How to Take a Good Driver’s License Picture

July 17th, 2013 By  |  6 Comments   

After running out of one of my favorite skincare products a little ways back, Sunday Riley’s Good Genes Treatment, a pricey but darned-near perfect prince of a skin-smoothing product, I dashed over to spaceNK for a refill. At the register to pay for my prize, the sales associate asked to see my driver’s license, and when I handed it over, she took one look, paused and said, “Now THAT’S a really good DMV picture.”

“Thank you for noticing,” I replied, smiling broadly. “I worked really hard on it!”

It’s not easy to take a good driver’s license picture, not with so many things stacked against us — overhead fluorescent lighting, the industrial-strength flash, the totally unflattering photography backgrounds that usually look like murky ponds or closeups of gray oatmeal.

Seriously, why can’t they use something awesome for those backgrounds like lasers or palm trees?

Still, with a little preparation, a great driver’s license pic is but a click away.

Step 1: threads and styling


Dark gray top by James Perse

When it comes to DMV picture day clothes, the simpler the better (a lesson I learned the hard way). For my first DMV picture, I wore a long-sleeved, black-and-white houndstooth top with pleats.

I had Will Ferrel hair that day and looked like a student in clown college…

Stay away from anything too fussy or from colors close to your skin tone, because they can make you look naked! Try a fitted, solid color top in white, black or gray with a simple neckline. Avoid cowl necks, bulky knits and turtlenecks, which can all make your head look like a floating celestial body.

If you like jewelry, try some sparkly chandelier earrings because the bling will catch the light.

Step 2: hair and makeup


The same makeup I’m wearing in my license pic at the top

Bad lighting: the bane of good pictures. DMV offices always seem to use an industrial-strength flash, so you may want to skip your SPF that day. Under flash, products containing titanium dioxide can throw a gray or white cast on the skin.

For DMV makeup, think work lunch, but slightly more dramatic to ensure it shows up on camera, which does not mean red lips, frosty finishes and panda eyes. Super smokey eyes and bright lips can look severe. Consider something like golden brown neutral eyes with liner, peach cheeks and rosy pink lips, and save the shine for your lips. Try a little gloss dabbed in the middle of your lower lip for a fuller pout.

Whatever you do, bring blush to defend against the fluorescent overhead lighting that has a tendency to make the skin look sallow.

If your hair is long enough to wear down, that gets my vote. Try a style that won’t cover your face but will still soften the picture’s overall effect.

Step 3: strike a pose

Now it’s time to take your pic. Think about elongating your neck, and slightly tilt your head upward to minimize any dark circles.

See if you can get away with a smile. :) Some DMVs won’t allow it, but you never know unless you try. If they won’t, channel your inner Tyra and smize.

Don’t be shy! Ask if you can see the pic, and if you don’t like it, politely ask for a redo. I’ve done it the past couple of times, and both times it worked.

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,

Karen

6 Comments + Add Comment

  • Nice, I was just wondering about how to take good driver license picture! Saw your post at google plus! Very helpful!

  • Very nice picture. But I think it depends a lot on how one’s local DMV set’s up their flash and camera system. I groomed myself the best I could come day of the picture, and I came out white as a ghost. That’s a first for me considering I’m a Latino.

    Someone I know showed us their DMV picture, only his eyes and nose in the picture! It was hysterical!

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  • [...] P.S. And then there’s that scourge of photography lovers everywhere, the DMV! For help with that ever-important picture ID you have to show people all the time, check out my latest Gloss Daily post, How to Take a Good Driver’s License Picture. [...]

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