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By Ana Mireles on | No Comments
When it comes to headshot photography, THE BACKGROUND CAN BE JUST AS IMPORTANT AS THE SUBJECT.
Choosing the best background to use will depend on the type of photoshoot you’re doing and the end-use of the photograph.
Let's look at the various headshot background choices available, whether you’re working in your studio or on location, so you can choose the most appropriate option.
Keep in mind that while these background options are most often used in a studio, you can also find portable versions to use on location so you can take studio-like headshots on the go.
A neutral-colored backdrop (white, black, or grey) is the most classic type of background. These are typically used for ID photos and corporate or business headshots and they are also a good choice if you know you’re going to change the background in Photoshop.
Neutral color backdrops come in different materials like seamless paper rolls, muslin or other fabric, and even collapsible backgrounds.
Most commonly, color backgrounds are used for young models or to give a casual feel to a headshot. You may also have a client who needs a corporate headshot using a defined color palette that is associated with their brand.
Solid color backdrops are most often made from canvas or fabric and are available in many colors. If you want a particular color that isn't available or don't want to spend money on MORE backdrops, consider using a white background and then change the color in Photoshop or other photo editing software.
You can create a gradient on any neutral or colored background just by the way you light it. There are several different methods to achieve a gradient effect - you can use only one light pointed at an angle, use flags, etc. The main goal is to have one side of the background lit more than the other.
You can also place a light in the middle of the background, behind your subject, to create a radial gradient.
Of course, you can also create gradient backgrounds using editing software like Photoshop.
There are two types of textured backgrounds: physical texture (for example, the wall of your studio) or a printed canvas that "simulates" texture.
In either case, the texture will add depth to your images and variety to your photoshoots without needing to go to different locations.
Do it yourself (DIY) backgrounds can make for some very fun headshots, and you can get as creative as you want. The sky's the limit here. You can use streamers, paper cut-outs, cotton clouds, balloons, fairy lights, etc. It all depends on the mood that you are trying to achieve.
A DIY background doesn't have to be used exclusively in-studio. They are perfect for party and event photography, and you can also use them to create a fun on-location photo booth.
You don’t NEED to invest in portable backgrounds to have professional-looking headshots. There are so many different natural backgrounds available to help curate a headshot on location if you know where to look.
This might surprise you, but you don’t need a physical black backdrop to create a black background headshot. What you need is for your background to remain dark - so it LOOKS ALL BLACK in the image.
Don’t worry; you won’t need to shoot at night to get a dark background. To achieve a black background, your flash needs to overpower the ambient light, and you will need to prevent any light falloff using flags or light modifiers.
Walls can be a great background to use for headshots. There are so many wall colors and textures all around us that you will surely find one that suits your needs. And if you can't find a particular style, you can even purchase very realistic faux wall backdrops to use in-studio.
Once you've located several favorite wall backgrounds around town, create a map so you know where to go the next time you have a photoshoot.
There are usually many bold patterns or designs that can be found around town, like graffiti or architectural elements, that make for exciting backgrounds.
Just be careful that the patterned background doesn’t steal ALL the attention from your subject. And advise your subject to wear solid colors - otherwise, the image can look WAY too busy.
Nature creates the most beautiful backgrounds. For the best natural locations, go to the mountains, the beach, nature preserve, etc., whenever possible.
If none of those options are available or convenient, there are probably many other natural options in your area - just keep your eyes open and think outside the box. For example, you can shoot on a rooftop and use the sky as your backdrop, go to a park or botanical garden, etc.
Here's a great article that will help you find great photograpy locations near you!
A workplace background is usually perfect for a business or corporate client headshot.
From start-ups to multinationals, most companies want to demonstrate how important their employees are to the business. That’s why, on company websites and social media, you will often see headshots of employees in real-world environments - instead of the standard old-school headshot.
When scouting for a good workplace background, make sure to choose one that isn’t TOO busy or cluttered and represents the company well.
For example, a creative studio might include mood boards and drawing tables in the background, while a corporate office might want to demonstrate a clean and attractive, well-lit space with large windows.
Urban portraits are very trendy these days, and the associated backgrounds make for fantastic headshots too. Urban scenery is quite versatile - try shooting with a busy shopping street as a background, or leading lines of a tunnel, street lights, advertising posters, etc.
Make sure to shoot with a shallow depth of field, so your background is blurred enough that your subject stands out and remains the primary focus. Otherwise, they may get lost in the photo.
You can create a beautiful bokeh light background by positioning your model in front of multiple lights (for example, Christmas tree lights, city lights at night, etc.) and then make sure those lights remain out of focus.
Bokeh lights are one of my favorite backgrounds to use for holiday-related headshots or when I want to add a dreamy element to the image. You can also add fun bokeh lights in Photoshop using overlays like these!
Certain backgrounds are better for more classic, professional type of headshots, and as a portrait photographer, you should definitely have at least one of those backdrops available in your studio.
However, for more creative headshots, the only limit is your imagination. The best background to use will be the one that conveys the mood or idea you're trying to achieve in your photo!
What are your Favorite Headshot Backgrounds? Leave us a comment below - we would LOVE to hear your favorites! And PLEASE SHARE this post using the social sharing buttons (we really appreciate it)!
Ana Mireles is a Mexican photographer and researcher with a passion for writing and teaching. She’s collaborated in artistic and cultural projects in Mexico, Italy, and the Netherlands.