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?
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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