If money is no object, a passport applicant is absolutely free to get dozens of passport photos taken before going to a U.S. passport acceptance facility. Then it's easy to select a good one. Once the application heads to the U.S. Department of State passport agency, 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 current 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 or the post office. 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 passport renewal requires a new passport photo. This is also applicable if you need to change your passport due to a name change, gender transition or medical reasons that may have significantly altered your appeance.

Use form DS-82 to renew your passport. You don't even have to go back into the passport acceptance facility and wait in line. You can get a renewal application by mail or fill out the application form for the passport online. 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. Passport processing is sometimes a long process, with processing times that can last weeks, so make sure you’re not on a time crunch, or if you are there are options for an expedited passport to be shipped to you a little faster, for an upcharge.

Make sure to be careful when taking your new picture, as you still need to meet all the photo requirements in order for it to be accepted by the Department of State. Remove all head coverings and any facial piercings that cover a large part of your face. Do not use any photo tools to alter the photo in any way, and avoid selfies. A basic phtoto against a white background has the best chance of being approved.