Tender Workshop | How to look good in your driver's license photo

How to look good in your driver’s license photo

  Reading time 10 minutes

When you think about pivotal photographs, passport pictures and driver’s license photos might not be the first that come to mind, yet they are images you’ll be carrying around for years. Making sure you look good in your license picture goes beyond mere vanity; it also ensures that you feel confident every time you need to identify yourself. Whether you’re posing for a new driving licence or renewing an existing one, the goal is to create a photo that you’re proud to show, with a true-to-life representation that looks more like you on your best day.

Introduction to Looking Good for Your Photo

We’ve all seen or taken license photos where the subject doesn’t look their best, possibly even unrecognizable in some circumstances. The importance of a good driver’s license photo lies in the fact that it’s not only a legal document but also often used as a primary form of ID. It needs to be an accurate portrayal of your appearance. Preparing for the picture requires a bit of effort before being there at the DMV. Planning your grooming, outfit, and the ins and outs of capturing a good image will make all the difference.

Tender Workshop | How to look good in your driver's license photo

Grooming and Style Tips for a Flattering Image

Hair and Makeup Advice for the Perfect Shot

For many, the question often arises: should you wear makeup for such an official photograph? The answer is: yes, if that’s part of your everyday look. However, makeup for license pictures should highlight your natural features without being overdone. Think of it as your “everyday” makeup – ensuring you look like yourself on a normal day. As for hair, it should not cover your face or eyes. It should be styled neatly, away from your face to ensure your features are fully visible.

Choosing the Right Outfit for Your Driver’s License Photo

Outfits in driver’s license photos could also play a pivotal role in how good you look. Here’s what to consider:

  1. Pick a top with a simple neckline that does not distract from your face.
  2. Avoid shirts with logos or graphics that could become outdated or make the photo look busier than necessary.

Remember, certain elements of your top will not be visible in the photo; focus on necklines and colors that compliment your skin tone. Solid colors generally photograph better than busy patterns. While you may not be wearing the entire outfit in the photo, feeling good in what you’re wearing can boost your confidence, which will reflect in your picture.

The Role of Colors and Necklines

When it comes to the role of colors and necklines in licence photos, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Colors: Choose colors that complement your skin tone and do not blend with the background. It’s generally advisable to avoid white, as it can blend with the background and make you look washed out.
  • Necklines: A V-neck or scoop neck can help elongate your neck and frame your face better than a high neckline, which could also be obscured by the requirement to not wearing anything that obstructs the view of your face.
Best Color Choices for ID PhotosEffect on Appearance
BlueTrustworthy, professional
GreenFresh, youthful
PurpleCreative, luxurious
BlackSlimming, classic

Knowing these nuances and understanding what does or does not work will guide you to looking your best, emphasizing that you’re not just there for documentation – you’re also there to impress.

Tender Workshop | How to look good in your driver's license photo

The Right Pose and Expression

Crafting the perfect driver’s license photo isn’t just about grooming and attire; your pose and expression play crucial parts too. For a pose that looks good, keep your body square to the camera and sit up straight to project confidence. Slight tilts of the head can add interest, but avoid anything too dramatic which might look unnatural or distort your features.

Mastering the Perfect Smile

It’s often debated whether to smile or not in ID photos, but a natural, subdued smile can make you look friendly and approachable—a key aspect for an identification document that’s seen frequently during interactions. Keep your eyes open and lively to avoid the appearance of tiredness. A genuine smile will crinkle the corners of your eyes slightly, creating a pleasant and authentic image. Remember, though, too much of a grin could distort your facial features and isn’t recommended for passport photos or drivers license pictures.

Head Position and Posture

Your head position can significantly affect the outcome of your photo. Aim for a neutral stance with a straight-ahead gaze; this ensures a symmetrical shot that looks good and meets requirements. Good posture also contributes to a strong, positive image. Sit up straight and roll your shoulders back slightly, but remain relaxed to ensure your photo doesn’t look rigid or forced.

Technical Considerations for a Great Photo

Lighting and Background

The DMV generally has a set background, often a light blue or beige, which does not compete with your appearance. Nevertheless, the lighting in licensing offices can be unflattering, so it’s worth considering how it might affect your looks. Bright overhead lighting can cast shadows, so keeping your face tilted slightly upwards can help mitigate this and present a more even complexion in your driver’s license photo.

Understanding Photo Restrictions

Familiarize yourself with the photo restrictions of your local DMV. Every country, and often individual states, have specific guidelines about what is and isn’t permitted in identification photos. For instance, you might need to remove glasses, headwear, and certain jewelry. You should not wear anything that significantly alters your appearance from how you would look on an everyday basis.

After the Shot: Taking Further Steps

Dealing with an Unflattering Photo

If, despite your best efforts, your photo doesn’t look as good as you’d hoped, there are still options. Most DMVs will allow you to retake the photo if you’re unhappy with it, though there might be a fee. If the photo does not accurately reflect your current appearance, due to significant hairstyle or other physical changes, you should consider updating it to avoid identification issues down the line.

Photo Retakes: Are They Possible?

  1. As noted, some DMVs do allow retakes, but you may have to pay for another shot.
  2. If there is a technical mistake or your appearance has changed drastically since the picture was taken, retakes may be done without an additional fee.

Understanding the rules and guidelines of your local DMV will smooth the process, whether you need a retake or are prepping for your next renewal.

Tender Workshop | How to look good in your driver's license photo

Conclusion: Ready for Your Close-Up

By focusing on grooming, attire, expression, and pose, along with understanding technicalities and regulations, you stand a much better chance of achieving a driver’s license photo that looks good and feels representative. While you can’t control every aspect, such as lighting and DMV equipment, the elements within your grasp can make a significant difference. Remember, this photo will be with you for several years—investing the time to ensure it’s one you’re comfortable with is worthwhile. Walk into the DMV ready for your close-up, prepared and confident. With these tips in hand, you’ll walk out with not just a new ID but potentially one of the best you’ve ever had!


Q1: Can I wear makeup in my driver’s license photo?

A1: Yes, you can wear makeup in your driver’s license photo. However, it should be natural-looking and not overly done. The goal is to appear as you would on any given day.

Q2: Is there a specific type of outfit I should wear for my ID photo?

A2: There is no mandated outfit, but solid colors that complement your skin tone tend to work best. Avoid tops with busy patterns or logos.

Q3: What if I don’t like my driver’s license photo?

A3: If you’re not happy with how your photo turned out, check with your local DMV to see if they allow retakes. There may be a fee involved, but getting a photo you’re content with is worth it.

Q4: How should I pose for my driver’s license photo?

A4: Sit straight, with your body facing the camera and your head in a neutral position. A natural smile is encouraged, but avoid extreme expressions or head tilts.

Q5: Are there any guidelines for hair and glasses in ID photos?

A5: Your hair should not cover your eyes or face, and glasses are typically removed to avoid glare and reflection. Some jurisdictions allow glasses, provided they don’t obstruct the eyes. Always check with your local DMV for specific regulations.

  Reading time 10 minutes When you think about pivotal photographs, passport pictures and driver’s license photos might not be the first that come to mind, yet they are images you’ll be carrying around for years. Making sure you look good in your license picture goes beyond mere vanity; it also ensures that you feel confident every…