Can You Smile in a Passport Photo?

Unless you’re extremely photogenic or impossibly beautiful, you must know the dread associated with taking a passport photo. What can you do to make yourself look slightly more attractive? Is a bright smile the key to feeling satisfied with your passport picture five or ten years from now? Or is it keeping a straight face that could not lead you astray?

Follow this guide to better understand what is required of a passport photograph, whether you can smile in a passport photo and what you can do to look your best.

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Passport photo- official requirements

A photo that can be attached to your passport application has to fulfill certain requirements. For example, each passport photograph must be in color, taken against a white or off-white background. You also need to print it on either matte or glossy paper. The size of a passport photograph is defined as well- it should be 2 inches by 2 inches, with your head taking between 70 and 80% of the space, so between 1 and 1 ⅜ inches. You should also remember that all photos attached to passport applications have to be taken within the last 6 months, so you’d better make sure yours is a recent one. 

There is a long list of other official requirements, including basic ones such as:

  1. You cannot use filters- it has to be a clear image of your face
  2. You should take off your glasses, headphones, and/or headgear, including big bows or large hair bands unless allowed for religious reasons or medical purposes (which must be stated in a signed statement). Contact lenses are allowed as long as they do not alter the natural color of your eyes.
  3. Hair, jewelry, or accessories cannot cover your face or eyes.

That is however just the beginning. Other requirements are more specific: the photograph has to be sharp, so there can be no visible pixels or printer dots. You are not allowed to digitally alter or retouch both your appearance (for instance remove red eyes) or the background (through cropping).

When taking your passport picture, you need to face the camera with your head centered in the frame (and not tilted), with your upper body also facing the camera. 

Taking passport photos in uniform or camouflage attire is also not allowed for both adults and children. 

Is smiling in a passport photo allowed?

It used to be the norm that passport applications were only accepted if the applicant’s photo was taken without a smile.

However, contrary to popular belief, the rules concerning your expression on a passport photo have been gradually relaxed and there is no longer a need to maintain a straight face. You are allowed to smile in your passport photo, provided it is a natural smile and you do not open your mouth. 

Can you show teeth in your passport picture?

A wide smile, although it might be tempting to show off your full set of teeth, is not allowed for the simple reason that it could influence facial recognition. A smile distorts the proportions and features of your face and could make it difficult- especially for biometric scanners, more and more common at airports nowadays- to match you to the document. For the same reason, remember that you need to keep both your eyes open. 

Can a photo with a smile be rejected?

If your smile is considered too wide or the expression on your face unnatural, your passport application might be rejected, giving you fewer reasons to smile.

So if you feel like the line between a natural smile and one that is no longer considered natural is blurred, you can always stick to a natural, neutral expression.

To ensure that your facial expression is natural, keep your lips pursed together and refrain from speaking when taking your passport photo. 

Parents of small children may wonder whether this rule also applies to their children and the answer is yes- however with babies and newborns, the officials are less strict, as we all know how difficult it might be to force a child to maintain a given facial expression. In a nutshell- a smile is okay, but a photo with a laughing or crying baby will be rejected. 

Feeling overwhelmed?

Getting dizzy after reading all those requirements concerning passport photos? 

Making sure you’ve met all the conditions for getting your photograph, and by consequence, your passport application accepted by the relevant authorities seems like a job in itself. 

However worry not, as there are ways to help you out. Dedicated software for taking identity pictures, will make sure your photo meets all the official requirements, crop it to the right size and make it ready to be printed and sent. There is also a warranty, giving you the assurance that the photo you selected will be accepted by the institution you submit it to and a refund, covering twice the amount you paid for using the software. All you have to do is either select the right photo from your smartphone’s photo roll or take a new one just for the occasion and upload it to the service in three seconds, via the website or the app available on Google Play and App Store. You can take and retake as many snaps as you like until you find one you are satisfied with. 

Since the pose and proportions, the face should take in the photograph have to meet formal requirements and are decided upon, one feature that can make or break your passport photo is your facial expression. Whether you decide to have a sober face or to smile lightly, the key is to look natural. We all know that having your photo taken can be a stressful experience, but don’t let the pressure get to you-roll back your shoulders, stand tall and think of something pleasant that happened lately to give your face a friendly look- smile or not.

FAQ

Is it okay to smile in a passport photo?

Actually, smiling in a passport photo is allowed, as long as it is a natural smile. What is not okay is having an exaggerated expression. Just remember to keep your mouth shut, do not show your teeth, raise your eyebrows or bulge your eyes out.

Can you smile with teeth in a passport photo?

You should not show your teeth and keep your mouth closed when smiling in a passport photo. A natural smile is allowed, but a wide smile that shows your teeth could change your facial features and compromise the work of biometric scanners at the airport.

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