Choosing a Background for your Headshot Photos
One of the many decisions you and your photographer makes for your headshots is choosing a background. While it is not the main focus of the image, it does play an important role in the overall look, feel, mood, and message your images convey.
Let’s first start with the purpose of your photos, as this will play a major role in determining the overall look. For LinkedIn profile shots for job seekers, or people in a business (vs. artistic) environment, I lean towards simple backgrounds. Yes, everyone wants their photo to stand out, and be different. However for people seeking employment you generally want to come across as professional, confident, friendly – someone who will “fit-in” with the existing team. In general (and yes, there are always exceptions), a straightforward background/studio-based shot is the approach I recommend – black, grey, off white, subtle blue, are all colors that are fairly neutral and go well with your LinkedIn profile for business.
For companies who want to post pictures of staff, you have more options – studio as discussed above, or “environmental” - which also can be thought of “on location”. It creates a sense of location/context. For example, an image for an annual report for a company that makes turbine engines may be a ¾ length shot with the turbine engine in the background (somewhat out of focus, or not). An image of the exec team of a biotech company may have individuals and group photos of people in lab coats in a lab. Whichever backgrounds companies choose, they should be consistent/similar for all the profile pictures – ie, a common look/feel.
For models/actors/musicians, etc., the choices can be more artistic in nature, as that is more accepted. More use of colors, varied lighting, etc. can be used – background colors/lighting can be used to complement and/or enhance costumes, outfits, etc., to convey an overall mood. An actor looking for dramatic roles may want some headshots with dramatic backgrounds (e.g, darker) and lighting (eg., with shadows on the face). Another actor looking for roles in musicals may want something more colorful, lighter.
Backgrounds can be solid colored, have gradients, have a “modeled” look, be hand painted, etc..
They can be lit in various ways to create a wide range of looks, moods, etc.. I generally discuss background options during an initial interview before the session, along with clothing and lighting options as they are all intertwined – e.g, a man wearing a dark suit will generally require different lighting/background choices vs. a man wearing a white open collared shirt.
During our pre-shoot discussion, we'll explore different options to create the best images that conveys the right message for you.