I hate all my ID pictures.
Seriously, I’ve never had a good one, whether it was for school, work, driver’s license, or passport (I can hear already my family laughing at the mention of this, since my horrendous passport picture has already managed to have airport security in countless countries do triple-takes at me and remark how much weight I’ve lost, even though I haven’t, etc. etc….it’s not fun).
So, a few weeks ago, I needed to get my driver’s license renewed and was thinking, OK — this time I’m going to really try and actually take my time getting ready. I get there…and it was closed. Of course it would be, because I GOT READY FOR IT.
The next day, I was passing by the DMV again decided to try again, this time totally unprepared. I tried to quickly pat down my hair, a little lip gloss, you know…anything that might help.
When it’s picture time, I sit down and hardly without warning, the old man behind the camera snaps away. He stops to look at the picture, pauses, and then says, “OK…just one more.” Great, here we go again.
He then quickly stops to look at the picture again, thinks about it, and goes, “Actually, it’s fine.”
It’s fine?? This doesn’t sound promising.
Sure enough, ten minutes later, he hands me Ugly ID Picture #2342. Just another one to add to to the collection.
So, yes, I pretty much accepted the fact that I’ll probably never have a flattering ID, and envy those with their beautiful pictures who barely blink when asked to show ID.
Then I thought, maybe I just don’t know how to pose for a picture. I turned to bi-coastal photographer, Peter Hurley, an expert on headshots, for some tips.
He told me, despite the poor lighting, dull background colors, and almost-zero time to prepare right before getting your picture taken, there are a few things you can do for a more covetable ID picture.
Tips for a better ID picture:
Instead of flashing a toothy smile (or none at all), keep your mouth closed and only smile slightly. “A slight smile adds some warmth,” he says.
OK not literally. Hurley says bringing your neck forward and leaning slightly out will have the effect of a tighter jawline, thus taking off the extra 10 pounds the camera adds.
A very slight squinty eye shows confidence. Obviously, don’t go overboard to seduce the camera — this is a standard ID picture we’re talking about. But Hurley adds, “Confidence and approachability will translate well in your picture.”
Leaving hair loose is fine, but just remember for a straight-on shot, make sure you keep your hair hanging over both your shoulders.
“If you have long hair behind your shoulders, it just looks cut off and won’t turn out nicely in the picture,” Hurley says.
Make sure your hair on either end is resting neatly between your shoulder and neck — meaning both sides are not meeting in the middle, and you’re also keeping your hair off your shoulders. Keep it tight.
To go in with a 5 o’clock shadow or not?
“Scruff absorbs a little more light and in bad lighting that you generally find where you get your standard ID pictures taken, this generally looks better,” Hurley says. “I always seem to like this effect, but if you’re normally clean shaven, it’s OK to go in clean shaven too.”
“This flattens the picture,” Hurley says. Though, he adds, this also depends greatly on the color of the background. Since you probably won’t know what that color will do, go for something vibrant.
“I shoot on white backgrounds, and I love everything from white to black and everything in between,” Hurley says. “Generally speaking, I’d suggest for women to wear a vibrant color, and men to choose something darker.”
Standard ID pictures are usually shot with blue backgrounds, so you want to avoid wearing shades of blue that will just blend in. The more contrast, the more your photo will pop.
OK, now I REALLY wish I talked to Peter before getting my picture taken. I guess there’s always 2014.
Peter Hurley is a NYC and LA-based photographer. Check out his website www.peterhurley.com for more picture-taking tips.