Here's what to do with your hair, clothes, face, pose, smile, even thoughts -- take note because a great ID photo goes a long way. Source: AFP

Taking a great ID photo — you know, the kind where you line up behind a background that will almost certainly wash you out, where the lighting will give your face more shadows than a beach full of parasols, is one of life’s great challenges — right up there with finding the perfect pair of jeans. Finally nailing that pomodoro sauce. You get the picture. (Ha!)

Passport and visa photos can sometimes follow you around for years, depending on what type you get, and some ID photos simply get recycled as renewal processes get automated. There is no greater haunting than a driving licence photo that just won’t quit and comes back to haunt you every five years.

So here they are — tested tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your ID photo — whether it’s for a student visa, your university card or gym membership.

Avoid photobooths, think happy and always stand straight. Source: Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Vulture Festival/AFP

Tips for the best photo ID

Step one – make sure your hair is pulled back and styled away from your face as much as possible. You want to make sure you’ve added a bit more time, and maybe some product into your styling routing. Loose hairs can cause shadows, and shadows are not our friend in this situation.

Next, the shirt you choose should have sleeves or at least some kind of visible fabric. You will not just avoid looking naked, but the colour pop will work in your favour – which brings us to another point: don’t be afraid of colour! If you know your background is white, don’t wear a white shirt – you’ll just blend into the background. Pick something colorful or neutral with a bit of flair. Navy blue is very underrated. If your background color is something else, pick a complementary colour. Blue backdrop? Why not try orange?

The type of clothes you wear should also be something that you give a wee bit of consideration to — are you wearing a necklace that causes a glare? Will your “cute” earrings look out of date in a couple years? Simple is best, folks. Keep the lines crisp and clean and accessories to a minimum on picture day.

good visa photo

No duck face or no duck face? Yes, no duck face. Source: Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images for NYX Professional Makeup/AFP

When you’re standing, keep your back straight, looking head-on. You won’t be in control of lighting at a photo shop, but you can plan ahead. If you know one local photographer that takes a little bit more extra care than using a photobooth, show them some love and use their services. They’re a little more expensive, but think of all the mileage you can get with a great ID photo over time. Personally, we’ve found that studios near visa or passport offices can be a great spot as they are familiar with the requirements and take these types of photos every day. Seriously, photo booths are the worst. Avoid.

Now, if you wear makeup and that’s your thing — put on more than you would think you need to for daywear. Cameras can wash you out, and the extra boost of colour and contour will be picked up nicely. In our most humble opinion, shaded eyebrows, defined lashes and a contoured cheekbone and jaw are the musts for any ID photo.

There’s likely to be no “beauty” option for visa photos, so you’ll need to contour your face manually, sorry! Source: Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images for NYX Professional Makeup/AFP

A lot of official photos won’t let you smile, but that doesn’t mean that you need to look stern. [Ed. Note: If that’s what you’re looking for, scowl away!]. Anyone wanting a softer expression should try to think of something happy and pleasant. For the bold – you can even try opening your mouth at the centre just the teeniest, tiniest bit.

Happy travels, visas, passports, IDs and general photo adventures, guys. Don’t forget to brush your teeth.