Beauty Do-Over: Makeup and Beauty Tips for DMV License Pictures

Published in: Just For Fun, Makeup Tips/How To

  • Hi there, ladies. Sorry I’ve been incommunicado lately. I’ve been running ragged since early this morning. While I was in Hawaii last week, a dear friend of mine, someone I’ve known most of my life, lost her father to cancer. This morning was the funeral, and while it was a nice ceremony and a fitting sendoff (music played a big part as it was one of his greatest loves), it was still an emotional day for us all.

    Then, after the funeral, I swung by my parents’ house in the East Bay for a low-key birthday celebration for my mom.

    I’m pretty spent right now but have so much I want to share… I think it’ll have to wait, though, until I’ve gotten some sleep.

    How was your day? What was the highlight?

    Tonight, I went digging through the blog archives and found this post from almost three years ago. I’m due for a new DMV picture soon, and this post came to mind.

    I double dare you to email a scan/photograph of your DMV picture to me ( ). 🙂 Pretty please? And if you’ll let me, I’d like to post it on the blog.

    Nighty night…

    Your sleepy neighborhood friendly addict,



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, 24 people have commented on this article. How cool is that?

  1. CC says:

    Ha! I like these tips! I don’t have to use them though because I like my Driver’s License pic, and would, undoubtedly screw up the next one by obsessing over it so much. I’m with ya on the rewrites. I tend to write on and on and on….I have even found myself rewriting Facebook wall posts!

  2. iben says:

    Hi Karen,

    Hope you’re doing okay, seems like you’ve had quite an emotional day.
    I am all smiles right now, since I saw my boyfriend yesterday and we sorted out a little problem we had 🙂 Plus, during this week I went crazy and bought a MAC 266, 195 & 190, Dior Nude (It’s AMAZING.) and Nars Orgasm + I’m waiting for Bobbi Brown’s Make Up Manual to arrive in my mailbox!

    Take care!

  3. Sonja says:

    My driving picture is more or less ok, but my new passport photo…oh my god. I went for dark lined eyes, and since they scan the photo not just add it (like they do on our drivers license) I look like death on vacation!! And I happened to give a pretty odd smile, which made my oval face look very round, and well, let’s just say that border officers take 2-3 looks when checking my passport. Disaster. Even worst- it will be with me for next 10 years!!!

  4. Shannon Steele says:

    I love it when a pretty girl is funny too! Sending loving thoughts and energy to you, your friend, and her family for your losses.

  5. marciepooh says:

    My license photo isn’t too bad. I wouldn’t but it up on but it looks like me (as I usually am, sans make-up) and I don’t look like the walking dead. A few years ago my university was making everyone get new ID cards. I was in a bit of a hurry (after the line was long and sloooow), and I’m looking at these other girls primp before their picture thinking “it’s going to look crappy anyway”. It was possibly the worst picture of my life.

  6. diane says:

    Thank you so much for this tips! I always look horrible in this official photos! Hope next time will e better 🙂

    Have fun tonight and Happy New Year!

    .-= diane’s last blog post… Colorful day! =-.

  7. liz says:

    in indiana you can no longer smile in your driver’s license picture…not looking forward to getting a new license when i turn 21!! 🙁

  8. Shiny says:

    So sorry to hear it Karen, sending a hug your way.

  9. Dao says:

    I can imagine how you’re feeling right now. When I was still writing my thesis, and although it sounded like a million years ago, my hair was in a constant non-wash and smelly mess. At one point, it started to look like Rob Pattinson’s but in a long form.

    Be strong, Karen! And remember to breath a lot. If music helps you to write, pop some music on. And Happy New Year to you and Tabs! Belly sent a meow 🙂
    .-= Dao’s last blog post… My Makeup Blog: a Year in Numbers =-.

  10. Kelly says:

    Hi Karen – So sorry for your friend’s loss, that must be very hard. 🙁

    Happy New Year to you and your Tabs, he must be really happy you are home now!
    .-= Kelly’s last blog post… Orly Metal Chic Metallic Matte Collection Swatches and Review =-.

  11. Stef says:

    Sorry you had a rough couple of days Karen.

    But thank you so much for this post! My picture expires on Sat (my bday) and I have been dreading getting it because I was 10 years younger in my pic and now I’m going to actually look my age. Gulp.

    I have a friend who blinked in her DMV pic and the bastard clerk did not take it again! She didn’t even know till it showed up in the mail. And there are no redos. Evil, huh?
    .-= Stef’s last blog post… we really heart this – our favorite posts of ‘09 =-.

  12. Katie & Zena says:

    Karen, I’m sorry for your friend’s loss. I love music too. The one I’d make them sing at my funeral would be “Amazing Grace” just because I definitely relate to the lyrics.

    Oh God, don’t remind me of the DMV! I have to get my second license on my birthday because I’ll be twenty-one. My one when I was 17 wasn’t bad as I was only wearing mascara, eyeliner, tinted moisturizer, blush and lipgloss but my hair was all screwy. I’m fated to have evil hair.

    Ha ha, your DMV “photographer” sounded a lot like mine when I was getting my first license. I wanted to pose too but she wasn’t allowing it! Forget about sneaking Zena in!

    I’m trying to get rid of the last of my migraine. My brain doesn’t like sudden differences in atmospheric pressure, it seems.

    Happy new year, Karen.

  13. Renata says:

    HAHAHAH Great post! 😀
    .-= Renata’s last blog post… Post nada a ver para começar a última semana do ano 🙂 =-.

  14. Glosslizard says:

    Hey Karen, so sorry you’ve had a rough and tiring time lately! I hope you can grab some good-quality sleep and feel better (or at least better-rested) soon! Also, my condolences for your friend’s loss!

    The last time I took a DMV picture (lo, those many years ago) I had the nicest photo clerk who actually let me preview and approve my picture before putting it through! I’ll see if I can scrape up enough courage to send it to you! 🙂

  15. Eileen says:

    great tips! i gotta try these out when i renew my license february. my current pic is soo gross.. my dad surprised me and took me on a bad hair day my jr yr of hs, so my hair was tied up in a lumpy ponytail, i was wearing a frumpy pink hoodie and i looked cross eyed! gah

  16. Solé says:

    Hi Karen!

    I’m really sorry for your friend’s loss. This year has been rough all around–a giant soggy raincloud spiked with random little rays of sunshine here and there. I’m hoping 2010 has a lot more sunshine in store for all of us.

    I’m actually pretty happy with my DMV picture. My last one in 2004 was not too bad but I didn’t like it because I didn’t look like myself in it. My current one (taken on my birthday last April) is pretty nice. I don’t mind flashing my driver’s license anymore, but I HATE my school ID. I can’t afford to spend the $30 to replace it though, so I’m stuck with it for the next two years. Ugh.

  17. janedoe says:

    okay, horror story… i used to have my septum pierced so i had some metal in my face in my nose area and well, in my drivers license picture i have one nostril that looks like a huge ball of light due to the flash. terrible, its embarassing when i have to show someone my ID!

  18. Tiffany says:

    Hi Karen, I am so sorry to hear about your friend’s loss. I hope you and your friend are both feeling better soon.

    I hope you have a happy new year 🙂

    My DL picture is TERRIBLE. I didn’t think I would have to get a new picture because I was just going to change my name to my married name. They did make me take a new picture. I didn’t have time to do my hair so I had just pushed it off my face by wearing my sunglasses as a headband, while my hair was still damp. They made me take the sunglasses off. TERRIBLE hair. It’s like, sticking back on its own. ICK.

  19. Allie says:

    Sorry to hear about your friend’s loss…

    I went to change the address on my license today, and they made me take a new picture! I just took a new one when I renewed in May, so I was not expecting this. All I had on was foundation, mascara, and a tiny bit of concealer (plus a new haircut that I hate). I was wearing a turtleneck and no earrings. Everything was wrong, and I knew it, but I didn’t expect to have another picture taken! 🙁

  20. mill says:

    i have the hyphenation conversation with myself everyday.

  21. Sarah says:

    I’m sorry for your friends loss.

    My license actually expires really soon, so this is perfect timing! Im dreading it – our MVA is a nightmare…

    My last photo was after 3 hours of waiting in line, in the sun, and it was when I was just starting to wear make up (I wore super dark eye shadow – one color all over my lid. No liner, no mascara…) So hopefully this picture will be way better!

  22. DanielleO says:

    Karen, I’m sorry for your friend’s loss. Kudos to you for being there for her.

    Nice ID photo tips! But I have to disagree on one point: I’m Asian too, and I like to wear a colorful solid top for my photos. Red is best for me, but I’ll do blues and greens too. Color makes me look much more cheerful and awake, and since its only a ID pic, you only see a little of it.

  23. maria says:

    hi karen i wanted to say sorry for your friends loss and i can understand the grief your going through, i have been down that road too many times. You are doing the most important thing by being their for your friend because it is times like those when you need a friends shoulder to lean on. I love your tips and i was wondering what types of foundation brand is best?

  24. Stephie says:

    Ooo. This is very helpful. I won’t have to take my picture again that soon but this is very good to know. Too bad your DMV photographer was a menace! Maybe there’s a nicer one in the DMV by your new place?
    .-= Stephie’s last blog post… It’s Raining =-.

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