We’ve all had that feeling of seeing a driver’s license or passport photo that we’re not so proud of. The worst part? You have to hang on to these photos for years and show them to strangers, including bartenders, TSA employees and maybe a cop or two if you’re prone to being pulled over. I knew I wasn’t the only one that had a sneaking suspicion that these people chat about some of the exceptionally unfortunate images they come across during a day on the job. It seems everyone has decided to up the passport photo game with a stylized way of doing makeup to ensure the photo comes out perfect. Pulling out a stunning license or passport photo is a strange but satisfying flex that we wish upon all. We talked to professional makeup artists to learn all about how to get the look.
What is the passport makeup trend?
The passport makeup trend involves specific techniques of “sculpting, contouring and lifting the face to get the best results for a license or passport photo,” explains professional makeup artist Judi Gabbay. “If you cringe thinking about that little square photo in your passport book, these techniques are for you.”
The trend began to spread on TikTok a few months back, according to celebrity makeup artist Alexis Oakley. However, Oakley says it’s a technique she’s been using on her celebrity clients for years. “It’s typically a lot of makeup, but it’s done in an extremely soft way, which makes it very wearable. I find it to be super flattering on all face shapes,” says Oakley.
This look features a lifted eye and a soft matte base. Oakley says she typically sees people applying a bit of bronzer in their crease, a brown eyeshadow to create a baby wing and a half lash to the ends of their eyes. “For the face, it’s all about the proper placement of your contour, concealer and blush.”
How can one achieve this look?
“Remember, lighting is not forgiving. Your government agent is not a beauty photographer. There is NO editing on photos taken at the DMV,” notes Gabbay. “The premise behind the technique is to lift and sculpt the face slightly more than you would normally so it won’t be washed out by the flash.”
Oakley suggests starting with the eyes to help prevent any fallout from settling beneath them. She adds that she’s extremely messy with her eyeshadow. Oakley likes to smoke it out to her temple and remove fallout with makeup remover to create a sharp line from the lower lash to the end of the eyebrow. She explains that this technique “helps to lift the eye and make the wing super sharp.”
Gabbay opts for an elongated siren eye for passport makeup. She says it works beautifully with this look to sculpt and lift eyes. You can use shadows and an angle brush to achieve this. Gabbay says that while false lashes may seem like overkill, in the photo, they will look natural and help make your eyes appear more open.
As for the face, Oakley loves using a tinted moisturizer to create a solid base. Then she contours the cheekbones and forehead. Following that Oakey applies a high coverage concealer. It goes directly under the eye, the outer part of the eyeshadow and directly beneath the cheekbone “to brighten the face and create a nice lift.”
When contouring Gabbay advises to keep it directly under the cheekbones and no further down. “Adding contour too far down the face can actually drag your features down, not lift, which is what we’re going for here,” says Gabbay. “Remember, the flash will wash out a lot of the color and sculpt, so building and layering is key.”
Oakley’s favorite part of the look is blush. “I love using a soft peachy pink shade, not on the apples of the cheeks, but a little bit higher where you would typically think to put highlighter,” says Oakley. “I love blending it into the eyeshadow a bit as well for a super monochromatic effect.”
What products do you recommend using for this technique?
There are a lot of layers to this one, so stick with us for some expert-approved product recommendations. As Oakley mentioned, she loves tinted moisture for the base of this look. She recommends Smashbox Halo Healthy Glow Tinted Moisturizer ($41).
On top of that, Oakley tends to apply Jouer Essential High Coverage Liquid Concealer ($25) Rare Beauty Warm Wishes Effortless Bronze Stick ($23) and then Jouer Blush Bouquet in Flirt ($33). Gabbay recommends leaning toward creamy formulas for the contouring step. She likes the Tom Ford Shade and Illuminate Cream Contour Duo ($89) or E.L.F. Putty Bronzer ($7).
As for the eyes, Oakley suggests Makeup By Mario Master Mattes Eyeshadow Palette ($48). Let’s not forget the importance of bold eyebrows in a photo. Gabbay recommends using Soap Brows Extra Strong ($18) “to fluff up brows and give eyes a more open effect.”