Ten passport photos that look like mug shots

passport photos that look like mug shots - whoopsNo one really knows how to take the best passport photos. To smile, or not to smile? It’s a question we all ask ourselves, but usually not until we’re half a second from that snap of the camera which will define our official “look” for the next ten years. The result? We tend to look confused, undecided, and in some cases, mildly criminal.

Click through the gallery below for ten passport photos which look like they were taken in the clink, and the crimes the “offenders” look like they committed.

(Sorry, but if you post your passport photo on Flickr under the creative commons license, you are kind of asking for this):

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You can avoid this fate. While most of us go to the local drug store or the post office to get the picture done (we want to make sure all the guidelines are met), you can take the passport photo in the comfort of your own home. Here are the official passport photo guidelines (via travel.state.gov):Proper Lighting Arrangement

  • Position light sources on both sides of subject to avoid shadows on face.
  • Use a light source to illuminate background behind subject to avoid
  • shadows in background.

Camera/Subject Position

  • Place camera approximately 4 ft (120 cm) from the subject.
  • Have camera at subject’s eye level.
  • Position subject facing the camera.

Photograph Print Properties

  • Produce 2 inch x 2 inch (51 mm x 51 mm) color photo.
  • Print photo on thin photo paper or stock.
  • Ensure the print is clear and has a continuous tone quality.
  • Do not retouch or otherwise enhance or soften photo.

7 Steps to Successful Photos

  • Frame subject with full face, front view, eyes open.
  • Make sure photo presents full head from top of hair to bottom of chin; height of head should measure 1 inch to 13⁄8 inch (25 mm to 35 mm).
  • Center head within frame (see Figure 2 in the pdf linked above).
  • Make sure eye level is between 11⁄8 inch and 13⁄8 inch (28 mm and 35 mm) from bottom of photo.
  • Photograph subject against a plain white or off-white background.
  • Position subject and lighting so that there are no distracting shadows on the face or background.
  • Encourage subject to have a natural expression.

Further instructions and a handy diagram can be found in the government pdf.

[Top image by mexican 2000 via Flickr, other images in gallery as credited.]

Top five uses for Ziploc® bags when traveling

Ziploc bagOver the years, I’ve become a bit of a bag lady. I’m always finding new and surprising uses for Ziploc® bags or their generic counterparts when I travel. I’m also a rabid recycler, so I like getting extra mileage out of my airport security “liquids and gels” see-through baggie.

But that’s not the only reason I love these little guys. They’re tough, they’re resealable, and they’re economical, because they usually survive multiple trips. Below, my favorite uses for this home kitchen staple:®

1. Holding a wet swimsuit.
When you’re on a day or side trip, or don’t have time to dry it before catching your flight.

2. Collect seashells.
Make sure it’s legal, first.

3. Safeguard against spilled liquids.
I also place bags on top of shaving cream canisters (secure with a rubber band). Because it only takes one exploded can in your backpack to learn your lesson.

4. Seal off your shoes (or socks) for packing.
Hiking. hot weather. ‘Nuff said.

5. Keep your passport/money/other paper valuables (including tissues/t.p.) dry.
If you’re an adventure traveler, you may find yourself in situations where your daypack (or whatever you use to carry these items) gets soaked. I’ve had to hang my passport out to dry after a.) having to hitchhike in a major storm; b.) having to swim across a deeper-than-expected creek; c.) falling into the water while climbing out of a dinghy in rough surf.

*Bonus: “Have food poisoning/need to vomit while stuck in Marrakech rush hour traffic” emergency satchel.
Not that this happened to me.

Have your own travel uses for Ziploc® bags? Let us know!

Want to cut down on plastic altogether? ChicoBags come in their own little stuff sacks, and are the size of a deck of cards. I clip one inside of my day pack when I travel for groceries or other purchases.

[Photo credit: Flickr user hfabulous]

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Top five travel documents to email yourself before you travel

A lost or stolen passport or ATM card is a surefire way to add stress to any trip. As a preventative measure, I keep a list of travel documents (scanned, as necessary) in my inbox, so I have them at the ready should I run into trouble. Before you head out on your next trip, make sure you have the following documents, copied, prepped and prepared in the event you need them quickly:

1. Passport
If your passport mysteriously goes missing from the hotel security box or hostel front desk, or you’re mugged or robbed on the road, scanning a back-up copy can save you hours of paperwork and waiting. If you need a visa for travel, scan a copy of it, as well.

2. Medical and travel insurance cards (if applicable)
Not all medical insurance covers travel outside of the U.S., so check before you get on a plane. If you plan on visiting a region prone to civil unrest, natural disasters, or general sketchiness, have a medical condition, or are a fan of adventure travel, travel insurance might be worth looking into.

3. Bank and credit card collect call numbers
Keep the bank phone numbers nearby. It won’t bring your cards back if they’re lost or stolen, but at least you can report and cancel/put holds on them, ASAP. Most financial institutions have collect call numbers you can use from a foreign country.

4. Emergency contacts and relevant health information
At a recent appointment with a new physician, he noted that I was allergic to penicillin, and asked what happens if I take it. I explained I have a family history of anaphylaxis, and he asked why I don’t wear a medical alert bracelet, especially given my occupation as travel writer. It’s a good idea that never would have occurred to me. So while you’re typing up that list of contacts, including doctors, add in any life-threatening allergies or medical conditions. Should you wind up in a medical emergency, odds are someone, somewhere, will speak English. Or write it down in the language of the country you’re visiting (Lonely Planet Phrasebooks are invaluable for this kind of translation, even if you need to say it in Urdu or Thai).5. Itinerary
Be sure to send copies of your travel itinerary to family and/or a close friend. If you’re backpacking and don’t know where you’ll be staying or don’t have a world phone, the ubiquitousness of global cyber cafes makes it easier than ever to stay in touch, even in rural areas.

*Bonus round

U.S. Department of State contact info/Embassy and Consulate list
If you spend a lot of time overseas, especially if you fall into the category cited in #2, it’s a very good idea to register your trip with the U.S. Department of State. In the event of an emergency requiring evacuation, you’ll be in their system. It’s also helpful to keep the embassy/consulate link in your inbox and on your person, in case you or a fellow traveler runs into trouble.

Immunization card
Some countries or regions require you to present this, to prove you’ve had the necessary vaccinations before being admitted entry. Admittedly, I’ve never actually had to produce this document, but better safe than denied. For a list of recommended and required inoculations for destinations, go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention site.

[Photo credit: Flickr user cubicgarden]

Inspect your passport carefully – International travel tip

Before you start planning your next dream vacation, make sure your passport is up to snuff. Check the expiration date carefully. Many countries do not allow you to visit with a passport that expires within six months of your trip.

For example, Brazil requires your passport to be valid for six months after your tip. For Switzerland, it’s three months.

Plus each country has its own rules for whether they calculate that expiration date from the day you enter the country or from the day you leave, so double check with the local embassy or consulate for the current requirements.

[Photo: Flickr | hjl]

Pack spare passport photos – International travel tip

When traveling abroad, it is a good idea to have an extra set of passport photos packed among your belongings.

In the event that your passport is lost or stolen, you can save valuable time by immediately taking these photos to the embassy or consulate when you apply for a replacement. Without the photos, you may find yourself frantically searching for a photo lab in a potentially unfamiliar city or town.

[Photo: Flickr | selmerv]