You’re going to be looking at your passport photos for the next ten years, so you want it to look great every time you flash yours at customs.
Thankfully, you can take your own passport photo nowadays (although the U.S. State Department specifically forbids selfies). That means you’re no longer stuck taking it under the lovely fluorescent lights of your local Walgreens.
But, there are rules for what you can wear for a passport photo. Pretty wild, huh?
Read on to learn what to wear — and what not to wear — for a passport photo that looks good today, and ten years later when your passport is filled with stamps from all over the world.
What not to wear for a passport photo
First up, let’s cover what not to wear when taking your passport photo. The State Department will reject photos if you’re wearing:
- A uniform or camouflage attire
- Hat or head covering (although there are some exceptions for religious or medical purposes)
- Headphones or earbuds
- Any jewelry that covers up your face
What to wear for a fabulous passport photo
The purpose of a passport photo is to identify you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a little style. Here’s what to wear for a passport photo that looks good and gets approved!
Photo from Kristina Pimenova
Outfit ideas for your passport photo
The State Department prefers if you wear everyday street clothes for your passport photo. Although, while athleisure maybe your everyday look — and it’s totally okay to wear yoga clothes in your passport photo — we wouldn’t recommend it. It’s common to use your passport as one of your identification documents when you get a new job, and it can be awkward to have HR Xeroxing a photo of you in a crop top for your employee file.
Instead, we recommend wearing a more professional outfit, like something you might wear at the office. Shirts, sweaters, and dresses are all great options, but pay special attention to the collar. It’s better to wear something with a higher neckline so that it shows in the final cropped version of the photo. If you're wearing a boat neck or tank top, it could get cut out, and then it looks like you’re naked! Oops!
Photo from Gabbie Hanna
Also, you’ll need to take your photo against a white or off-white background, so consider wearing a darker color so you don’t blend into the wall!
Jewelry and passport photos: yay or nay?
Yes! You can wear jewelry in your passport photo, so long as it doesn’t obscure your face. We recommend a subtle pair of studs or a simple pendant necklace. You don’t want it to cause glare or be too distracting.
What you can’t wear, surprisingly, is your glasses! So make sure to wear your contacts or just take your glasses off when it’s time to say cheese.
Passport photo hair and makeup tips
Your hair cannot obscure your face. So, if you wear your hair down, tuck it behind your ears or pin it back as Kim K. did. Just be sure to use bobby pins and nothing that could be classified as “headgear” (like a headband, barrette, or scrunchie). Of course, you can always make it easy and go with a cute ponytail.
Makeup, like your hair, should also be clean and simple. Go for a fresh-faced, everyday look. BuzzFeed’s got a great guide to doing your makeup for photos so you look on point.
Strike a (passport) pose
Finally, it's time to take your passport photo! It can help to have Madonna’s “Vogue” playing in the background.
Passport photos are pretty limited when it comes to acceptable poses. You’ll need to look straight into the camera and have a neutral expression, although a small closed-lip smile is okay (no teeth!). Stand tall, roll back your shoulders, and bust out your best smize a la Tyra Banks.
Roam often, stay stylish.