazil, Ecuador, Turkey, Tunisia and Israel all require that you have at least six months’ validity left on your passport before you leave the UK. Some countries, like New Zealand and South Africa, also require that your passport still has at least 30 days validity left once you exit the country.

Check with your booking agent or airline

If you’re unsure – and the six month rule can be confusing – check with your booking agent or airline. They should be able to advise you on all passport related issues, plus flagging up whether you need a visa to travel to your chosen destination.

There’s nothing worse than missing out on a dream holiday because of passport issues. So if your passport is close to its expiration date, plan ahead and get your new passport photos ordered so you’re ready to renew when the time comes.

Photo: Calendar* by DafneCholet licensed under Creative commons 2