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Stand Out and Shine: The Secrets to Choosing a Professional Headshot Background

Imagine the doors a captivating professional headshot can open, and having an eye for detail is crucial to capturing that perfect image, I'm Austen Hunter, a seasoned headshot photographer in Pensacola, and in this piece, we'll explore one crucial facet I emphasize—the headshot background, a silent yet potent player in how your professional narrative is perceived.

Key Takeaways:

  • The background of a professional headshot significantly influences the viewer's perception, setting the mood, tone, and reinforcing brand values.

  • Classic backgrounds such as white and grey offer versatility and can convey professionalism, authority, or creativity.

  • Natural backgrounds lend a relaxed feel to the image, while textured backgrounds like brick or wooden panels can add depth and personality.

  • The careful selection of colored or abstract backgrounds can enhance brand messaging and create eye-pleasing aesthetics, complementing the subject's skin tone and attire.

which professional headshot background color do I use

The Power of Headshots and Backgrounds in Professional Settings

A professional headshot speaks volumes about your personal brand, and the headshot background is a key component in setting the right tone. In fact, according to a research study by LinkedIn, accounts with professional headshots are more 14x more likely to be viewed than those without. A well-chosen background amplifies your message, while a poorly selected one detracts from it. To understand the significance of the background in the success of a headshot, consider the following points:

  • Reinforces the subject's professional image: A well-chosen background complements the subject's attire and demeanor, resulting in a cohesive image that highlights professionalism.

  • Creates visual harmony: A harmonious background can enhance the overall composition by directing the viewer's focus to the subject's face, emphasizing the eyes and expression.

  • Sets the mood and tone: The right background can convey the desired mood and atmosphere, be it approachable, authoritative, or creative, helping to shape the viewer's perception of the subject.

  • Reflects brand values: For entrepreneurs and business owners, a carefully selected background can reinforce the brand's identity and values, making the headshot more effective in promoting the brand.

  • Maximizes impact: A well-executed background ensures that the subject remains the focal point, maximizing the impact of the headshot on potential clients, employers, or networking partners.

By paying close attention to the choice of background, you can harness the power of headshots in professional settings, creating a lasting impression that helps you achieve your career goals.

"A well-chosen background is not merely a setting but a statement of your professional narrative." - Austen Hunter

Classic Backgrounds for Professional Headshots

For professional headshots, there are two classic headshot background choices that never go out of style: white and grey. Both options have their own unique appeal and can be used to create a variety of looks depending on your needs, making them excellent choices for professionals across various industries.

A crisp white background is perfect for creating a clean, polished look that exudes professionalism. This option is particularly suitable for corporate headshots or for individuals in fields like finance, medicine, or law, where projecting an image of expertise and authority is essential. White backgrounds draw attention to the subject's features, focusing on the individual rather than the surrounding environment.

On the other hand, grey backgrounds offer versatility, making them suitable for both creative professionals and business-oriented individuals. The added depth and contrast provided by a grey background create a dynamic effect, allowing the headshot to stand out while maintaining a sense of sophistication. This option can be tailored to the specific needs of the subject, whether it's to showcase their unique creative flair or to emphasize a more serious and authoritative demeanor.

In summary, both white and grey backgrounds are excellent choices for professionals, providing a timeless and versatile backdrop for headshots that convey the desired image, be it clean and polished or dynamic and sophisticated.

which professional headshot background color do I use outside

Natural Backgrounds in Professional Headshots

While classic headshot backgrounds can be versatile and timeless, sometimes you want a headshot that stands out from the crowd. That's where natural backgrounds come in.

Outdoor locations for headshots such as parks, beaches, and urban streets can provide a more relaxed and natural feel to your image, which can be perfect for certain industries or situations. When choosing a natural background for your headshot, it's important to consider the time of day.

The golden hour - the first hour after sunrise and the last hour before sunset - provides soft lighting that can enhance your features and create a warm glow in your photographs. However, if you're shooting in a heavily shaded area during that time, it might not work in your favor.

In contrast, midday sunlight is harsh and can cast unflattering shadows on your face. If you do need to shoot during this time period though, try standing under an overhead shade or behind a tree so that some of the light is diffused.

Tips for Posing in Natural Settings

When shooting outdoors with natural backgrounds, there are certain techniques you should keep in mind to ensure the best results possible:

  • Keep posture straight but not stiff - slouching or standing too rigidly will detract from the natural feel.

  • Show movement - rather than having just one static pose throughout multiple shots, try moving around within the environment to create variation between photos.

  • Elongate your neck - this will help define jawline while also adding elegance to any pose (especially when looking upwards).

  • Pose with objects around you - lean against a tree trunk or sit on stairs to create interest within the frame.

By keeping these headshot posing tips in mind when posing outdoor settings, you'll be able to create headshots that are both natural and professional.

which professional headshot background color do I use outside

Textured Backgrounds in Professional Headshots

Incorporating textured headshot backgrounds, like brick walls or wooden panels, can add depth and visual interest to professional headshots. These elements provide a unique appearance suitable for various industries, allowing the subject's personality to shine.

  • Brick Walls: Offering a rustic and edgy look, brick walls work well for those in creative fields or professionals who want to showcase their personality while maintaining a polished appearance.

  • Wooden Panels: These backgrounds give a warm, natural feel, perfect for professionals seeking a refined or organic touch in their headshots.

When using textured backgrounds, it's crucial to balance the subject and the background. Here are some tips to achieve this:

  • Select textures that complement the subject's outfit or profession to create harmony in the composition.

  • Keep some distance between the subject and the background to prevent blending and maintain prominence in the frame.

By using textured backgrounds effectively, you can create unique, eye-catching headshots that complement the subject's personality and style.

which professional headshot background color do I use color

Colored Backgrounds in Professional Headshots

Selecting the right colored headshot background can enhance your brand messaging or create an eye-pleasing color compliment, as it involves considering factors like skin tone, clothing choices, and the message you want to convey. Here's a closer look at these elements:

  • Complementing skin tone and clothing: To create a cohesive and professional look, choose a background color that complements your skin tone and outfit. Warm backgrounds, such as orange or yellow, work well with darker skin tones, while lighter backgrounds like blue or green are suitable for cooler skin tones. When wearing bright colors or patterns, spring for a neutral background to avoid clashing. Conversely, if you're dressed in muted colors, you can experiment with bolder background hues for added visual interest.

  • Utilizing color psychology: Different colors evoke different emotions and messages, making it important to select a background color and headshot outfit that aligns with your personal brand or the message you want to convey in your headshot. For example, blue is often associated with trustworthiness and professionalism, making it a popular choice for corporate headshots. Red signifies energy and passion, making it an excellent option for creative professionals who want to showcase their enthusiasm. Green, associated with nature and growth, is ideal for individuals in environmental industries.

  • Avoiding distractions: While bold-colored backgrounds can grab attention and add interest to your headshot, it's essential to use them cautiously. Refrain from using overly busy patterns or distracting colors that may divert focus from the subject. Likewise, avoid overly bright or neon colors that could overwhelm the viewer. Instead, consider a more subtle approach, such as a soft pastel background or a gradient background that fades from one color to another, offering a unique and understated effect.

Be sure to choose a headshot background color that complements your features, attire, and the message you want to convey. This will help you make a strong and lasting impression in your professional headshot, setting you apart from the competition.

which professional headshot background color do I use color

Abstract Backgrounds in Professional Headshots

Abstract headshot backgrounds can help create a unique look that distinguishes you from traditional headshots. This can be achieved using patterns, gradients, or other abstract designs. Here's how to effectively use abstract backgrounds:

  • Create a unique look: Abstract backdrops allow endless creative opportunities to convey specific moods or personality traits. For instance, colorful polka dots can add playfulness and quirkiness, while geometric shapes with muted tones can evoke sophistication and chic.

  • Balance the subject and background: It's essential to maintain a balance between the subject and the abstract background. This can be achieved by adjusting contrast levels, using complementary colors, or controlling the depth of field. A shallow depth of field, for example, can blur parts of the backdrop while keeping the subject sharp, creating depth and making the subject stand out.

  • Incorporate negative space: Including negative space in the background can further complement the subject, ensuring they remain the focus of the image.

Abstract backdrops offer a creative way to set yourself apart from conventional headshots, but be tactful when choosing them. By finding the right balance between the subject and background, you can achieve stunning results that showcase your unique personality and style.

digital backdrop headshot background example office

Digital Backdrops for Professional Headshots

Digital backdrops are a newer choice for prospective headshot clients, allowing for a lot of personalization. They offer a chance to pick a background that matches your brand or the job you do. One big benefit is the wide range of options available, giving you the flexibility to choose. You can also change digital backdrops easily after the photo is taken. However, it's crucial to pick a high-quality digital backdrop to maintain a professional look. The goal is to choose a backdrop that adds a nice touch to your photo without stealing the spotlight.

fabric headshot background backdrop example artistic

Fabric Backdrops for Professional Headshots

Fabric backdrops are often chosen for their artistic allure in headshots and portraits. They bring a timeless, Renaissance appeal to the imagery, evoking a sense of classic artistry. The texture and depth they provide can add a layer of sophistication, making your photo stand out in a unique way. Particularly for those seeking a more artistic or vintage vibe, fabric backdrops serve as a bridge to a bygone era, enhancing the overall aesthetic of your headshot while keeping the focus on you.

Comparing Backdrop Options for Your Headshot

Understanding the different backdrop options available for your headshot is important for achieving the desired look. The table below outlines the unique attributes and suitability of fabric and digital backdrops across various professional domains:

Table: Types of Professional Headshot Backgrounds

Background Color

Background Type


Suitable For


​Paper Backdrop

Clean, polished look

Corporate headshots, finance, medicine, law


Color Backdrop

Vibrancy, energetic appeal

Creative fields, marketing, advertising


Digital Backdrop

Customizability, brand alignment

Professionals seeking a tailored background


Fabric Backdrop

Texture, Artistic Appearance

Individuals looking for a traditional, professional backdrop

Headshot Background Frequently Asked Questions:

Here are a few questions commonly asked about headshot backgrounds:

Q: How can a textured background enhance a professional headshot?

A: Textured backgrounds, such as brick walls or wooden panels, can greatly enhance a professional headshot by adding depth and visual interest. The rustic feel of a brick wall or the natural warmth of a wooden panel can give your headshot a unique appearance, lending a touch of personality to the image. However, when using textured backgrounds, it's important to balance the subject and the background to maintain the subject's prominence. This can be achieved by keeping some distance between the subject and the background, and choosing textures that complement the subject's outfit or profession.

Q: What factors should I consider when choosing a colored background for a professional headshot?

Q: Can an abstract background be effective in a professional headshot?

Q: How does a natural background influence the mood of a professional headshot?

Q: Can I use a bold colored background in a professional headshot?

Final Thoughts

The headshot background you choose can significantly impact the impression you make. Whether your headshot is for LinkedIn, a company website, or an acting portfolio, it's essential to select a background that complements your style and profession while reflecting your personality. Keep in mind that your chosen background should not only look good but also convey the right message to your audience.

Don't be afraid to experiment with various backgrounds and settings until you find one that speaks to your unique style and personality. Remember, different types of backgrounds work better in different situations, so explore several options until you feel comfortable with one. If you're unsure, don't hesitate to ask your photographer for their professional advice and guidance.

Are you ready to find the perfect headshot background that captures your unique personality and profession? Book your next photoshoot with Austen Hunter and experience the difference that expert guidance and creativity can make in showcasing your personal brand. With the help of a professional photographer, you'll elevate your image and create a lasting impression. Don't wait – book your session today:



Austen Hunter Photography is a photographer based in Pensacola, Florida who specializes in family beach photography, military portrait photography and professional headshot in a bold and clean style. Austen Hunter has been locally recognized and internationally published . He uses a variety of both natural light and off-camera flash to capture images. People usually book Austen for outdoor portrait sessions or sessions conducted at his home studio.

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Chelsea, Headshot Client

"Wonderful experience! Wanted an updated headshot and Austen and Sarah were amazing. The studio was clean and incredibly nice, Sarah even provided blotting pads to help with shininess I had during photo shoot. 10/10 recommend to anyone wanting to get a photo taken! Thank you again!"


Tammy, Headshot Client

"We are so glad that we found Austen. He did a wonderful job providing us with quality headshot photographs. He made us feel comfortable and gave us good suggestions for posing. We look forward to working with him again in the future!"


Daryl, Beach Client

"Austen and his team were amazing! They were able to capture exactly what we wanted for our engagement pictures and also provided us a tent to change clothes. I would highly recommend him and I would definitely use him again."

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