If money is no object, a passport applicant is absolutely free to get dozens of passport photos taken before going to a passport acceptance facility. Then it's easy to select a good one. Once the application heads to the State Department, however, the quest for a better picture is dicier.

Plan Ahead

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but if it's your passport photo and you look awkward or ugly, those words may not be fit to print. But face it folks, this is your own fault. Nobody said you had to have your photo taken at the passport acceptance facility. A little planning beforehand will allow you to look your best, or at least acceptably attractive, in a passport photo.

How to do it? You simply get your passport photo taken well before it's time to apply for a passport. It's convenient to get it done at a passport acceptance facility since it's sort of a one-stop-shop for getting that application in. But if it's really important to you to have a good photo, start early.

Do a quick internet search of places in your area that offer to take passport photos. You'll find a wide range of options from professional photographers to photo-services in drug stores. Many will take several photos for a set fee, so just keep paying that fee until you get a photo that pleases you. Then use the new photo on your application.

Renew for a New Photo

Here's the bad news: you cannot get a passport photo changed on an existing passport. If you didn't plan ahead and have a good photo taken, you may have relied on the passport acceptance facility to do a decent snap. But your passport arrived in the mail, and you cannot bear to look at it. Don't waste your time asking them to replace the photo. They won't do it.

But here's the good news. You can replace the passport by renewing it at any time from the moment you get it. And renewal requires a new passport photo.

Use DS-82 to renew your passport. You don't even have to go back into the passport acceptance facility and wait in line. Renewal by mail is possible as long as you can include the passport you are replacing, and it hasn't been seriously damaged. It's a fairly easy process since the former passport acts as proof of identity and citizenship. Of course, the downside is the fee. You just paid the fee for the ugly-photo passport and you'll have to pay it again for the renewal passport. But opening it to a gorgeous photo might be worth it.