Ah, the driver's license photo. Most of us remember our first driver's licenses, complete with pictures of flushed and eager teenagers delighted at a chance to sport a set of car keys on the key chain. Somehow, however, the conditions in the department of motor vehicles always seem to be designed to make adults look like war criminals.
Fortunately, there are a few ways to avoid a dreadful license photo, and you might even end up with one you like.
Get some rest, and relax on the day of your appointment. Make sure to get a good night's sleep the night before, so that you don't look tired or haggard, and bring some reading material or other entertainment along so that you aren't frustrated if you have to wait. If you find yourself growing frustrated or impatient, remember that this will come out in your driver's license photo, so take a few deep breaths and try to think about the bigger picture, as it were.
Be nice to the employees at the DMV, as well; it might come in handy later.
Dress up. Choose a dark-colored shirt, which will prevent your photograph from looking washed out. Navy, dark grey, and black are all great colors to choose, because they shouldn't clash with whatever background is used.
Keep your neck area uncluttered; a scarf or chunky necklace will just look like a strange medical condition in the tiny square on your driver's license. If you wear earrings, choose a pair which is large enough to be clearly distinguished, or small enough to be almost unnoticeable in the photo; medium-sized earrings will look odd.
Also take the time to wash and style your hair. You may want to choose a style which adds volume, to keep your hair from looking lank and greasy. If you use hair color, get it touched up right before you go in for a new driver's license photo, because otherwise, the camera will zero in on your roots like you wouldn't believe.
Whether you're a man or a woman, use a little bit of powder or blotting paper right before your picture to cut down on shine. If you normally wear makeup, exaggerate it slightly so that it stands out in the photo, but don't go overboard, because you don't want to look garish. If you wear glasses, clean your lenses!
Stand in the right position, and smile. Don't slouch, and turn your shoulders away from the camera a bit, to present a softer, less chunky profile. Hold your head up high, and angle your chin up slightly to reduce shadows. This will also tighten the skin on your face.
Smiling is crucial to a good driver's license photo. While you don't need to go overboard, a closed mouth can appear set and hard. Right before the picture is taken, close your eyes and open them again, so that you won't blink right as the shutter clicks.
Ask to review your picture. Most DMVs today take digital photographs, so that they can print your license out instantly and enter your photograph into the records. If you've been polite to the staff, they will usually be happy to let you look at your picture and request a re-take.
While your driver's license photo may not turn out to be a work of art to stun the ages, with the above tips, it should come out looking less like a mugshot and more like a photograph of a real person.
s.e. smith is a connoisseur of literature, adventures, and fine food who loves sharing knowledge with others and putting her otherwise marginally useful liberal arts degree to good use.