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U.S Passport Photos-- Okay to Smile?

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It seems like the U.S. Gov't's specifications for passport pictures are up for interpretation. On their website, it says: "Natural Expression - The subject's expression should be natural, with both eyes open." But what exactly does that mean?

My passport needs to be renewed, and when I had my pictures taken yesterday, the photographer told me I wasn't allowed to smile. I had to push my bangs as far out of my face as possible, and just stare blankly into the camera...talk about awkward! I'm already hypersensitive about passport photos after carrying around quite possibly the world's ugliest one for the last nine years, so this came as a real shock.

Does anyone know whether or not you're allowed to smile in U.S. passport photos or not these days? I believe I smiled (albeit a bad one) in my last one, but the photographer yesterday was pretty adamant that it's not allowed, and I'm trying to decide if I should grin and bear it (excuse the pun...) and mail these ones in, or go and have them taken elsewhere.

To me, passports are a semi-permanent fixture, being that they're good for 10 years. So as stupid as it sounds, this is important to me. I've been given a sideways glance by passport control for the last time!

Thx :)

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