Neutral Look To Be Official

In addition to fingerprint, traveler’s photo is also important for identification. For verification, only human is the most reliable I guess. However, governments looks like trusting computer systems rather than human due to transparency and financial affordability.

Reliability is the major concern for the electronic verification. Hence, the British government recently bans happy face on passport photos.

[t]oothy, open mouthed grins are being outlawed from the tiny 35mm by 45mm photographs because they will throw off scanners used at airports“, according to BBC.

The facial recognition will counter the problem with open-mouth photo! Therefore, they need a neutral look which could be plotted on scale as the rule says “photographs must show no shadows: your face looking straight at the camera, a neutral expression, with your mouth closed.” So what is it actually, a neutral face? Isn’t it that kind of face we usually do when we do official photo?

Talking about taking official photos, not limited to passport ID, I am sure that you all have more or less memory about it.

I use to believe that for an official photo, you need to look “formal”. You should neither look happy nor sad, but show “real” emotionless face to make it worth “official“. Well, it was not easy though, because I don’t know how to do it when I “have to” do it. I have seen a lot of my friend’s ID. None of them looks too happy. Instead they rather look angry, fuzzy, and sometime sad. Why?

I’m sure there are still a lot of people believing that to make official looks, you are not allowed to smile. However, instead of to look official, you can look angry because of trying not to wink. ;) People also afraid to make mistake, especially when they use film which the cost adds up every time you press the shutter button.

Another factor is the photographer. If you got a nice photographer, you probably can smile naturally (or look a bit happy). But many time, you can’t because you had a photographer who is very busy or not in a pleasant mood or bored of what they are doing.

Anyway, I just learn to actually smile on official photo when I did my student ID at Pitt. I saw many folks in front of me had smiles on their faces (although some looked really faked.). Because I was coming from from the perspective that smile or happy look were not appropriate, it was sort of surprised and funny. Anyway I smiled because I thought it would be cool and I might look better than ever. But the photo turned out to be one of my least favorite… he he

In some extent, this news also remind me of my earlier post on facial expression and emoticon, discussing about real facial emoticons. The study said the successful rate (for people to recognize the emotion) is only 60%.

Anyway, it seems like we have to go back to the emotionless face again, but with different reasons. However, both reasons are basically driven from the same psychological element, fear.

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