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With coffee in hand, I provide a range of photographic services, from weddings & unions to headshots and small business branding. As a stage performer turned photographer, I give special commitment to being intentional, and making you feel seen and comfortable throughout the entire process.

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man in suit against grey wall headshot

5 Tips for Choosing a Headshot Background

When it comes to a headshot background, the possibilities are quite vast. What it really comes down to is what are you trying to convey through your photos? This could be in terms of personality or your profession. Also, how does it contrast with what you’re wearing? These are all things to consider when searching for a headshot background!

Now, disclaimer, this is primarily geared toward natural light and outdoor headshot sessions, so if you’re all about the studio look, perhaps check out a few other blogs about this!

Alright, let’s dive on in!

1. What is your headshot for?

So, this is probably the most important thing when choosing a headshot background. Are you an actor, a business professional, a teacher? If this is for business, what kind of business is it? How similar should it be to your fellow professionals? Writers and creatives often have more freedom for backgrounds and outfits, but the intention is the same. We want to make it make sense. We want it to aid in telling your story, and we want it to allow focus to be on you. For corporate professionals, outdoor backgrounds can absolutely still work, but we will want to work with more neutral, solid backdrops. Perhaps a city look, pillars, hallways, and making the best use of window light. And then leave the posing to me!

Actors and creatives can go many ways. Many are opting for studio headshots these days, and they are just as beautiful, so be honest about what look you want. If you’re going for a gentler look, outdoor greenery and hazy evening or morning glow may be just the thing. If you’re a comedian or sitcom actor, brighter colors can go a long way. Make sure you take a look at lots of your photographer’s work to make sure that you’re investing in the look you want!

For other creatives, does the sound of conforming make your skin crawl and you want to add a bit of color pop to your background? Listen, I hate following rules for the sake of rules when we can get around it. My main concern is that your photo is high quality, looks like you, and tells your story. Other than that, let’s challenge the norms, shall we?

collage of woman in different outfits against brick wall and turquoise walls

2. What are you wearing?

If you’ve got specific colors that fit your personality, then choosing a headshot background to contrast them will be key. I always suggest a few different choices, ranging in color and texture, because sometimes outfits will surprise you. Muted, bright, busy, solid, are all things to consider with a headshot background. Are you going to blend in? Do you want to stand out loudly or softly?

I personally would suggest subtle patterns or solid colors with just a little bit of texture. It’s not distracting or loud, and looks great on camera. A lighter or brighter color underneath a neutral layer is usually always a winner as well, pairing with a background closer to the bottom layer. It’s all about balance!

man in suit against grey wall headshot

3. If you have freedom, what headshot background speaks to your personality?

This ties into your profession again, and how much freedom to play you have with your headshots.

For a few examples, you could go the environmental route, out in a city or nature, where you see more of the background. Greenery, subtle florals or muted bits of color, solid walls, textured walls, alleyways, bridges or coverings. Just spitballing here, of course 🙂

If you’re a realtor, think about where the bulk of your market is (suburbs, rolling land, city walk up) and lean into that!

As an actor, you’ve got OPTIONS. I love a smattering of nature and solid color backgrounds, myself.

woman against colorful mural headshot background in jean material shirt

4. Think about lighting & time of day.

Lighting is at the top of the list in taking solid headshots. No matter what headshot background you choose, make sure it has lighting that can bounce off of either reflectors, sidewalks, neutral walls & buildings, etc. Textured walls and surfaces don’t reflect light the same way smooth surfaces does, so if you are using a textured space, make sure you have plenty of light.

Another problem can occur when the color bounces onto your subject. Make sure you take test shots and close in on your viewfinder to avoid any yucky colors bouncing onto skin.

Choose the correct time of day for said location, so you can avoid harsh lighting. And, make sure that you are going to be highlighted as the focus, not your background. I am totally guilty of making this mistake in my learning journey, where the background is super bright so that my eye doesn’t immediately go to the subject’s. Nope, not good.

woman in black sweater against green headshot background

5. Do you need to change?

Now, I’m probably giving away a lot about myself in this one. Because a lot of my locations are outdoors, I advise my clients to choose shirt changes that can be done in a car, when we aren’t near restrooms. This is mainly because during the pandemic nothing was open! We all got real good at sneaky changing. If you’re looking to do a head to toe change that requires privacy, keep restrooms in mind when choosing a location!

woman in long sleeve yellow shirt against red headshot background

Headshot Background Round-Up

Ok, so what’s the big idea? Range. Choosing locations with multiple options for a range of looks is going to be your best option! With outdoor headshots, you never know what the lighting will be like and you’ll only find better results by trying multiple backdrops. Things surprise you in the moment, and some of my clients favorite headshots came from trying “just one more background for fun!”. And like I say to everyone, there’s no one right answer, there are things you like better and like worse. Trust your instincts and follow the light!

Want to see more resources like this? Head to my blog!

woman with red hair against mural at willow and waves salon in bel air maryland

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- Michele & Adam

"Sarah was absolutely amazing to work with! Every single picture we got back was nothing short of perfect. Our families and friends were amazed at how great our photos turned out as well as the volume of photos we received. She made sure to capture moments that were special to us on our wedding day, as well as make time to get all of the family photos we wanted. Something that I found to be really helpful was how organized Sarah was. She sent us questionnaires to get to know us and even created a day of timeline so my partner and I, and our families and bridal parties, would know what to expect and when formal photos would be taken. Her attention to detail and caring nature ensured that our photos reflected not only our wedding day but our personalities as well. I cannot say enough good things about her and her work. She is a fantastic photographer and a great person to work with.

"photos reflected...our personalities.."

"photos reflected...our personalities"

-Glennis & varun

"...Sarah went above and beyond our expectations. She spent ample time talking with me about my vision of the day, provided a detailed itinerary to help me stay organized, and was a listening ear when I needed practical wedding advice. Her warmth, kindness, and genuine nature helped us feel comfortable in front of the camera. In addition, we are delighted with Sarah’s technical qualities as a photographer - her sense of mise-en-scène, attention to detail, and her remarkable ability to capture poignant and symbolic moments in an inter-cultural, inter-racial, pandemic wedding."

"Sarah went above and beyond our expectations..."

"She made everything easy and is warm and kind..."

- Kaleigh & Hannah

"Beyond being a good photographer, Sarah truly works to make her clients feel comfortable and special during her sessions. She is incredibly personable and there were never any awkward, empty moments during our session! My fiancee and I were truly in the moment and Sarah allowed us to have candid, special moments together while she captured them for us to remember forever...Our day was stress-free thanks to her detailed planning...I absolutely recommend Sarah for anyone and everyone. We are forever thankful for her openness and hard work."

"Sarah allowed us to have candid, special moments together..."

"Sarah allowed us to have candid, special moments together..."

-leila, singer & actress

"Sarah creates a fun, creative, and safe environment that brings out the very best you to photograph. I had a great time in my headshot session with her and I ended up with beautiful photos (that actually look like me) I would be proud to bring into any audition room. 10/10 would recommend!"

"Sarah creates a fun, creative, and safe environment..."

"She was so positive and helpful through the whole process!"

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