I have just spend fifteen quid in an attempt to get a set of passport photos that do not make me look like a serial killer with a hangover.

Truly good photos are rare and wonderful things in passports. I have a theory that there is a special filter in the photo booths, that adds the layer of grime, pallor, and exhaustion. It helps immigration officials recognise you when you crawl through the airport after 36 hours of travelling, a mugging, and a bad case of dysentery.

I had been married a year before I showed my passport photo to my beloved. Yes. It was that bad.

And so, with my passport stolen by the pond-scum who burgled our flat this weekend, and several trips for work and play coming up in the very near future, it's time to go around and around on the hellish merry-go-round of getting a new passport.

Replacing a passport is easy. If you have a passport, you hold it up and say, "See, that's me! now give me another one." And they nod and smile, and relieve you of 28 pounds, and give you a new one. But, if your entire collection of ID has been lifted in the burglary, you're a bit stuffed. I've not seen my birth certificate for at least a dozen years. And nothing else will do.

And so I order a new birth certificate. Try to remember my mother's middle name. Try to remember my own name (I have evil middle names that I rarely use). This is the easy bit. The photos are where the pain starts.

First set: I look like a serial killer again. A really mean one, who is cruel to little fluffy animals, pulls out old ladies' fingernails and then gets gory. Luckily there are greasy fingermarks all over the glass, that make it look like I have snow on my head. This means I get to do another set.

Second set: I sneeze, just as the flash goes off, and my picture is a huge blur as my head moves. Damn. Looks pretty cool, a swirly smudge of purple hair and two black blurs for eyes. Maybe it will do for my travelcard.

Third set: Smug. One of those, "ner ner ner ner, I know more than you" smiles plastered on my face. Not good. Attempt to think up an excuse to try again. I will have this photograph for ten years. Oh no! I will have violet hair for ten years. (And this photo makes it look blue.) Oh, nifty, there's a little button that will let me switch to black and white. Try again.

Fourth and final set: Black and white. Wow, those are dark shadows under my eyes. Only semi-smug now that I'm not smiling. It looks nothing like me. It looks OK. These two comments may be connected.

Enough. This will do. Now I just have to find someone to sign the bugger on the back, and then spend most of tomorrow hanging around at Petty France till they hand over the goods.

On a more practical note, for a UK passport application you need two recent photographs which must be: so says the information leaflet for the United Kingdom Passport Application
I got a new passport a three weeks ago and had none of this trouble at all. Why? I used one of the newer passport booths that uses a digital camera instead. There is no flash, you just sit there and look at yourself on a screen. There's a circle on the screen that your head should be in, so you adjust the chair and lean to the left and right until you are in the circle and then press a button when you are ready. If you are not smiling enough you just do it again. Once ready the machine will print out four identical copies of the same picture, so no longer do you have to try and maintain the same grimace for three minutes of random flashes. This is a Good Thing.

What did bug me, though, is the stupid restrictions on the exact size of the photos, as described by heyoka in the writeup above. On the forms you have to fill in it actually specifies that the photograph you provide will be scanned into a computer, stored and printed as a digital image. So how hard would it be to crop and scale the thing?


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