Can You Smile in a Passport Photo? DoNotPay’s Guide Explains

iEditorial Note: These blog posts represent the opinion of DoNotPay’s Writers, but each person’s situation and circumstances vary greatly. As a result, you should make sure to do your own independent research. Because everyone is unique, our self-help tools are never guaranteed to help with any specific situation. DoNotPay is not a law firm and is not licensed to practice law. DoNotPay provides a platform for legal information and self-help.

Can You Smile in a Passport Photo? DoNotPay Has the Answers!

Your passport stays with you a long time, so naturally, you want your passport photo to be as flattering as possible.

You may think that you look best when you smile. A passport isn’t about looking your best, though—the requirements are about making you easily identifiable.

Can you smile in a passport photo? DoNotPay has the definitive guide to acceptable facial expressions for your mugshot!

Can You Smile in Passport Photos? What Are the Rules on Passport Photo Facial Expressions?

If you are taking a passport photo, you need to make sure it is:

  • Clear
  • Identifiable as being you
  • Not distorted or manipulated in any way

The rules on whether you can smile in a passport photo are straightforward. According to the U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs, you should adopt a “neutral” expression—a smile is allowed, but it should be a “natural” one, meaning that it should not be exaggerated.

The ideal expression for a passport photo is:

  1. Non-smiling
  2. Both eyes open
  3. Mouth closed


A smile, while possibly more attractive, distorts other areas of your face, creating:

  • An elevated cheek line
  • Narrowed eyes
  • A wider mouth
  • Furrows on the brow

These changes to your face can make you less recognizable for both human officials and facial recognition technology.

Both Eyes Open

Closed or partially closed eyes make it difficult or impossible to determine your eye color, meaning that one of your key idiosyncrasies becomes impossible to detect.

Mouth Closed

If your mouth is closed, your face is in a state of relaxation, meaning that its proportions are accurate. Facial proportions are a major element in recognition technology applications, so your passport photo needs to be as proportionally correct as possible.

While a “natural” smile is permitted, you should avoid smiling if possible. If you get your photo wrong, your passport application will be rejected, and the whole process will be delayed.

What Other Criteria Should I Take Note Of?

Your passport photo also needs to fulfill the following criteria to be acceptable:

Photo AttributeExplanation
Photo sizeA passport photo should be exactly 2 x 2 inches (51 mm x 51 mm). Your head in the photo should be between 1 and 1 3/8” when measured vertically. The photo should show you looking directly into the camera with your head straight
BackgroundThe photo background should be white and non-textured, with no shadows projecting onto it. The outline of your head should be clearly defined
ClothingYou should choose neutral colors and avoid uniform, traditional attire, or garish clothes. You can only wear a hat or headdress if:
  • It is prescribed by a recognized religion
  • It does not obscure your face

You will need to provide a signed statement explaining the religious requirement for you to wear a hat or headdress if this is the case

EyewearIf you wear glasses, you should remove them from your passport photo. If they cannot be removed for medical reasons, or if you wear an eyepatch, you will need a signed doctor’s letter confirming this

Where Can I Get a Passport Photo That Ticks All the Boxes?

You have several options for getting passport photos, including:

  • Retail outlets, like Walmart and Target
  • Pharmacies, such as CVS or Walgreens
  • Courier companies, like UPS, USPS, or FedEx
  • U.S. passport offices, which are usually found in post offices

You can also use a professional photographer, but the cost involved may outweigh the better quality they offer.

Your other option is to take your own digital photo at home. If home photography is your preferred route, you will have to:

  1. Make sure your photo complies with all the guidelines
  2. Crop the photo using either your own software or an online service
  3. Print it on suitable paper
  4. Cut it to the correct size

This can be a complex and time-consuming process before you get it right—and you still run the risk that your photo will be rejected when you submit your passport application.

DoNotPay has the answer! We can take your uploaded photo and —you don’t even have to leave home!

Get Your Passport Photo in a Flash With DoNotPay!

DoNotPay’s Passport Photos product takes all the hassle out of getting your photo right!

All you need to do to use the feature is:

  1. in your web browser
  2. Click on Passport Photos
  3. Upload the photo you have taken
  4. Tell us if you want to get two printed copies of your photo delivered via mail

Once we have your photo, we will check whether you need to take another one. If the photo is acceptable, DoNotPay will crop it, make sure it complies with the rules, and send it to you right away. You can then go ahead and start booking your international travel!

Find your place of residence in the table below to see where you can have your passport photo taken:

San DiegoSacramentoBostonAlbuquerqueRaleigh
HoustonAtlantaPhoenixSan FranciscoDenver
CincinnatiRochesterLos AngelesColumbusScottsdale
HonoluluMinneapolisChicagoTallahasseeKansas City
New York CityPortlandPhiladelphiaAustinRockville
SeattleCharlestonSan JoseSan AntonioCharlotte
HerndonColvilleIndianapolisLas VegasBrooklyn

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As soon as you subscribe to our app, you’ll be able to use our products to your advantage and fight for your right worry-free!

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