I’ve always been unphotogenic, but this was an all-time low. I’ve been assured that I don’t look too hideous in real life. Some people have even called me sort of cute. I think they were drunk, though, so I didn’t let it go to my head.

I’ve been complaining for years about the camera not doing me justice, and now I have proof.

The following is an actual exchange between myself and the person accepting my passport application:

“Girl, you got this picture taken at Walgreens?”

“Um, yes…?”

“And they told you you couldn’t smile?”

“Well they told me I couldn’t show teeth.”

“Damn, now you stuck with this picture for 10 years. You look like some kinda crazy or something.”

Thanks, post office worker lady. I just spent the last 3 hours trying to convince myself the picture wasn’t that bad. 

I did go home and look up the official passport photo rules, and, in defense of Walgreens, they do say to maintain a “neutral expression.” However, for someone who’s face routinely looks like this:


Told you I was awesome at selfies.

I’d say a smile is a neutral expression.

Even though I’m cheap, I still would have ponied up another $10 to get a new picture taken at the post office (which I would have done in the first place if I’d known that was an option). Unfortunately, thanks to the fact that the US government doesn’t update their website very often, I had arrived exactly 3 minutes before closing.

Let me back up. Travel.State.Gov is where you can go and learn everything you need to know about passports, visas and other international travel-related things. You can also print off your passport application, which I did. Then I sort of skimmed through the fine print.

Once you’ve got your application, birth certificate, 2″ x 2″ photo & driver’s license/state ID, you click on the handy list of locations to go apply at.

Newbie Tip #1:  Call these places before you go, especially if you live in a major city where driving around is a pain in the ass.

I arrived at the nearest post office only to learn that the person certified to accept passport applications had transferred to another branch four months ago. Thanks, Obama.

The lady at the desk was extremely helpful. She not only wrote down the address of the next branch, but gave me detailed directions after I explained to her that my GPS had somehow gotten lemon water spilled all over it and wasn’t turning on at the moment.

35 minutes later, I arrived at post office number 2. Indeed there was someone certified here, but unfortunately she was out sick. Yay.

After a few wrong turns and one scary encounter with Chihuahua, I finally made it to post office number 3, with 15 minutes to spare.

Newbie Tip #2: You need a copy of the front and back of your ID in addition to your actual ID.

Luckily there was a Dollar Store with a photocopier across the road. Which I, of course, left my driver’s license in without realizing until I was back at the post office. Thankfully, a lovely Korean woman had rescued it for me so all was well.

Which brings us back to the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad passport photo. No, it’s not really the one in the picture up on top, that’s just my mad Photoshopping skills. I wish I had saved a copy so I could show you how truly awful it is, but if I ever encounter you on my travels I’ll show you and we can laugh.

And you can confirm that yes, I do indeed look like some kinda crazy. Or something.



Mandie is a writer, rebel & web design junkie. In her spare time she enjoys drinking wine, traveling & working on her perpetually unfinished novel. She was a nerd before it was cool.

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  1. Polly    

    Ugh, Walgreens. The photo they took of me was so awful, I immediately came home and took a selfie that I edited to fit the requirements and have been using ever since. On the plus side, once you have a passport, it’s both cheaper and easier to get it renewed. So yay!

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