how to take a good passport photo

Ah, it sounds so simple. But taking perfect passport photos isn’t as easy as it seems. 

Your photo needs to meet all kinds of strict HMPO requirements, so you’re probably wondering how to look good in your passport photo while also making sure your photo won’t be rejected. 

After all, you don’t want to be stuck with a passport photo you totally hate. You’ll likely be using it for the next 10 years, which is a very long time to hate a photo of yourself.

Since we take zillions of perfect passport photos every year, we’ve put together a complete guide on how to take a good passport photo for your next application. 

Here are 11 expert passport photo tips from our professional photographers! 

1. Nail your passport photo outfit

what to wear for a passport photowhat to wear for a passport photo

It all starts with choosing what to wear for your passport photo. Only your shoulders and collar will be visible, but your choice of shirt colour and style can be the difference between a good or bad passport photo. 

Avoid wearing ❌:

  • White shirts or tops that blend into the background
  • Strapless tops that’ll look like you aren’t even wearing a shirt
  • Hoodies that could obscure your face (and get your photo rejected)
  • Glasses, hats, headphones or anything else that breaks the rules!

Try wearing ✅:

  • Dark, solid colours that really pop against the white background
  • Plain shirts which don’t have any bold distracting patterns
  • Casual t-shirts, v-necks  and simple-collared shirts are great options
  • A modest amount of jewellery

2. Style your hair like you always do

passport photo hairstylespassport photo hairstyles

Passport photo hair rules are strict but simple. Just make sure your face is fully visible and don’t do anything out of the ordinary with your hair. 

Most people should just go for a normal, neat and neutral hairstyle. Those with longer hair might want to wear it up, just to make sure their eyes aren’t covered and their face isn’t obscured by shadows (as both these things will get your passport photo rejected). 

It’s a good idea to get a haircut a week or two before getting your passport photo - since you’ll look smart and fresh, but your hair’s had a chance to grow a little to better match what you normally look like. 

To really look good in your passport photo, don’t forget to pluck your eyebrows, trim your beard and go through your usual grooming routine before taking your passport photo! 

3. Strike a confident and relaxed pose

passport photo posepassport photo pose

Nothing ruins a passport photo quite like a big slouch. You’ll look lazy and lethargic, whereas standing up straighter will make you seem more confident and relaxed. 

A good tip for passport photos is to take a deep breath before it’s taken, as this will push your chest out, straighten your back, and roll your shoulders back a little. Easy peasy. 

4. Push your head forward slightly

passport photo pushing head forwardspassport photo pushing head forwards

The best passport photos involve making your jawline as flattering as possible. You want to avoid a double chin, so we recommend pushing your head forward to make your jawline appear clearer and more pronounced. 

It’s probably tempting to thrust your chin upwards instead, but this is a common faux pas since it’ll make your neck look far too long. By lifting your chin forward instead, your skin will stretch over your jaw and minimise the double chin effect!

5. Look at the camera without forcing your eyes open

You’ll always need to look directly at the camera for your passport photo, it’s one of the biggest rules. You probably already knew that, but there’s also a good chance you’re one of the many people who make the mistake of forcing their eyes open. 

We don’t blame you. Trying not to blink is everyone’s first instinct when they’re having a photo taken, but forcing your eyes open will make you look like a scared deer in headlights - if you raise your eyebrows too, you’ll also look a little surprised to be there. Yikes. 

Instead, we recommend you just totally forget about blinking altogether. You’ll take more than one passport photo, so just look at the camera and keep your eyes as natural as possible. It’ll be fine, trust us. 

6. Perfect the subtle “slight smile”

smiling for a passport photosmiling for a passport photo

The passport photo rules say that you need to maintain a neutral expression, but that doesn’t mean you need to keep your expression gloomy or angry. This is exactly how you end up with a passport photo that looks like a mugshot. 

While you can’t smile properly, lifting the corners of your mouth slightly will make you appear much friendlier and, well, less miserable. This very slight smile is okay for UK passport photos, so practice posing in front of the mirror to really nail this expression - smile too much (like the photo on the right) and your passport photo will be rejected!

7. Keep your make-up natural and neutral

applying make up for a passport photoapplying make up for a passport photo

Don’t worry, we aren’t gonna pretend to be make-up experts and talk about how to apply your foundation. We’ll leave that to Vogue. Instead, the best advice we can give you is to make sure your make-up is as natural as possible, and definitely don’t use it to cover up any distinctive marks. 

You might be tempted to get all glammed up, but the most important thing is your passport photo looks like you. Basically, this means you shouldn’t do anything dramatic, and instead go for a more neutral look that enhances your features. 

8. Make sure you’re well-rested and relaxed

well rested for a passport photowell rested for a passport photo

You’re trying to look good in your passport photo here, so you’ll definitely want to avoid red eyes and dark bags under your eyes. Always make sure you’ve had a good night’s sleep before your photo session, because tired eyes, headache and a bad mood are the perfect recipe for the worst passport photo you’ll ever take.  

It’s also a good idea to avoid taking your passport photo first thing in the morning (when you’re super sleepy), and instead wait until you’ve had a chance to exercise first (when you’re fresh and full of energy). 

9. Use a professional passport photo service

passport photos at Max Spielmann shopspassport photos at Max Spielmann shops

Taking a good passport photo on your phone can be really tricky. There are just so many rules involved these days that there’s a good chance you’ll get something wrong, your photo will be rejected, and your passport application will ultimately be delayed. 

Instead of trying to take a passport photo at home, use a professional passport service that ensures your photo will be accepted by HMPO. This means you can stop worrying about all the photo requirements, and instead focus on making sure you look your best. 

Yes, we offer online passport photos you can take at home, but we recommend getting professional, higher-quality passport photos in Max Spielmann shops instead. Our professional photographers will tell you exactly what to do, so just follow their instructions and you’ll have perfect passport photos in no time!

10. Natural light is your best friend

passport photo natural lightpassport photo natural light

This is one of the many reasons why using a professional passport service is such a good idea. To meet all the complicated rules and regulations, passport photos can only be taken in a certain light, and this lighting “sweet spot” can be a little hard to find on your own. 

You’ll need to use natural sunlight that comes from in front of you, while also positioning yourself perfectly so that there are no shadows. When using a photographer, the lighting is totally sorted for you so you won’t have to worry about it at all. 

11. Take loads of passport photos to choose from!

passport photos passport photos

Whether you’re taking passport photos at home or using a professional photographer, you’ll want to take at least a few passport photos so you can choose your favourite and make absolutely sure it meets the requirements. 

It doesn’t matter how photogenic you are, it’s unlikely you’ll nail your passport photo the first time. Even if you do, it doesn’t hurt to take a couple more so that you can experiment with your expression, pose and everything else involved. 

Our professional photographers will take a small selection of passport photos for you to choose your favourite, and will then take even more if you don’t like any of them. If you’re using our passport photo booths instead, you can take up to 10 photos until you’re 100% happy!