What is the best background for headshots?

Beware of the Three B’s

When it comes to backgrounds, I avoid the three Bs—bricks, books, and bushes. Not just because they are cliché, but because they are distracting. A headshot isn't about the background; it's about you.

The primary purpose of your headshot is to create a favorable impression in the eyes of the viewer. A great headshot grabs attention and makes people want to learn more about you. An impressive wall of books may send the message that you are a well-educated and influential attorney, but it does not help create a real, human connection. That requires a natural and engaging expression, and, to keep the viewer's focus on that expression, I prefer the background to be as simple as possible. As my colleague Dan Hilton often says, you've only got a fraction of second to make a connection with a photograph, so don't waste any time distracting the viewer with anything that doesn't need to be there.


My standard backgrounds for headshots are white and grey, and I usually shoot both during a session unless there is a specific need for just one of them. I do both because some people find they prefer one over the other, or sometimes an outfit works better on a particular background. For example, one of my favorite outfit/background combinations is white on white, which makes the subject and expression stand out.

Another advantage of a simple background is when multiple headshots are viewed together, such as on a company's team page. A set of consistent and clean headshots creates in a much stronger design on the page and reflects well on your brand.

Robert Read