10 Beauty Secrets For Getting The Perfect Driver's License Photo

Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
Yes, we know drivers licenses are not glamour shots — they are serious pieces of ID that help law enforcement officials identify us and keep potential threats and troublemakers in check. But, those things are with you for a decade — is it a crime to want to look like a somewhat presentable human being in ours?
We all have horror stories (with the photos to prove it) of ID snaps gone amiss. Bad lighting, cranky photo takers, and now, in some states, not being allowed to smile all add up to create a perfect storm of bad pics. If you do manage to get a good one, it's either luck or because you are photogenically blessed, right?
Not so, friends. While you can't necessarily guarantee an amazing shot, there are some little beauty tricks you can do to make sure your hair and makeup aren't totally sabotaging you. We asked the pros to tell us their best tips for taking a great driver's license photo — because you've got enough on your hands dealing with that long-ass line and the cranky employees.
Click through to see how to get your best driver's license photo ever, crappy DMV camera be damned.
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Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.

Find Your Angle

While most of us have mastered the art of looking great in regular photos, it's a little more difficult to "find your good side" in a straight-on, close-up shot. This is where selfies come in handy: According to celebrity hairstylist Danilo, do a selfie session before your actual photo to help prep.

"Take a couple shots of yourself with your phone — you'll get a general feel of what a singular source of light does to your face," he says, and you'll know the best angle for you.
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Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.

Pull Back Your Hair

One of the biggest mistakes many women make with their hair is something Danilo calls the hair corsage: Piling all of your loose hair in front of one shoulder so it looks like you have a giant blob of hair on your shirt. This hides your neck and shoulders and makes your proportions look off in the photo, plus it can take up a large part of the frame, making the shot look cluttered and heavy.

Danilo suggests keeping your hair off of your face with a ponytail, low side bun, or even a yoga knot. The look he created at Desigual's spring '14 show is another great example of a stylish way to keep hair up. "It's not about playing peekaboo with your face," he explains. "You need to reveal yourself and show as much of your face as possible. Too much hair in the face blocks out the light and creates shadows, which can make you look older and tired. Putting it back is refreshing and lifts the face a bit."

Just be sure not to pull the hair too tightly up, which can look severe. Instead, let a few pieces fall out to help soften the look. If you simply must wear your hair down, Danilo says to make sure your hair is behind your shoulders. Be sure to brush your hair before your photo, or, if you don't have one with you, use your fingers to comb through and neaten up your ends. Give it a quick spray of shine spray to help gloss it up. "It's about shiny, happy hair," he says.
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Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.

No Red-Carpet Makeup

While the temptation to layer on the makeup might be strong, celebrity makeup artist Mally Roncal says it's in your best interest to resist. You want to look like you, as this is a form of serious identification. That means no smoky-eye-and-red-lip combo. Instead, Roncal says to keep it natural with browns, peaches, and pinks, and to use a light hand when applying your cosmetics. "You want to look like yourself," she reasons. "You don’t want to be completely overdone or trendy."
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Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.

Embrace Your Texture

According to celebrity stylist Tommy Buckett, don't try to radically switch up your hair the day of your photo. "Always work with what you have," he advises. "If it's curls, take a curling iron to it and enhance the curls. If your hair is wavy, add some cream to it to define the hair and control flyaways while adding texture." For those with fine hair or prone to oil, Buckett says to get your photo done when hair is freshly washed and dried. Or, if it's at the end of the day, hit your roots with some dry shampoo to perk it up.

"You know how your hair looks at its worst," he says, "so avoid those pitfalls. "Trying to wrestle your hair into doing something unnatural will only up your chances of a possible hair disaster.
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Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.

Skip The Shimmer

While you may want to try to balance out the harsh lighting and shadows by piling on the luminizer and reflecting pigments, Roncal says this could easily backfire. "The lighting and white background can do crazy things to shimmer – it can make you look like your skin is wet, or if the shimmer is too chunky, it will look like glitter specks on your face." Instead, Roncal says to focus on adding color back into your face with bronzers and blush (more on that later).
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Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.

Don't Look Like A Convict

The harsh lighting, the close proximity, the straight-on angle: "There's a fine line between a mug shot and a license shot," says Danilo. With all of those factors working against you, it's important to make sure you look as friendly as possible in your photo. "Give a little expression — don't be dreary-eyed," he says. Smile, of course, unless you live in a state that no longer allows smiling in identification photos. In those instances, you've got to inject the warmth into your eyes, so practice again with the selfies to master your Tyra-approved smize.

According to Danilo, this is also why it's important to put a little effort into your appearance. "No effort shows, and it just makes you look like a junkie in the end," he explains. Definitely not the vibe you want to give off to any law enforcement official who is checking your ID.
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Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.

Get A Glow

As Roncal explains, the combination of a white background and fluorescent lighting will wash out your complexion, no matter what your skin tone is, so you need to counteract that by adding color back into the face. If you have light skin, Roncal says to use a matte bronzer, one or two shades darker than your natural color, on the high points of your face to add back in some of the color that will be lost.

Need an example to follow? Check out Nikita Dragun's epic license photo that leaves all the other top contours in the dust.
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If you need a solid matte bronzer option, we're big fans of this bronzer from Make, which is highly pigmented and comes in three different shades. There's also plenty of great budget-friendly matte bronzers out there, including this $4 one from E.L.F. and this $6 one from CoverGirl.
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Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.

Be A Peach

Those with medium skin tones should grab a peachy blush and use Roncal's cinnamon-bun method to apply: Swirl a little of the blush in the middle of your cheeks, then blend outwards on the apple of the cheek.
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Tiffany Haddish's makeup artist Dionne Wynn relies on this creamy peachy-pink blush from Benefit to amplify Haddish's natural flush, telling Refinery29: “This melts right into Tiffany’s skin and creates a sunkissed glow."
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Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.

Stay Away From Translucent Powder

Roncal says everyone should avoid translucent powder, regardless of skin tone. While you might be tempted to dust some on to avoid a shiny face, she says it's actually going to create worse problems.

"Many women think translucent powder is the best way to battle shine, but I’m here to tell you that is not the case," she says. "It will leave you looking dry, white, cakey, and it will settle in all of your fine lines and wrinkles." Instead, use a blotting paper to get rid of grease, or a clear setting powder.
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Roncal recommends her own Poreless Face Defender, which she says sets makeup, reduces shine, and makes your complexion look satiny-matte without settling into fine lines.
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Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.

Make The Most Of Minimal Lighting

Something as simple as raising your chin can improve how you look in the photo. "If you lift your face to the light and jut it out a little, it makes a huge difference," says Danilo. "When your chin is down and away from the light, you get all the dark circles and fine lines, thanks to the shadows created by the lack of light. It's a machine taking your picture — there's no sympathy."

One trick Danilo says has worked for him in the past: Get your photo at a DMV in a more remote location, rather than a big city. "They're a little more lenient," he says, "so it's not such a tragic experience. You can even sometimes talk them into another shot if you know your first one was bad." Every little bit helps, right?

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