In a recent post, (The Anatomy of a Great Headshot) I touched on backgrounds and promised I would go into some detail on why I use white, gray or black backgrounds for my headshots. Truthfully, there is no right or wrong answer as to what type of background should be in your headshot. Some people prefer a blurry background. Some prefer solid colors. I recently watched a panel of 5 casting directors talking about headshots. They all had different opinions. Your opinion also matters. You get to pick how you want to represent yourself.
Personally, I choose to shoot on a solid color background. I use white and gray mostly. There are several reasons I prefer this. It certainly cannot be ignored that I am influenced by photographers like Peter Hurley, Richard Avedon, and Irving Penn. Each one of them masters of their craft and of using very “simple” backgrounds.
My work is about the person I am photographing and their personality. I know, in a headshot, you and I need to convey a lot of information about you in a very little space. I don’t want anything else in the image competing with you in your 8×10 or profile pictures. By creating your headshots on a solid background, I ensure that you are what anyone who looks at your image focuses on. When you get done reading this, checking out a few more blogs, then booking your acting headshots or professional headshots, go scroll through your Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn feeds and see how a blurry background effects the profile images as you are scrolling. (Please note the cheap plug party. Feel free to go follow me on your favorite social media outlet!)
What makes my headshots successful is the genuine reactions I get from those that step in front of my camera. This is done by me connecting with them and coaching the entire time.
At the end of the day, if the background is the focus of the image, not the human, there is something wrong. It doesn’t matter if it’s a solid color background, a blurry background, a painted drop, a field of flowers…whatever. You need to be the focus of your headshot.