30 Apr 2010

Passport photos of the stars

Passport photos make everyone look like a terrorist. You know it’s true.

Please don’t tell me that your photo is worse. Nothing could possibly be worse than whatever the hell is up with my Alfalfa hair. The girl who took this photo at Kinkos ten years ago didn’t say a word. Presumably she looked through the view finder. She cannot be blamed for the rictus grin and stare-y eyes, but she had to have seen my hair. Not. One. Word.

Thankfully, this passport has expired.

Which is why, when in London two weeks ago, I made a very special pilgrimage…

… up many, many steep flights of stairs…

… to the place that is passport photo purveyor to the stars. All those pictures above my chair? Those are stars. From Allen, Woody, to Winslet, Kate, since 1956 everyone who is anyone has had their passport photo taken here. Yes they are that good.

If you are going to be in London, and your passport will need replacing in the next year or so, you would be crazy not to avail yourself of the genius at the top of those stairs. They take as many images as you want, and they don’t print until you’re happy.

No one is ever going to confuse me with Kate Winslet, but at least I no longer look like a terrorist.

Posted on April 30, in Blog


  1. laurie wrote:

    How did you get to keep the nice eyeglasses on?!?!?!

    even tho mine have been on my face for 3 decades – the irish passport folks say NO DICE – no burkas, eyepatches or specs!!!

    great shot!

    Posted on 4.30.10 ·
  2. Leslie wrote:

    Great smile! At least you were able to do that as well as the glasses. In Canada it’s no glasses and no smiles.

    I was listening to one of the older ‘casts and you mentioned the gentleman who started the web, and how he grew up with a copy of “Enquire within upon everything.” The world is a funny place – I’ve had a copy – somewhat battered and much thumbed- since I was a teenager. It’s an old family artifact and as a book lover I treasure it greatly, poor binding not withstanding. It is a great book and even has a few handwritten entries, one for a cure for chilblains. It is a little slim however in the knitting department, though if you want to know order of precedence at a dinner table, or how to address the peerage, or how much to pay your servants it’s the place to look.

    Have a great day!

    Posted on 4.30.10 ·
  3. Stacie wrote:

    I am so envious. I need passport photos–my passport is about to expire and have no way to get to London! 🙂

    Posted on 4.30.10 ·
  4. teacosy wrote:

    i had mine taken in Finland last summer on a hot day… no glasses, not allowed to smile… my forehead shines like a teenagers and I look HORRIBLE!!! Your photos look wonderful!

    Posted on 4.30.10 ·
  5. You look pretty darn stylin’ for a passport.

    We’re not allowed to smile on passports in Canada anymore. Apparently grins are the tools of evil. So now we all look like terrorists.

    Posted on 4.30.10 ·
  6. Stacey wrote:

    The first one was ten years old? How can you have aged ten years and not show one bit? Amazing.

    Posted on 4.30.10 ·
  7. Angeluna wrote:

    Isn’t it interesting to see what a difference a photographer who cares can do? Nice new photo.

    Think the rules in the US (at least were last year) are WITH glasses, straight on, ears showing. I don’t think smiles were disallowed. At least I’m vaguely smiling in the photos, with glasses and ears very visible.

    Posted on 4.30.10 ·
  8. jen wrote:

    I think I might have a competition for worst passport photo. Mine was so bad, that when I was in Panama, they were going to let me out of the country because they were convinced I was using my mother’s passport illegally.

    Posted on 4.30.10 ·
  9. kala wrote:

    That’s a great photo!

    Posted on 4.30.10 ·
  10. moiraeknittoo wrote:

    You look fabulous! And I love your glasses. Super cute!

    Posted on 5.1.10 ·
  11. Annetta wrote:

    Hi Brenda,

    Wow, congratulations, you look wonderful! Enjoy the next 10 years of travel in comfort.

    Australia, too, will not let you smile for passport photos – I envy you your natural-looking, happy image.

    Have a great day,


    Posted on 5.2.10 ·
  12. Tallguy wrote:

    That is so unusual!! I mean, we are NOT allowed to smile in any passport photo, and we are NOT allowed to wear any glasses in our passport photo, and they don’t want us to wear any make-up either. Really. Well, that is going to far… that definitely makes anyone look like a terrorist. And then those photos won’t even look like me! I don’t get it.

    You look fantastic! I won’t mind that photo on my passport. oh, wait….

    Posted on 5.2.10 ·
  13. Barbara Heinrich wrote:

    Great photo!
    I’m lobbying my husband to have him go there when we’re in London and to have them take his next photo to post on his website!

    Posted on 5.3.10 ·
  14. Liz wrote:

    Nice photo.

    Think the current rules here (UK passport) are yes to glasses, but no to smiles (and from the photo guide, seeking a passport while wearing any form of head covering is a lottery…

    May have to go to that place in 2016 when my passport expires, particularly as I work in London. I look like an escapee from a secure hospital on the current one.

    Posted on 5.3.10 ·
  15. Brenda, you are lucky with that new photo — and even with its predecessor! Here in Canada we are not allowed to wear eyeglasses (even if it means that some of us then can’t see where the photographer is!) and we *cannot* smile, under any circumstances. So…. you thought you looked like a terrorist in that old photo? You should see mine!

    Posted on 5.5.10 ·
  16. Terrie wrote:

    That’s awesome!! I could definitely use a new photo, but London is a little too far from Colorado 🙁 Great photo 🙂

    Posted on 5.5.10 ·
  17. Much better!

    Posted on 5.6.10 ·
  18. Walter wrote:

    It’s a great photo Brenda! And it seems like a great place to go in London 🙂

    I recently got my passport photo taken at…. home! I could take as many images as I wanted, until I was happy.

    http://www.yourpassportphoto.co.uk is “the best place on the net to create your official passport photos online!” as they say.

    Posted on 5.6.10 ·
  19. Simone wrote:

    Mine ALWAYS look like i forgot something. Add to that we (New Zealanders) are not allowed glasses, smiles or any kind of facial expression. Its very depressing to look at. Criminals – all of us, everyone. May aswell be holding up a number. 😉

    Posted on 5.7.10 ·
  20. Taj wrote:

    I love that you said no one will confuse you for a terrorist now as your last pic does look somewhat ambiguously ethnic and with the sticky-up hair, a little like you tried too much to look regular, haha! I got detained in Dallas because of my confusing, possibly terrorist name.

    Posted on 5.8.10 ·
  21. susan in dulwich wrote:

    Thanks for the tip Brenda. I need to apply for my first UK passport and it will be great to have a flattering photo for once. I travel a lot of my work and am always rather embarrassed to hand over my current passport (taken in one of those little self-serve booths in the tube stations)

    Posted on 5.10.10 ·
  22. Jennie wrote:

    OMGosh, you look so cute! (in the second one, of course–WOW on the first one!)

    I love that they won’t print until you’re satisfied.

    I need to renew my passport–I’m sure I’ll have a terrorist look to my new photo, too. But I’ll watch for the flyaway wisp of hair!!

    Posted on 5.24.10 ·

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