Document Pictures

Is anyone ever happy with their picture on a driving license?  Most look like mug shots after someone has been resisting arrest at 3am.  Usually you’ve been standing in line forever, going through the process of tests and/or payments and/or approvals from clerks, filling out forms, and then they push you onto a line on the floor or a screen, somebody says “smile”, you squint into the glaring light at the person with the camera, there’s a flash exactly when you weren’t expecting it,  and you have to live with the resulting picture for the next umpteen years.

I just got a notice to renew my driver’s license, and this time they want a new picture.  I should say so, the one on my current driver’s license is from 1981, and this is the first time they’ve told me to get a new picture.  In 29 years.  I’ve changed several times over in that time, no one would recognise the person in the picture.  Whether the new picture will be decent or not I won’t know until they take it,  obviously, but chances are slim. Unless things have changed drastically.

There are several ways to go through the process of renewing a license, and in true bureaucratic form, the parts that make it easier also make it harder.  First I have to pay for the license renewal, and the receipt is my temporary license.  I need the temporary license to get my picture taken – at one specific place for the city, and it’s not even in the city, it’s in the suburbs.  Then I wait two weeks for the new license to arrive in the mail.  The renewal payment can be made at the bank or the post office, by phone or on the internet.  With the latter two options, much better than having to run and stand in line during bank or post office hours, the receipt/temporary license has to arrive in the mail, which takes about a week, instead of getting the receipt immediately.  So that means no picture taking until it arrives, and the whole process actually takes longer.    Argh.

Passport pictures are another story.  We just had to renew kidlet’s passports this month.  (She has dual citizenship, like me.)  The American requirements for a passport picture have become extremely specific.  Exact size, blank white background, full face, no angles.  No jewelry – kidlet was quite miffed that she had to remove her necklace and earrings, not to mention having to brush her bangs back.  One ear must be visible, two ears visible is better.  No smiling.   Evidently not all photographers know these requirements, since when we went to the consulate, three of the people ahead of us in line had their pictures rejected and were told to retake them and make another appointment to return, and given a list of the photographers that the  consulate knows are aware of the rules.    Luckily I knew beforehand where to go, because a neighbour of ours works at a photography studio and took care of us.    Israeli passport pictures, on the other hand, are another story.  Kidlet could keep her jewelry on, the background was a flattering blue, she could smile, and I swear she could have been chewing half a falafel in her mouth and they wouldn’t have cared.  Although the photographer was mildly concerned that her bangs were covering too much of her face, so we had another picture taken to be on the safe side.  (And kept the first one too, because it’s a lovely picture and it’s now in my wallet.)

Has anyone ever had a license picture so nice that they wanted to keep it?  I have yet to see it.


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4 Responses to “Document Pictures”

  1. purlverde Says:

    I love your blog 🙂 I love when a new blog post update pops into my e-mail!
    This actually turned out to be an educational post for me, as I am about to get my passport! I didn’t know that there were so many guidelines for the picture. And I can’t believe your license still had a picture of you from 1981. I moved from one state to another quite a while back, and so I had to get a new license for that state. I had changed so much from the time I was 18 to when I was 22 that the men in the DMV tried to argue with me and after suspiciously checking all of my info, finally surrendered and took my picture. I too dread these days where multiple legal documents must be renewed/updated. I have only had one license picture that I liked, but I’m pretty sure I liked it only because it was my first one (when I was 18) and I was ready to zoom away in my car!

    • eclecticitee Says:

      Hm…You’re right, I may also have liked my first license, simply because I had a license, which seemed like a huge accomplishment, and I could show it off! I don’t remember the picture, though…

  2. knittingdancer on Ravelry Says:

    I always hate having my picture made. We have to get new pictures every 4 years when we renew our driver’s license. Each state has different laws, I live in Alabama. The driver license used to good for only 2 years but they changed to every 4 years about 25 years ago. I don’t like my passport picture either.

    • eclecticitee Says:

      I’m glad our driver’s license is good for ten years (until I get older…). I really don’t want to go through this nonsense more often than that. My current passport picture doesn’t look like me any more, either, but it’s good for a few more years.

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