Many headshot backgrounds are either black or white, but there is a range of textures, natural elements, and other features that you can use to make a professional headshot stand out. Our tips for choosing the right background for your headshot will help you select a better setting, and impress your clients with a headshot they’ll love.

1. Different Headshot Background Ideas

There are a lot of things to consider when selecting a background for your headshots, and it’s essential to see what you’re able to capture with the camera when using dark colors, or portrait backgrounds that include an image.

Plain White and Black Backgrounds

A white background is more popular than black for headshot backgrounds, but a dark backdrop can add compelling drama to your headshots when used well during a photo session.

headshot of woman with red hair

Image by Katarzyna Hasnik from Pixabay

Textured Backgrounds

Many forms of photography include a textured background that can use different colors such as various shades of grey background, but this kind of backdrop may distract the viewer from the subject in the photo, and for that reason, you must balance the two.

Natural Backgrounds

Photography featuring natural backgrounds is trending right now, and many people love using a naturally occurring backdrop such as a water feature, plant life, or a location with special meaning to them. Taking a professional portrait under these conditions requires skill with a camera, and a willingness to improvise.

woman with polka dot dress

Image by Terrell Turner from Pixabay

A natural background is an excellent free option or any subject as long as it isn’t distracting from your subject. Pay close attention to color and texture to ensure that your subject remains the focus of the headshot.

Solid Backgrounds

Solid colors like white, grey and black are the gold standard when it comes to solid backgrounds, and white background, in particular, is more often requested than a grey or black background. Headshots with a solid background often occur in a session alongside another setting, and this type of portrait may also feature a grey background for your subject.

DIY Headshot Backgrounds

There are a variety of materials that make a good background for a headshot, and many of these are very inexpensive. A white foam core board is one example of a widely available option, but there are also rolls of white paper commonly used as gift wrap, and pieces of white fabric.

If you want to accentuate white backgrounds further, you can place a light source behind your subject, but be careful that this light isn’t too strong or the background will overshadow the subject. White is the most common request for a backdrop, and creating a professional photo background can be relatively inexpensive.

Not many professional headshot backgrounds feature a black background, but this dark color can help your subject pop. A professional headshot for an actor, for example, may require a black background, and solid color clothing typically pairs best in this situation. Keep in mind that this dark color is not an ideal choice for all clientele.

Strong Lines and Buildings

Strong lines may not be appropriate for business applications or corporate headshots, but they can add some personality and uniqueness to a headshot. A typical background that features strong lines is a brick wall or other architecture on stone buildings.

These backdrops are relatively easy to find, and you don’t have to travel to a big city to find them. Even the brick wall of a home will do, and it’s an excellent time to try out camera settings and play around with blurring, and other effects.

A Client’s Workplaces and Colorful Backdrops

Many clients will want their headshot photo taken where they work, as this backdrop is considered appropriate and also says a lot about who they are and what their business does. It’s a good idea to scout out this location in advance, so you’re familiar with the lighting and other features.

You’ll also want to confirm that your client has permission for you to shoot them in that space, and you’ll want to get a property lease signed so you can show the final headshots on social media outlets or as part of your portfolio.

2. Tips for Choosing the Right Background

Finding the right headshot background doesn’t have to be a labor-intensive process. Black and white backgrounds are standard for most portraits, but you’ll also want to consider the purpose of the headshot. Headshots for a business-related image uses often appear on sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and corporate websites.

Some headshots are for promotional materials and depending on the specific needs of your client, you may want to select a background that is fitting for the message the image conveys. For example, a trendy brick wall background might fit a new start-up but may not be the best option for a more conservative business.

little boy with headphones

Image by René Bittner from Pixabay 

Color and personal tastes are other factors to consider when selecting a background. Your clients may have a preference for the color used in their headshot background, and you’ll want to consider your subject to ensure they don’t blend in with the environment or become overshadowed in their headshots in any way.

3. Step By Step Guide to Headshots with a White Background

Setting up a headshot with a white background is an essential photography skill as many headshots used for passports, work activities, websites, and promotional materials request this backdrop. Here’s our step by step tips to setting up the perfect white background.

What Is A Seamless Backdrop?

A seamless backdrop is a photography staple and provides a large, smooth surface as a background for your headshot.

These backdrops are non-reflective for the most part and will need periodic replacement regardless of the material used. You can find seamless backdrop paper or vinyl in a wide variety of colors and patterns. 

Tricks for Unrolling and Securing the Backdrop

Pulling the backdrop downwards, you should be able to unspool plenty of material to cover the space behind your subject and the floor beneath them. Don’t be shy about how much you unspool for this as full coverage is the goal. Secure the backdrop on the floor with some tape, so it isn’t a tripping hazard.

To preserve the backdrop that you’re using, you can also place a piece of plexiglass on the floor for your subject to stand on. Although this isn’t necessary for all shots, it can keep the backdrop free from smudges and dirt and provide a surface that is easier to clean between subjects.

Tips for Setting Up and Mounting Your Seamless Backdrop

Make sure you have enough space around the backdrop stand to move when using the camera. You’ll also want to secure the stand and backdrop to each other and the ground using tape, clips, or weights.

Once the backdrop stand is in place, and you’ve selected your background, you can set up for your session. It’s best to place the backdrop at the top part of the stand, high enough that it won’t be in your shot, and secure it in place with a mounting device, or a pole and clips for safety.

Final Thoughts 

Although a white background is the most requested headshot background color, it doesn’t hurt to try out other options in your studio like black, grey, brick walls, buildings, and different textures like lines or plant life.

Natural backdrops are very popular for backgrounds, and you can play around with blurring backgrounds in your studio or adding lighting to create different effects.