Driver's License Photo Tips from the DMV

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Drivers license photographs are notoriously ugly, even for the beautiful people of Los Angeles. Producer Ayala Ben-Yehuda visited two Department of Motor Vehicles offices in Southern California to find out how far some people will go to get a good shot, and she got a few beauty tips from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).


While looks aren't everything for cars, your driver's license photo, though, is another matter. Why do they invariably turn out bad? We're here to help. Producer Ayala Ben-Yehuda went to some DMV offices in California and got some advice for taking that all-important photo.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Woman #1: Now serving G157 at window number seven.

Unidentified Man #1: One, two, do you want to smile? Put your chin up a little bit, please.


What makes a good driver's license photo?

Ms. EVELYN SANDOVAL(ph) (DMV Employee): I think sometimes the distance which you're standing.

My name's Evelyn Sandoval, and I work at the Hollywood DMV.

BEN-YEHUDA: Everyone should blot…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SANDOVAL: …right before a picture, honestly, because the flash is strong that their face gets really, looks really oily (unintelligible). So that's why I advise everyone, do you want to blot? That's advice for everyone.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. SANDOVAL: Sometimes you should stand a little bit further back, because if you stand too close, your face will just come out to big - and whether a person smiles or doesn't smile. That helps the picture a lot.

FANNY (DMV Employee): You know, we only have the blue background, and so we don't really have a lot to work with. Hi, my name is Fanny, and I work at the Hollywood DMV.

You want to know about a funny situation at the camera? We had a long line, and we had a lady that was prepared to take the picture, but out of her purse she pulled out a tiara. I told her that just in case, we might not be able to issue her that license. Well, she came back and she had a picture with the red hair with the little tiara. It was funny.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of music)

BEN-YEHUDA: What about you?

FANNY: I must've taken about like six pictures when I took my picture. But I work here, so they were patient with me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FANNY: But even then their patience ran out.

BEN-YEHUDA: Did you do anything different today because you knew that you were going to get your photo taken? Like, did you wear that shirt today because you knew that you were going to get your photo taken?

Unidentified Man #2: I try to dress nice when I come to public places. I smiled. I usually don't smile.

Unidentified Woman #1: Now serving G15…

Unidentified Man #2: I think it was artificial, though.

BEN-YEHUDA: It's hard to be natural in that situation.

Unidentified Man #2: Yes, yes.

BEN-YEHUDA: You're wearing a good shade of lipstick.

Unidentified Woman #2: Okay.

BEN-YEHUDA: You know, you've got on mascara. Did you purposely put on makeup for today, or…

Unidentified Woman #2: No, I think I kind of did it today - I did have a plan to not wear any at all, but I wasn't prepared. I thought they were just going to take my old picture and put it on. So I'm glad I did.

BEN-YEHUDA: It looks like he caught you, like, right as you transitioning from frown to smile.

Unidentified Man #3: Right, yes. I know.

BEN-YEHUDA: You sort of have a straight line going across.

Unidentified Man #3: That's good. Perfect.

(Soundbite of music)

BEN-YEHUDA: Did you wear that sweat shirt that says hot space station justice because you knew that it would be in the photo today?

Unidentified Man #4: No. I'm actually thinking about taking it off, but then I have something else written on my other shirt.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BEN-YEHUDA: Can I see what's on your shirt? Let me tell you what I think. Oh, it just Army on it. I vote for hot space station.

Unidentified Man #4: Yes, that looks better. So if anything, I'll have something nicer to look on the picture. It'll distract from the face.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of song, Vogue)

MADONNA (Singer): (Singing) Strike a pose.

BRAND: Producer Ayala Ben-Yehuda lives in Los Angeles.

(Soundbite of song, Vogue)

MADONNA (Singer): (Singing) Strike a pose.

BRAND: More coming up on DAY TO DAY from NPR News.

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