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How to Look Good in Photos, Even For Your Passport and License

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Is it just us or are all driver’s license photos… not so flattering? Perhaps it’s some combination of fluorescent lighting and 5-hour-DMV-line fatigue, but we always end up looking like something the cat dragged in—not awesome for a picture we have to have for years. To get some advice for how to improve the outcome of pics snapped in less than desirable circumstances, we spoke to celebrity makeup artist Marina Gravani. Read on for her tips. 

Find your light

Fluorescent lighting can cast weird shadows on the face, so make sure to use concealer under your eyes. Marina recommends Cle de Peau for its wearing power and coverage. You’ll also want to brighten the high planes of the face—that is, the forehead, cheekbones, nose, and chin. Use a matte bronzer and a good powder, like Laura Mercier translucent powder, to eliminate shine and set your foundation. But, as Gravani points out, you’ll have to look at the photo for quite some time, so it’s best to avoid any makeup that's too trendy. “Your license or passport photo should be an elevated version of your fresh-faced day look,” she says. “Go a little heavier on the eyeliner or mascara and don't forget to fill in your eyebrows! They can disappear in that lighting.” We love the control of Anastasia’s thin-tipped Brow Wiz.

Perfect your angle

Ask the photographer to raise the camera and point down. According to Gravani, that angle will make for a more flattering photo. “If they won't cooperate with that request, you can usually request to see it and get a couple redos,” she suggests. “Know your angles and which side of your face to tilt in order to look best in photos.” You can even do a few test shots at home before you go; the practice will actually help you any time you have to pose.

Do an at-home shoot

For passport photos, you can usually take them yourself, even with your phone. To give you good lighting, “commission a friend to hold a sheer white fabric, like a linen napkin or white T-shirt, over the smartphone light,” says Gravani, adding that you have to hold it so that it covers the light only, not the viewfinder, so the fabric doesn't show up in the photo. This will bounce the light onto your face and give you a glow. Use a light, neutral background, too. Beige or gray sheets work well for this.

Blend your base

In any flash photography situation, go with foundation that’s a bit darker than your complexion, or mix a darker tinted moisturizer with your regular foundation. Just remember to take it all the way down your neck. “You don't want to have that dreaded white face/dark body in the photo! The darker hue will help counteract the blowout from the flash,” says Gravani. Good to remember for night-time events and parties!