When photographing professional headshots it can be daunting to decide what would be the perfect backdrop for the photo. While more corporate jobs require a clean and neutral background, creative sector jobs require the complete opposite. Even though the focus of your picture is a professional headshot, the background is incredibly important for how it frames the face and fits with the desired look of the individual’s brand and title. These tips and ideas will help you choose the best professional headshot background for your clients’ needs.

The Importance of Backgrounds in Headshot Photography

Each color and texture of the background creates a different look and evokes specific emotions in those viewing the picture. For example, some backgrounds look very traditional and professional while others create an atmosphere of warmth, charm, and youth. It is vital that the headshot background chosen matches the overall business or professional image that you want to highlight.

In addition, you must ensure that the background blends well with overall skin tone and clothing choices as poor balance and confusing symbolism will not present a cohesive whole. The headshot may be the first impression that a potential client forms of a business professional, and it can deeply impact how the professional is perceived.

Most Common Headshot Background Options

While headshots can be done in front of almost any backdrop, there are a select few options that have become widely popular in this niche of photography. When selecting a headshot background you want to look at what is best for framing the face, drawing attention to specific details, and creating an image that appears open and trustworthy. The following options are six of the most frequently used headshot backgrounds you will see online or for commercial use and are easy to find or re-create.

Textured Headshot Backgrounds (brown, grey, etc)

Let’s start with the most traditional headshot background, the textured neutral colors like brown, grey, dark burgundy, navy blue, or forrest green.  You can find plenty of these options with brands like Savage Universal.  These textured backgrounds are commonly used for headshots of professionals like lawyers, university professors and other esteemed professions.  But they are also often used in fine art portraiture.  Their versatility and beauty make them one of the most popular options for headshot backgrounds.

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Black Headshot Backgrounds

Example of a black headshot background

The black or dark gray background offers a simple and traditional look with a moody twist. It evokes a sense of professionalism as well as power and luxury in its simplicity. It is also very good at accentuating the details that you most want the viewer to focus on, such as the eyes and mouth. With no other colors or images to distract from the headshot, the black background is a simple choice for professionals in law, business, finance, and similar fields.

Photographing with a black background adds incredible detail to the headshot, making the face appear dramatically offset and allowing any other clothing colors to pop off the background. This is why the black background is also becoming increasingly popular these days for those in creative fields, such as authors, actors, and artists.

White Headshot Backgrounds

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Example of a white headshot background from our ‘Headshot Photography 101‘ course.

While black backgrounds feel dramatic and intimate, a headshot white background feels bright, open, and natural and still allows the viewer to focus on the individual’s face. White also presents a clean image, like you might see in a product shot in an e-commerce store. Of course, textured white backgrounds, such as white walls, can provide a bit more depth if you like. If you are unsure what backdrop would be best for your client’s headshot, white is the easy choice as it is quite standard throughout the photography industry. However, be sure that your client’s clothing stands out from the backdrop by recommending that he or she choose dark or bright colors.

Architectural Headshot Backgrounds

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Example of an Architectural Headshot Background

To amp up the texture in your headshots, consider heading away from the in-studio backdrops and opting for interesting architectural designs that can be easily found both indoors and outdoors. Anything with strong lines, arches, or other dramatic features will work here. However, you will need to use a shallow depth of field to create separation between the subject and background.

Nature Headshot Backgrounds (Outdoor)

headshot backgroundIf you live near some beautiful natural areas, such as water or woods, nature can serve as an amazing and completely free backdrop for your headshots as well. Smaller patches of foliage can make for great backgrounds, you don’t need a huge park! Nature can be a good option for those with jobs in creative industries and businesses whose brands are aligned with nature, life, or adventure. Once again, be sure to blur the background with a low f-stop to make facial features pop. The blurring of soft colors in nature will look gorgeous.

Colorful Headshot Backgrounds

Example of a colorful headshot background

Colorful backgrounds can also be fun choices for those in creative positions rather than in business. All you need is a colorful wall, which you may be able to find along with buildings or fences. You could even opt for an urban mural. However, make sure that your backdrop choice does not take away from your client. It should only accentuate the headshot to create a very strong yet fun look.

These colorful backgrounds, however, have a somewhat limited use.  They aren’t quite professional enough to for traditional professions outside of the tech or gaming industry.  They can also give off a youthful and fun vibe, which can be useful if that is your intent.

Professional Environments for Headshot Backgrounds

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Example of an Office Headshot Background

Finally, you may choose to photograph some individuals in their places of business. These environmental portraits display more than the individual’s head and include context as to where they work. Be sure to scope out the area before your session to find the best possible background for the headshot.

Look for areas of the office space with clean, non distracting colors, architecture and decor, such as the image above.

Choosing the Best Professional Headshot Background for Your Client

A headshot background creates a strong first impression of the individual.  For example, some clients wanting to appear serious, honest, and knowledgeable and will therefore prefer simple neutral-colored backgrounds. On the other hand, clients in creative industries will probably want more colorful, lively, and warm backgrounds.

If you are ever unsure which backdrop to choose, opt for a simple headshot white background. We hope this offers you options for when you have to select a headshot background for your next client! Make sure you check out our Headshot Photography course to learn about lighting, gear, and more!