• Dean Birinyi

Best Background For a Headshot

Headshot Backgrounds

The most important part of a headshot is you! The background you choose should be an accent that highlights your personality, enhances your professional persona, and, most importantly, makes your expression the star of the show.

I feel backgrounds should be simple and should never compete with your face for attention. There are four different types of backgrounds I suggest shooting on.


It will work on any website regardless of the branding or color scheme. I shoot 95% of my headshots on a gray background because it is neutral, and all colors stand out against it. I always offer my customers the option of at least three different lightnesses based on what I feel will be best for their complexion and personality.

Whether we're doing women's executive headshots or men's, we must be more conscious of finding a balance between authority and approachability when working on a dark background. The extra time and effort this requires provide an enormous ROI.


White backgrounds are classic and always give a polished, professional look to a headshot. Much like a gray background, the neutrality makes the images very flexible.

Female executives headshot on a white background.

Unfortunately, what can wash out a person's complexion and come across as sterile depending on their expression and the outfit they're wearing. I ask my customers to bring in six to ten different outfits to choose ones that will look best on the different backgrounds we work on.


Patterned backgrounds are the most dangerous type of background to work on. My style is to use simple backgrounds because geometric patterns or variations in colors can compete with your face for attention.

Woman's professional headshot on a patterened background in Sunnyvale, CA

* Standing in front of a brick wall or using plants as a background is the surest way to end up with a cheesy headshot.


I've recently upgraded my lighting to RGBW LED lights that allow me to offer custom color backgrounds. With this technology, I can create a custom background color that perfectly enhances each person's complexion, eyes, or hair.

Woman's executive headshot on a custom color background in Palo Alto, CA

Colored backgrounds add energy and vibrancy to an image. We have to be careful the color doesn't overwhelm the person in the photo, so we work to find the perfect balance between enhancing the power of a woman's headshot in Mountain View and overpowering them.

It is nice to have different background options for other uses. The critical takeaway is to use a background that puts you "out there" in a way that you're comfortable with and focuses attention on you because this is your headshot. It's not about the lighting, the background, the makeup, hair, or clothes. It's all about you, your presence, your personality, and your professional presentation.


Dean Birinyi is an award-winning photographer, founder, and owner of Professional Headshots Palo Alto and Silicon Valley Headshots. He specializes in expression coaching to guide his customers on presenting themselves as confident, approachable professionals ready for the next opportunity.

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