How to look good in your passport and visa pictures

There are only a few things more exciting than traveling out of the country and exploring a whole new place. Just taking in the sights and sounds and absorbing a rich, unfamiliar culture can change you in ways that you wouldn't have imagined. But before the fun part, there's the paperwork that you need to get through first, that is, a passport and/or a visa.

Information about the requirements are easy to find, but how about the pictures you need to take? Of course we want to look pretty - or at least, human - in our passports/visas, so here's a guide on how to achieve just that with a bit of makeup!


First things first: the most important thing to remember is that you can't wear or do anything above your shoulders that would drastically alter your resting face. That means, no jewelry, no smoky eyes or loud lips, no angling your face or even smiling. So how do you look photogenic without all these things? How do you make your skin look great even in bad lighting? Here's my advice!

Tip #1: Wear a matte foundation with little to no SPF. A foundation with over SPF20 typically shows a white cast due to the sun protecting ingredients, so avoid that when having your pictures taken by cameras with flash. Matte is recommended because that harsh flash also magnifies the shine of light-reflecting makeup.

In any case, don't forget to retouch with powder before your photo sesh! And wear foundation that matches your neck.

Tip #2: Define your features well but keep the colors muted. You want to look professional and put-together. Do your eyebrows slightly darker, wear only brown/black eyeliner, blush should be light, and lips are ideally a muted pink. Avoid bright colors and go for natural-looking, clean, and polished makeup.

Here's my actual visa photo, for your reference! This was taken last November.


That's my daily look but with a slightly heavier hand, as I expected the flash would wash out most of the makeup in the photo. Which brings me to my third and possibly most important tip...

Tip #3: Contour as if your life depends on it. Apply contour powder on your jaw, sides of the face, nose, and eye crease. This is sorta kinda like cheating but remember, the camera and the weird lighting won't show how you actually look in real life. So tip the odds in your favor by contouring correctly.

Some visa photos are also printed out in black and white like in my Japan visa, so the contouring really helped me look presentable here.


Contouring shows up better in black and white

Additional pointers to lessen the possiblity of having your visa picture returned by an embassy:

  • Wear a collared shirt when going in for your visa picture.
  • Your hair should not cover your face. It should be able to show your ears.
  • Don't forget to use a white background if you're taking your own photo.

And those are the most important things to remember really! Keep your makeup clean but slightly heavier, contour, and if you can, look as nice a person as possible. ^_^ This will go a long way in making a good impression, especially if you're applying for a visa.

Good luck! If you have more tips, please share in the comments!