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Home > Blog > Photography Tips > Can You Smile in A Passport Photo? Here’s the Answer

Can You Smile in A Passport Photo? Here’s the Answer

Alex Sullivan | Updated: Mar 06, 2024

There is a language that requires no written records, but you can sometimes find it more powerful than whatever you say. We call it body language.

Facial expressions are one of our nonverbal strategies to show feelings. Take smile for example; we have a wide smile for genuine happiness and a wry smile for embarrassment. How about smiling in front of the camera? A bright smile can lighten up your viewers’ moods. But can you smile in a passport photo? Though you want to make your passport photo engaging by putting on a sweet smile, the State Department may not give you a like.

This article will briefly introduces passport photo rules and lets you know whether you are allowed to smile in passport photo?

Are You Allowed to Smile in Passport Photos?

Everyone wants to look good in their photos. Smiling in front of the lens is to be implanted in our memories. Smile can be contagious and have an emotional impact on people. But can you smile in a passport photo, which is used for facial recognition?

As per the U.S. passport photo tips, the passport applicants need to face the camera with a neutral expression. But that doesn’t mean you cannot smile in passport photo.

Keep in mind that passport photo is used to facilitate your identification as you go through the Customs. Therefore, a neutral expression is good for quickly comparing your facial features. If your smile is so big that it distorts your facial features, the State Department will reject your application.

A light smile is acceptable. How to define a “light” smile? At least make sure your eyes are open, and your mouth is closed.

Passport photo template

What Are the Passport Photo Rules?

There are passport photo rules concerning the dress code, the pose and expression, the position, lighting, and retouching. All these rules tell you one thing: keep low key when you are taking the passport photo. For example, wear the plain clothing, remove the accessories, have a neutral pose and expression, and avoid retouching the photo.

As discussed above, smile in passport photo is acceptable. But can you smile with teeth in passport photo? U.S. Department of State allows you to wear a natural smile. It’s controversial what kind of smile is natural. Your smile cannot be too extreme like the picture presented below. This is a smile you will have when you are so happy to get your new passport and want to share it with your friends. In some countries, facing the camera with your mouth open and teeth exposed is allowed. However, it’s forbidden in the US and don’t do that if you don’t want to be rejected and reapply for your passport.

Open mouth is forbidden in US passport photo

How to Take Passport Photos?

Want more tips on how to take passport photos? Below are some brief takeaways:

⭐ White or off-white background

⭐ Put your head at the center of the photo and keep your eyesight at the same level with the lens

⭐ Wear casual clothes and avoid head coverings

⭐ Keep your passport photo in its original state and don’t refine it by adding filters or removing any details.

Note: Passport photos require 2*2 inches or 600*600 pixels. There is a super convenient passport photo maker that enables you to edit the image into the appropriate size. In addition, this tool can also help you remove the original background and apply the white one so that you needn’t switch between apps.


I know you’re happy to get your first passport photo and can’t wait to begin your first amazing overseas travel. You smile in passport photo by instinct and think smiling for any photo is a gesture of showing respect for photographers. So, can you smile in a passport photo? The answer is yes but don’t go too far to make your smile distort your facial features.


Why can’t you smile in a passport photo?

Don’t get it wrong. Smile in a passport photo is acceptable, but you need to make your smile natural. To be natural, the smile cannot be so big that you open your mouth and make your teeth visible. The reason that you cannot make an extreme smile is that your facial features would be distorted and confused the Customs officers.

Can you show teeth in passport photo?

Maybe no. The US is a country where smile with teeth in passport photo is not allowed. To get your photo accepted as quickly as possible, you’d better obey the passport photo rules and keep your expression neutral.