Attempting the Impossible

Way back in January I predicted that I would need to get my passport photo taken and it would be hideous.


In an effort to make it less hideous than it did last time…


(I mean, who the fudge is that? Every time they’ve looked at that picture at Passport Control and then looked at me and then let me into the country I’ve wanted to cry. It’s possibly a good thing for my ego that I don’t travel much.)

 …I resorted to scouring the web for the best tips I could possibly find.

Because it couldn’t get any worse, could it? didn’t present the best of starts as being naturally gorgeous seemed to yield the best results.


Not a supermodel? Give up already and accept the gargoyle that will be your passport photo. Let’s ignore’s Flare’s advice and move on. Or cry. In a dark corner. And decide that travel is unnecessary and driver’s licences are for losers and surely I can just restrict my geographical boundaries to places I can get to on my bike. Except my bike attracts Jesus-touting-crazies so maybe I’m best just staying at home.

Besides, the actual government guidelines for what’s ok in the world of passport photos isn’t  going to bring out the best in anyone:


A ‘neutral expression and your mouth closed’? It’s as though they specifically want the world to look like convicts. People do NOT look good with a neutral expression. 

Well, not unless you’re this guy (who, ironically is a con):


And, for the record, my mouth doesn’t naturally close. (Yeah, bring on the ‘won’t shut up’ jokes.) But, seriously, without conscious effort they don’t. 


I had enough teasing as a kid as a result and now the government are getting all judgemental on my arse. My face is also made of rubber. So I had to aim for a neutral expression whilst consciously doing something that my face doesn’t naturally do. I was going to end up pulling a face!


I was also concerned about the photos having to be ‘without tears or creases.’ Does that refer to the photos or my face in the photos? If it’s my face then I’m in trouble!

Help was definitely going to be needed!!!

WikiHow suggested getting enough sleep to look ‘vibrant and approachable.’


I haven’t had enough sleep since 2007. I’m on a one-way journey to looking like a psycho. But then, seeing as the only people approaching me at an airport would be security, do I want to be approachable? Or is it the shiny vibrant passport people who get upgraded to first class so they can look even more shiny and vibrant once they disembark? You don’t want sleep-deprived zombies stepping out of first after all. Not a good advert for those reclining chair/bed things they (allegedly) have which has reduced the leg room for the rest of us.

I’m condemned to cattle class forever.

LilyPebbles recommended avoiding anything trendy.


Boom! At least I had that one nailed.  I don’t think I’ve ever been trendy.

Other pointers from various websites condensed to:

– having a hair cut. I was a bit too 11th-hour for that, but I did colour it so I wouldn’t be mortified at the onset of greys (although in fairness I would probably look back in 10 years and lament the lack of grey in my hair);

– applying a natural make-up, just a dusting of powder and bronzer and a sweep of mascara. Obviously these authors are in their early-twenties and can get away with that. Needless to say, it was going to take more than that to look camera-ready for me. Especially when they fade you to ghostly on the passport;

And the biggie:



Now, I was an ANTM addict until we stopped getting Sky, but I could never work out how to smize (because as an ANTM addict you have to try to put Tyra’s advice into practice in front of the mirror – no one said addiction was cool or pretty, kids). I’d always go from dead-eyed to glary to what-in-the-name-of-God-are-you-doing-with-your-face?!?!  But this was going to be my passport to having a decent passport.

I practised some more with the selfie function on my phone. It wasn’t good.


Why the long face?

Seriously! What is it about a camera that stretches my face to equine-proportions compared with what I see in the mirror. 


Maybe it’s the dust on the mirror that makes things more flattering. Who said life in HD is a good thing?!

It was clear that despite taking all – well some – advice on board, this was going to be a car crash.

It was also recommended that instead of using a booth, best results come from going to a photographer. Except, how could I possibly go through the smizing/not-natural-neutral gurn-fest in front of another human being. Even if it was their job there would still be judgement, possibly even smirking and suppressed laughter, and I couldn’t handle the pressure. Plus, without a mirror in front of me, how was I to know what face I was pulling in my endeavour to be neutrally smizy?

People had advised taking time to get ready, getting the hair and make-up right, choosing the right top, yadda yadda; what they didn’t say was to leave long enough to actually have the photo taken. Especially when you’re going to have to get change. After spending all morning getting prepped I only had 15 minutes to actually see things through. By the time I’d queued at three separated desks in the supermarket there were no happy thoughts left. I was harassed, stressed, over-hot and frowny. 

I inserted my money, adjusted the seat, gave up adjusting the seat and just slouched a bit and tried to put all I’d learned into practice. The first attempt was hideous, I hit the try again button…still hideous. I hit the button again…’your photos will be ready in 30 seconds.’ Hey, what?!?! I’d just spent £5 to look like a scowling Egyptian woman with a lazy eye and wonky face. I can’t say it was the look I was going for.

You’re not going to see the result, trust me.

So two days later I was back again to face my nemesis. More money fed into the slot. More time adjusting the seat and making sure my eyes lined up just where they should be and my face fit into the oval and my hair was off my face. And breathe. Think happy thoughts. Chin out, mouth shut, happy thoughts, happy thoughts, relax all tension, smize, try to copy the example woman, try not to move, relax, happy thoughts, mouth, don’t smile, smize, press the button…‘THREE’…relax, don’t move...’TWO’…keep smizing, be Tyra’s…‘ONE’…argh! I’m going to blink! Don’t blink!…‘CLICK!’

I give up.

The photos weren’t great.


God, I have such a wonky face! My eyes could belong to two different people and my nose and mouth are on the skwink. I look like a bad effort at a 1970s photo-fit. In fairness it’s been kind to my perma-forehead frown (the crease that makes Teflon Man think that I’m pissed off at him even when I’m not). And I have had worse haircuts (they’re filed under lock and key and labelled 1979-1995). So it could be worse. Just.

Besides, it’s too late now. The woman in the post office was kind enough not to smirk when I presented them to her for the check and send process today. So they’re winging their way to the passport office for further analysis. I wonder if the second photos are not used on files, but rather for a rogues’ gallery of the best of the worst shots in the staff room? I’m not sure whether I’m hoping they’ll be rejected or not.

I don’t particularly want to go through the whole trauma again. (So much so that the same shot will also be adorning my driver’s licence.) But if they are accepted I think I shall shudder each and every time I have to look at it. I’ll try harder next time. I guess that gives  me ten years to practice smizing.


19 thoughts on “Attempting the Impossible”

  1. I bet you won’t believe this, but every one of your photos looks awesome! I despise almost every photo ever taken of me. At least 75% of them have my eyes shut. Why are we so very critical of ourselves?

    1. D’you know, I reckon it’s because most of the time we see a reflection of ourselves, so when confronted with reality we look wrong to our self-perception. Well, that and we’re bombarded with images of perfection, so we’re bound to seem lacking.
      Mind you, as if stills photos aren’t bad enough, I literally cannot bear to watch myself on video. Gah! Why do I walk and talk like that?!?! But I hear Johnny Depp has the similar problem, so I take comfort in that. I may set up a support group and invite Johnny to come along.

      1. OMG me too. I’ve been interviewed for videos at work a couple of times and I seriously couldn’t stay in the room while the tapes played. I’d rather die a million deaths. And it’s nice being in company with Johnny Depp.

        As an aside, my iPad tried to correct “couldn’t” to “copulent.” Have to find out if that’s really a word. As in, “Honey, put on that little black teddy. I’m feeling pretty copulent tonight” perhaps. Surely not.

  2. OMG. I have laughed all the way through this as you’ve worried and worried and I have to say, you’ve worried for absolutely freaking nothing! Your pix all look fab….that first one in front of the mantle is AWESOME. I think you’ve made a big step up from your last passport pic! Truly! But I so enjoyed this great dose of GSM humour……this is you at your best!

      1. Hmmm….that’s the second time this week I’ve been told that. But in this case, I’m absolutely sure I am right! You are much too hard on yourself. You look smashing!

  3. I am not going to offer any words on your situation. I am simply going to remind you that I am a 36 year old woman, and then dare you to do any worse than my last passport. Go on. Try.

  4. Also, side note – you know you totally look like Liv Tyler, right? I’m not going to compliment you because BRITISH, but unless you think Liv Tyler is a munter, you kinda oughta hush up.

    1. You, also, possibly should have gone to Specsavers. Liv Tyler is gorgeous. (And amazingly so in real-life too, apparently, as relayed to me by someone whose 15-year-old son got invited to a New Year’s Eve party at Mick Jagger’s house (?!?! – at 15!!! – life is SO UNFAIR) and sat next to Liv Tyler. Only he couldn’t remember her name, just that she was in Lord of the Rings.)

  5. I think this may have become my new favorite by you! HYSTERICAL!! Love the “are the folds, lines and creases on the photo or on your face” bit? lol! And the dust in the mirror improving reflection. You’re such a riot. And a GORGEOUS riot at that!!

  6. Ha. I handle this problem by refusing to look at my driver’s license photo. Seriously, it’s in my wallet right now but I’m not sure I’ve ever looked at it. We get them taken at the Department so you get what you get.

    You have just reminded me, however, that my passport photo will expire in a year. Darn it. That photo I will have control over.

  7. They purposefully alter the images prior to printing, I’m sure. Just to see how far they can push the boundaries. Which may explain why I looked 75% HORSE on my old driver’s licence. It was so ashamed of itself it lost itself in my wallet for 2 whole years!

  8. the only passport picture I ever had was back in 1982…and it was pretty darn good. But driver’s license photos….yuck…and they keep renewing it without taking another picture. so you could be walking around with a 20 year plus old picture…different hair…different weight, glasses, etc. Very funny…I loved it…and your picture is beautiful…

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