Make Your Own Mug Shot

There are big differences between professional headshots and mug shots

Pictures of people that focus on just the head or from mid-chest and up are called either headshots or mug shots. Headshots are usually intended to look as good or professional as possible. You find headshots on newsletters and business brochures, book jackets, school yearbooks, and in the portfolios of models and actors. They have nothing to do with crime.

Mug shots are taken of people who have been arrested. They are police booking photos that are not at all flattering. You've no doubt seen some real mug shots online. They have a distinctive appearance. Some people enjoy making fake mug shots, either for themselves or as gags for their friends.

Create Fake Police Mug Shots

You can create a fake police booking photo yourself. Faking it is much less traumatic than being arrested. Use the fake mug shot in postcards or greeting cards or as your Facebook profile pic. Turn your mug shot into a fun WANTED Poster.

You need a digital camera or a smartphone with a camera and basic graphics software. Follow these tips to look properly unsavory for your mugshot:

  1. Look the part by messing up your hair, not shaving, or smearing your makeup.

  2. Use a plain white, gray, or light but solid background.

  3. Use harsh or unflattering lighting.

  4. Look bored, half-asleep, embarrassed, a little angry, drunk, or confused, or make a weird face.

    Mug shot of disheveled woman
    rubberball/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images 
  5. Hold up a sign with your name, date, and location. If you prefer, you can add this later in your graphics software.

  6. Take a mid-chest and up photo and don't worry too much about being perfectly in focus.

  7. Optionally, do both a face forward and a profile pic and arrange them side-by-side in your graphics software.

  8. Crop the photo as necessary in your graphics software. Add a sign if you didn't use one in a photo. Don't retouch the photo to make it look better. Poor quality looks more realistic.

If you are looking for a shortcut to your mugshot, use one of these online resources to modify your image into a fake police booking photo.

  • Mugshot Maker is a website that lets you upload a photo and turn it into a mug shot. You can even use your webcam to take the picture. Fill in a name, police department, faux crime, and other information for the placard that goes with the mug shot.
  • Fantasy Felon requires registration, but it's free and lets you turn your photo into a booking photo. The site includes tips on the best photos to use to create a realistic booking photo.

Look at Real Police Mug Shots

If you'd rather look at pictures of real criminals or are looking for inspiration, here are a few for your entertainment:

  • If you like celebrities or famous people, there is a great site to get some inspiration.
  • Mafia Mug Shots on Pinterest has John Gotti, Al Capone, and other classic gangsters and Goodfellas.

About Professional Headshots

If what you're looking for isn't a faux police booking mug shot, then there's no need to untidy yourself. Instead, you probably want a headshot that looks good, not like a rogue's gallery of weird criminals. Prepare for a headshot photo shoot by having your hair freshly cut and makeup applied if you wear makeup. Get plenty of sleep the night before, shave if that's your thing, and wear professional clothing.

Although you should use a white or light background, just like in mug shots, that's where the similarity ends. You need the best and most flattering lighting. You want the headshot to be in focus — none of that fuzzy glamour glow —and a pleasant expression on your face. Depending on how you plan to use your headshots, choosing a professional photographer may be the best way to go.