Three Ways To Keep A Headshot From Looking Like A Passport Photo

Posted on: 9 November 2018

One of the first things friends do when they're traveling out of the country together is to ask to see each other's passport photos. That's because these photos are often hilariously cringe-inducing. If you're getting your headshot taken to use for promotional material at work, your own website, or virtually any other reason, the last thing that you want is to have an image that looks like a passport photo. Hiring a professional photographer who has experience with headshots can reduce this risk, and there are other methods that you can also explore to ensure that no one thinks about passports when he or she sees your headshot. Here are some ideas.


Many passport photographers request that their clients don't smile—sometimes, a wide smile can be enough to get the photo rejected at the passport office. This is one of the reasons that your passport photo may look bad—you're staring ahead with a neutral or perhaps even intense facial expression. A big rule for having your headshot taken is to remember to smile. Smiling instantly makes you more attractive and appealing to people who might otherwise be turned off by a non-smiling image. Whether you smile with your teeth showing or not showing, you're immediately elevating your headshot beyond the passport photo level.

Turn Your Head

Another issue about passport photos is that they must be taken head on. The result can be awkward, especially when you aren't smiling. Keep in mind that a headshot doesn't have to be taken from this awkward direct angle. Any good photographer will ask you to turn your head a little and may move around you to shoot photos from several vantage points. Turning your head a little, rather than standing straight and staring forward, can give your headshot more of a natural and appealing look.

Decide On A Background

Passport photos must be taken in front of a neutral background, and this isn't generally an idea that you want to mimic for your headshot. While the background shouldn't be so lively that it's distracting, talk to your photographer about choosing a background that augments the photo. People often favor having their headshots taken outside because in addition to the natural lighting, there are all sorts of engaging backgrounds to consider. Indoors, there are plenty of good backgrounds, too, so get away from the idea of standing in front of a blank wall.