How to Choose the Best Backgrounds for Headshots | Zing Sherwood
February 24th, 2023
How to Choose the Best Backgrounds for Headshots
You’re not alone if you’re wondering how to choose the best backgrounds for headshots. Many clients come to me unsure about a couple of things: what to wear and what backgrounds to choose. And the truth is, there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer. A lot of the decisions come down to personal preference.
In this post, I’m sharing five of the most popular background choices for headshots and brand photos, why they’re popular, and photo examples of each look. I’ll also share how we can design custom sets for truly authentic images unique to you and your brand.
First, we’ll start with a good neutral for everyone – white backdrops.!
White Backgrounds for Headshots
Why you might want to choose a white background for your headshots:
Flattering: White backgrounds are a classic option that flatters everyone. The neutral color puts the focus squarely on the subject, making it an excellent choice for a clean and professional look.
Modern: They have a clean and contemporary look that can keep your headshots or branding photos appear fresh and up-to-date for longer.
Matches everything: They’re a “safe” choice because it matches almost everything. Whether you’re wearing a bright-colored outfit or muted tones, a white background will complement your look without clashing with it.
Versatile: As mentioned above, white backgrounds are essentially a blank canvas, making them versatile for post-production, which I’ll expand on under social media and marketing next.
Great for social media and marketing materials: One of the most useful reasons to include a white background is for social media and marketing photos. They’re great to use with text overlay or banner-sized images with negative space to include marketing verbiage.
Examples of white background headshots in action:
Black or Dark Backgrounds
While a white background is a classic and versatile choice, a black or dark background can also be a great “neutral” option for your headshots. They’re modern and versatile but can also give you more of an edgy look if that’s what you’re after!
A few reasons you might want to use a black or dark background:
Classic and versatile: Black backgrounds are a classic, modern option that will never look outdated.
Pulls focus onto the subject: With proper lighting, darker backdrops are a great option to pull focus onto you!
Evokes different moods: Depending on the setting and lighting, darker backgrounds can create moodier and more dramatic photos.
Popular with artists: I love using dark backgrounds with artists to create a fun contrast between the subject and their medium. From florists to musicians, I love creating a sense of drama with darker backgrounds and honed-in lighting techniques.
Suitable for everyone: While dark backgrounds are popular among artists, they’re ideal for anyone who wants to create an impactful headshot.
Examples of black and dark backgrounds:
Artistic Backgrounds: Hand Painted or Printed Backgrounds
Along the same vein of creating dramatic looks with dark backgrounds, I also have artistic backdrops that create a unique and elevated look. Some are hand-painted, and others are printed fabrics, but they’re all gorgeous! These are a great option if you want to add visual interest and pizazz to your headshots.
A few reasons you might want to use one of my artistic backgrounds:
Creative and elevated: They’re a unique and creative way to add depth to your headshots. If you want something that’s a little more creative, these are for you! They’re all gorgeous and create an elevated look.
Unique and personalized: Since these aren’t like every other photographer’s backdrops, you’re sure to have photos that will stand out from the crowd!
Adds visual depth and interest: Using an artistic background in your headshots can add personality to your images and help them feel more interesting. These are all about creating a “custom” one-of-a-kind look.
Examples of artistic backgrounds in action:
Building a Custom Set in my Studio or On-Location Environmental Portraiture
Building custom sets for headshot photography is one of my specialties, and I love helping my clients convey what makes them unique. We can arrange a custom look on location at your office, in your home, or at my studio. The choice is totally yours!
Custom sets showcase you in your element and give your audience a glimpse into what it’s like to work with you in real life. So if you want to build personal connections with your viewers, custom set design is the perfect way to make a memorable impression.
A few reasons you might want a custom set built as a background:
Highlighting your profession: Being on location for your headshots is the perfect way to show you what you do while in your element. We can also bring these elements into the studio to make a scene really YOURS. Your photos will have a level of authenticity and personality that isn’t replicable. I like to think of custom designs as show and tell – but a professional version!
Using depth of space: When we build you a custom set, we arrange the room to use the depth of space to your advantage. By creating layers of foreground and background elements, your final photos are more visually interesting, and YOU are the star of the photos.
Personalization: Custom sets show what makes you unique in a setting that coordinates your brand colors, the tools of your trade, and helps you connect with your audience. You’re not just telling people what you do; you’re showing them!
Examples of custom-built sets and environmental portraits in action:
Colorful Backgrounds for Headshots
Last but certainly not least is colorful backgrounds! While neutrals and solid color backgrounds can be a timeless option, incorporating color and vibrancy in your photos can pack a punch of creative flair. But the caveat here is that it needs to make sense for your personality and brand. If color isn’t your thing, stay with what you’re comfortable with.
A few reasons you might want to have colorful backgrounds:
Show off your brand’s personality: Convey your brand’s personality and message, especially if you’re going for a fun and playful look. Colorful backgrounds are a great way to showcase your brand’s unique style.
Stand out from the crowd: Want to make a statement with your headshot? Do you generally love bright colors? Go for it! Colorful photos can stand out in a sea of traditional, neutral-toned headshots.
Flexibility: A colorful background can offer more options for using your headshots on different platforms. For example, you could use bright and bold headshots on your social media platforms while using something more traditional on LinkedIn.
Examples of colorful backgrounds used for some punchy promo work for Portland area chamber collective 45th Parallel Universe that add to the overall headshot value:
So, what’s the right background for your headshots?
By now, you’ve probably realized what I said at the beginning of this post – everything is a personal preference. There aren’t any hard and fast rules in choosing the best backgrounds for headshots. But hopefully, with the photo examples, it’ll be easier for you to decide what resonates with you.
Something to keep in mind is that the photo examples I’ve shared here are just that – ideas and examples. Just because I’ve shown photos of artists and musicians using dark backgrounds doesn’t mean it’s not suitable for other professions. I never put people into boxes, and neither should you.
Ultimately, the backgrounds you choose should reflect your personality, style, and brand. Embrace the versatility I offer in background options, and don’t be afraid to try something new! If you’re still feeling indecisive, that’s okay! Every photo session with me includes a complimentary planning session, and I can guide you every step of the way.
If you’re ready to book your session today, contact me to get started. I’ll be in touch, and we’ll take it from there!
Rachel Hadiashar has been photographing spirited professionals and creatives for more than 15 years. She excels at finding the unique brilliance in each individual and helping them embrace their power by co-creating bespoke visual branding and extraordinary images.