"Please make this picture better than my last one..." Have you ever muttered this desperate prayer as you approach the tired photo background at the DMV? You position yourself the mandated distance from the man behind the camera - a man who may even derive some dull pleasure in capturing the worst possible image of you. And why wouldn't he? He's probably sick of hearing people mutter desperate prayers whenever they see him! So how can you beat the odds and get a good driver's license picture?
To take a great driver's license picture:
- Dress up. You don't have to bring out your Sunday best or dress like you're going to the swankiest dance club in town, but wearing a tank-top or grungy, dirty, or moth-ridden clothing won't impress anyone. You might only get one shot at this in several years, unless you pay extra, so you might as well opt for a slightly better-than-usual outfit. Dressing up a bit will also affect your mood and level of confidence as you get your picture taken.
- Wipe your face immediately beforehand. One of the most common complaints is that the flash of the photo makes your face shiny enough to blind someone. You can avoid (or at least reduce) that sheen by wiping your face off - even the slightest amount of sebum on your face can negatively affect the outcome of your driver's license picture.
- Contact lenses over eyeglasses. Some of us (myself included) can't bear the thought of putting anything onto the surface of our eyeballs. But others enjoy the option of wearing either glasses or contacts. If you have that option, choose your contact lenses for your driver's license picture; glasses tend to give you that "demon possession" look thanks to the reflection of the flash.
- You might be able to retake it. Many DMVs allow you to retake your driver's license picture immediately afterward if you're very displeased by the first attempt. However, some departments require you to pay for the extra opportunity, and still other DMVs won't give you the option. If your photographer doesn't offer a retake, it never hurts to ask for one.
- Try to go during non-peak traffic time. Pay attention to the times of the week when your local DMV is less crowded; these lulls are the best times to visit if you want to be "pampered" a bit more by the photographer. You may stand a better chance of being offered an uncustomary retake.
- Lower your expectations. Driver's license pictures are notoriously awful. Don't go to the DMV expecting to look better on film than you've ever looked before; regardless of the superiority of your photo compared to other driver's license pictures, it'll still look more like a mug-shot than a glamor shot.
- Bad is good? Are you sure you want your driver's license picture to look that good? Many would argue that the best photos are the most hideous ones. Most of your friends and family undoubtedly have terrible driver's license pictures; having a lousy photo will ensure that you are part of a broad majority of people who can laugh at them together. From a more practical standpoint, however, a bad driver's license photo could come in handier when you're pulled over for speeding - a pathetically unflattering photo is more likely to get you off the hook than a stunningly good one. It helps to drive a pathetic car, too (take my word for it).
Your driver's license picture isn't likely to be the best photo of your life, but it doesn't have to be your worst either. And if it is your worst, then you're in good company!