Beauty Tip – Makeup and Beauty Tips for DMV License Pictures

Published in: Beauty Tips, Makeup Tips/How To


My mission today is possibly one of the biggest of all of beauty challenges: I have to go to the DMV to take a new license picture and somehow make it look cute.


The nasty florescent lighting, the institutional blue paper background … there are many elements that point toward certain disaster. Plus, I think the picture-taking dude that works at the nearby DMV REALLY HATES his job. He purposely waits for your eyes to be crossed, or for you to look like you’re confused before he snaps away, thus preserving your startled doe-in-the-headlights look for all eternity.

The only decent license picture I ever took was when I was 21 and weighed 20 pounds less … needless to say, I need a little bit more help now, since the fresh blush of youth and innocence has left (I’m not bitter!).

So this morning I did a lot of research on what to wear and what makeup to use to make your DMV picture look good. Apparently it’s not a totally impossible thing to do!

Here are some tips I found:

1. Wear a white, black, gray or neutral-colored fitted shirt.

2. Wear your favorite neckline, weather it be scoop, v, boat or bateau – whatever you feel pretty and comfortable in.

3. Skip patterned tops, bulky knits, cowl necks (ewww) or turtlenecks.

1. Wear your hair down – pulling it back makes it look too severe. (Random cautionary tale: Years ago a friend of mine took her DMV picture with her hair pulled back. She didn’t realize she had a stray ponytail bump sticking out from the top of her head, and she looked like she sprouted a horn).

2. If you can’t stand to have your hair down at the very least wear half of it down and half of it up.

3. To make your hair look fuller wear it down with a center part, and bring the ends forward.

1. Use blush!

2. No smoky eyes. No smoky eye/pale lip or pale eye/bright lip combos, either.

3. Avoid dark, sparkly or bright shadow colors.

4. Avoid dark eyeliner. Go with brown, rather than black.

5. Use foundation without titanium dioxide, a sunscreen that can make your face look chalky.

6. Keep your makeup natural, or professional looking.

7. Use blotting papers or powder to minimize shine.

1. Keep your face forward, but twist your body away from the camera.

2. Try to elongate your neck.

3. Tilt your head upwards to minimize dark circles. Most people have a “good” side – try to tilt that way as well.

1. Wear long earrings and let them show through your hair to get some sparkle in your picture.

2. Avoid flashy jewelry.

Other stuff
1. Relax, and think of something that makes you happy before your picture is taken.

2. Don’t blink!

I ended up going with a black, short sleeve, bateau neck top. I wore a pair of sparkly crystal chandelier earrings for some bling. I also wore my hair down – I have wavy hair but for pictures I usually like to straighten it, just ‘cause it’s more work to get wavy hair to look and stay neat.

For makeup (yay, the best part), I went for medium application of neutrals with very little sparkle.

Face and cheeks:
Laura Mercier Foundation Silk Crème Foundation in Hazelnut Beige
Laura Mercier Translucent Powder
Neutrogena Soft Color Blush in Soft Suede

MAC Ricepaper on the browbone
MAC Soba in the crease
MAC Mulch on the lashline and just below the eye
Dipdown Fluidline liner
Two coats of Dior Show Mascara in black

Laura Mercier Lip Liner in Chestnut
Laura Mercier Stickgloss Brown Sugar

When it was time to take my picture I tried to channel America’s Next Top Model and attempted to pose myself into cuteness. But the bitter DMV picture guy totally yelled at me. First I twisted my body away from the camera – he wasn’t having that. Then I tried to tilt my head up and towards the left to show my good side and he yelled “LOOK FORWARD! YOU LOOK FORWARD!” Bastard. I did manage to tilt a little at the last minute – we’ll see if I end up regretting this non-DMV sanctioned move.

I am almost finished with my travel story, THANK JEEBUS! I am beginning to go a little nutty from doing rewrites. You know, it always drove me crazy how on “Sex and the City” they never showed Carrie obsessing over rewrites. She’d always be posing on her bed, writing on her laptop, flipping her curls and spitting out perfect sentences in a designer-clad bliss. It is SOOO not like that! Half the time I’m wearing pajamas and my hair isn’t even brushed. Plus, I spend hours rewriting and rewriting and rewriting and obsessing over things like the proper way to indicate time (it’s 7:00 a.m., never 7 am) and when and when not to hyphenate.


Last night I realized that I might be going a little crazy when I picked up my Associated Press Stylebook, cradled it gently in my arms and gave it a little kiss. ARRGH!

Hey, but it’s Friday, right?

Whatever you’re doing, I hope it’s fun and it involves a cocktail or two. And pour your forty for me shawty, ‘cause I’ll be rewriting all weekend.

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,



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So far, 4 people have commented on this article. How cool is that?

  1. kia says:

    super great post! i loved this! and how you pulled off tilting to the side like that for the dmv AND getting away with it… i’ll never know.

    oh hun… we love the great work, but it’s YOUR blog… you’re allowed to make a mistake here and there… oh well.. you don’t have to take it from me =p *eyes crossed*

  2. AppleDiva says:

    Girl, I needed these tips 2 years. My license photo looks like Homey the Clown “Don’t mess around!!) 😀 I will use the tips for the next go round…Thanks again!!!

  3. Karen says:

    Hi ladies! Thanks for the great feedback on this post. I am anxiously awaiting my new license in the mail. Anything is better than my current pic – I look slightly confused and rabid.

  4. Sophia says:

    I am on my way to get my state license changed from California to Colorado. I know the DMV people up there are very kind. What I really wanted to say is that I never thought of wearing long flashy earrings. I have the perfect ones from my sweetheart Grandma from Mexico and she gave them to me when I was a little girl and I still have them at 38. Wow! never thought of using my earrings. Have a great one ey
    Thanks for the tip!

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