Business headshots get used for many different areas; from social media profiles to the corporate brochure, so deciding on a background for your business headshot can seem tricky. I generally recommend a plain background for business headshots as there are few distractions for the viewer and they keep their eyes on the main subject – you. Additionally these plain backgrounds allow graphics artists the easiest option if they are going to adapt your shot for some artwork.
Normally, your head and shoulders on a plain background provides graphics artists an easy way of cutting you out from the background so they can add another background entirely (such as the examples here) or having a transparent background, easily allowing your business headshot to be added to any other graphics as a composite. If you are familiar with the way Zoom works with a virtual background, you’ll get the idea. Images with a transparent background have to be in a different format (PNG files) to the standard images that are generated by cameras (JPEG files), but are well supported by web pages or physical printing. (for the technically minded, there is an option for jpegs supporting transparency, but for ease of understanding, we’ll not cover this here)
Also read: Business Stories and Profile Photos
So; I recommend using a white, grey or black background for most business headshots – but what if you don’t want that look? Or what if you prefer to have your corporate colour as the background? Corporate colours are the easiest as shooting the headshot on a white or black background allows you to change to any colour you like with background replacement; a feature built into most good quality photo editing programmes – you don’t even need a ‘green screen’ system for this.
Incorporating Corporate Colours or backgrounds
Another good alternative is an environmental shot. Before you reach for your coat and hat, environmental in the case of photography, means any area where the photographer is not fully in control of that background, but a place that’s meaningful to the sitter. You could be outdoors, if that’s the look you want, but you could also be sitting at your desk in your office, if that’s more meaningful to your audience. Of course, you could go full ‘tiger king’ – and many singletons on Tinder etc have done this – but this look really only works if you’re a zoo keeper, in my opinion.
Simplicity is always the best course of action where headshots are concerned. If you run a manufacturing plant, consider having that in the background, such as Alex here (left). Or Michael (below, right); sitting in his wood burning stove shop.
Although there are areas other than the sitter that draw the eye, there is good separation between the sitter and the surrounding: the background elements are out of focus and darker than the head and shoulders, meaning your eye is naturally drawn back to the sitter.
The background to your business headshot shouldn’t distract the viewer from your likeness, but using a plain backdrop means it’s easier for graphics artists to add an alternative background that will suit the way the images will be used in print or online.