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How to Take Your Best Driver’s License Photo Ever

Okay, okay…I know you probably read that title and thought “no way, impossible, EVERYBODY looks like a criminal on their license!” Well, perhaps so, but following a few simple tips can help you look a whole lot better than you thought possible.

  1. Pick a nice outfit. This doesn’t mean cocktail attire; it simply means wear something that flatters you and that you feel good in. Confidence will show in the photo, especially as you straighten your back and lift your chin (see tips #2 and #3). However, it is best to steer clear of bright patterns, so try to choose a rich solid color over your favorite Hawaiian shirt.
  2. Sit up straight! Just like mom always said, we look best when we’re not slouching. Relax your shoulders so they drop away from your ears…shoulder pads went out of style in the 80’s, and it turns out that nobody really looks good when their shoulders are brushing their earlobes.
  3. Lift your chin. Tilting your head up a smidge past 45 degrees and putting your tongue at the roof of your mouth will help banish wrinkles and jowls any extra chins that you wish were not there.
  4. Brush your teeth. Clean, sparkly, spinach-free teeth are pretty.
  5. Brush your hair. Try to style it so it has a little extra volume, and if you usually wear a hat, leave it at home – you won’t be allowed to wear it anyway, and they will make you take it off and you will have hat-head.
  6. Wipe your face. It is a guarantee: the bright flash will make you look shiny. Take a tissue and blot gently, or make like grandma and powder your nose. Remember, you will have this picture for years and many people will see it, so this is one time that primping in public is perfectly fine.
  7. Open your eyes. Really. Ask the photographer to give you a count down and then look into the lens, calmly. Don’t try to blink a lot or not at all, because odds are you will end up with some odd facial contraction that will not be flattering.
  8. And speaking of the photographer, this may be the most important tip of all: BE NICE. The man or woman behind the camera has the power to cause you heaps of misery and humiliation for the foreseeable future, and you need them to be on your side. Be friendly, ask them about their day, offer them a piece of gum…whatever. People are often rude to DMV employees, so they will likely appreciate your making a sincere effort to be the opposite. And who knows? If they like you enough, they may allow you a re-take!
  9. Smile, don’t grimace. Remember how scary Jack Nicholson was in “The Shining”? Don’t do that. Many states have adopted a “no smile” policy; here in Indiana, it’s “smile but don’t show your teeth”. Find out what your state’s policy is, and practice at home. Don’t worry, nobody’s watching.

If the end result of all this effort is STILL a truly awful picture, you can always ask for a retake. They may not do it, or they may charge you for it, but it never hurts to ask. If they refuse and you’re stuck looking like your worst nightmare (or your Aunt Mildred) for the next five to seven years, then remind yourself that some of the best driver’s license pictures are actually the most hideous!

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