What is my face doing?

That dreaded moment has arrived again. Time to renew my passport. Of course my passport expired a couple of weeks ago already (yay executive function!) so I really need to get it done SOON. In the Netherlands you are required to have a valid ID document with you at all times, and that means a passport or an official ID card. Driving licenses aren’t always valid ID, and besides, I don’t have a driving license. So passport it is.

And that means getting my picture taken.

That’s what I hate about renewing my passport. The rest is fairly standard, scripted stuff, nothing much that might throw me off. But photos? Argh.

Because I have no idea what my face is doing.

With all the rules about “no smiling, no visible teeth, face has to be completely visible, neutral expression”, having my picture taken becomes a task of gigantic proportions. Especially the neutral expression bit. In my current passport picture I look like a particularly depressed heroin junkie. And that took about 25 minutes of non-stop instructions by the photographer. “Tilt your head a little bit to the left. No, LEFT, not right. Raise your chin. Don’t smile. Open your eyes wider. Stop tilting your head to the right. You’re smiling again. Don’t frown.” And so on and so on. It’s really stressful because I have no idea how I look. Am I smiling? Is this ok? WHAT IS MY FACE DOING?

I used to practice at home for hours, trying to see in the mirror what the “right” position is to put my face in, and trying to remember which muscles I’m tensing and which I’m relaxing and what facial configuration does that result in and can I reproduce it? But usually as soon as I get to the photographer, I forget everything I’ve practiced and simply adopt my standard “deer in headlights” look. Or inappropriate smiling.

But that was before I knew about autism and maybe it’s not just me who gets confused by all the facial expression stuff. So this time I was determined to do it differently.

I took a mirror with me.

At the photographer’s, I tried to explain that I have trouble knowing what expression I have on my face and would it be OK if I kept the mirror in my hand so I could check? He just looked at me and asked me why on earth did I need to do that for? OK, fail. He then started explaining all about the requirements which I KNOW BY HEART so really that’s not the problem here. Fail again. Just take the damn picture already.

And then I went to a second photographer.

Yes, it’s an expensive solution. But I figured, if I just get as many passport photos taken as possible, at least one should fit the requirements. I can’t deal with the stress of not knowing whether my photo will be accepted or not. And if it doesn’t get accepted, I’ll have to do the entire thing ALL OVER AGAIN. So I’d rather have some extra expenses than all that added stress. I’m learning to accommodate myself. Which rocks, by the way.

When I explained to the second photographer, he turned the computer screen so I could watch and see each picture he took and adjust my face in whatever way I felt comfortable doing. And he helped me get my errant left incisor under control as well (it has a tendency to slip over my lower lip). And it took about 15 tries but I didn’t feel as self-conscious as at the first photographer’s.

Maybe I should go to a third photographer as well, but I’m sort of out of spoons and I think the second set is probably going to fit the requirements. Although I look cuter in the first set, I think. Oh well. I’ll take both of them with me when I go to the passport office.

21 thoughts on “What is my face doing?

    • Thanks! They did end up accepting the first set but I’m glad I had a backup! ALSO, THE CIVIL SERVANT WAS STIMMING AND ROCKING ALL THROUGH PROCESSING MY REQUEST WHICH WAS SO EFFING AWESOME. I’m sorry. I’m still getting happy thoughts just thinking about it. 😀

  1. I hate the no visible teeth requirement. Because I had a very large overbite growing up (I’m talking so large I physically couldn’t eat or speak properly – it was >3cm, and yay for modern orthodontics because if I’d been born a decade prior, I would’ve needed jaw surgery), my upper lip does not meet my lower lip. Unless I press them together (which makes me look scary-pissed-off, or so I’m told), I can’t get them to meet. I have a hell of a time getting acceptable passport photos.

    • I have a fairly large cross bite (my upper and lower jaw don’t align properly) which is why my face looks slightly crooked. I had 9 years of orthodontics before I told them to get it all out because it wasn’t changing anything. Glad it worked for you though!

      • I have underbite, I used to be able to stick my thumb in the gap between my lower and upper jar. Now it’s just a little bit and it makes my chin look weird when I’m relaxed. After 5 years I ‘accidentally’ sat on my orthodontics machine (don’t know what it’s called) and I refused to get a new one or get braces. I got my new identity card just before that, still showing my orthodontics (before the no teeth rule) on the picture and I never wanted to show it, because that wasn’t me anymore.

  2. I also like the first one better, although the colours in the second one are nicer, but that doesn’t matter in a black and white picture of course. I once got send back to the photographer two times in a row because the picture wasn’t according to standards. I was really upset that day, because I always do everything as correct as it possibly can be and I couldn’t understand why they couldn’t explain me exactly how it should be in stead of telling how it shouldn’t be. Glad it worked out fine for you!

    • I would have been near tears over that! I totally agree on preferring to know the standards so you know what you’ll get judged on. My city has an entire document online which is extremely helpful, http://www.utrecht.nl/images/Burgerzaken/pdf/fotomatrix.pdf. But even then you run the risk of the photographer not doing it right and not listening to you when you tell them it’s wrong because “who are you to tell them how to do their job”. So stressful!

  3. That sounds like a very stressful process! I’m glad you got the one you liked better accepted. I kind of think you like you’re smiling a bit in the first one but I’m not very good with reading expressions so that could be completely wrong.

  4. I always hate taking photos of any kind. I rarely have good pictures. For passport photos, when I don’t smile….I really don’t smile, and then I just look really mad, like I’m glaring at the camera. Even other people who have taken photos usually have a calm expression on their face. I used to practice in front of the mirror a lot, but now the only thing I’ve done is to move my lips upward a little bit in a half-smile so I don’t look TOO angry. 😀

  5. Oof. I have NO idea what a “neutral expression” is. Personally I like the first one better. You look more relaxed maybe? I’m not sure. But I don’t know…is that considered smiling? The second one certainly isn’t bad though, so hopefully they’ll take one or the other!

    • Thanks! I don’t know either, the closest I come to neutral is slack. But then it shouldn’t be too slack because: mouth has to be closed. It’s so much work having to think about all the things my head and face have to do.

  6. “He just looked at me and asked me why on earth did I need to do that for?” “Because I am a trainee vampire and I’m checking that I still don’t have a reflection. And if you give me any more grief I shall nip you with my incisor!” Sheesh, some people! Good idea getting a second shot at it (no pun intended) 😉

  7. I so agree with this: “So I’d rather have some extra expenses than all that added stress. I’m learning to accommodate myself. Which rocks, by the way.” Excellent idea to have several pictures taken! It’s the little things like this that makes life easier for us. I go to a photo booth that works like a mirror, where you can see yourself with an outline where your head and eye’s should be. Makes it a little easier.

  8. Here in Germany some photo booths in malls and train stations can take biometrical pictures now. It’s way cheaper than a professional photographer (about 6€ for four tries and a set of four or six pictures printed, so trying again is ok), you can be alone in the booth for as long as you need, and most important, you see yourself on the screen – except for the few seconds between pressing the button and getting the picture taken. And the machine even tells you whether your picture will be accepted for your passport or not! So far the algorithm has not failed me and my photos were accepted without any trouble for passport, national ID card, insurance card, etc.

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