White backgrounds have become all the rage for professional headshot portraits recently with good reason.
A professional headshot is first and foremost a personal and professional business selling tool. Thus, our professional business headshots help create and maintain connections in what seems otherwise a fairly disconnected world.
Many of us will see pictures of each other for years before ever meeting in person.
Until we meet, our professional headshot and our web pretense on various social media platforms, like LinkedIn and Facebook, become our public face to much of the world at large. Where this isn’t the case and often where it is, we may have our headshots displayed on company intranets.
In short, our headshot become our public face within our extended work places and or to our clients and prospects surfing our company sites and various promotional platforms.
We know all this. So, why then have white backgrounds so rapidly become the background color of choice for most professional headshots today?
Social Media and The Web Drive Headshot Useage and Format
Social media and the web have been the largest drivers of white backgrounds.
Most social media and web sites have white or off white as the website basic template. You are reading this blog entry against white for example.
By having a plain white background, a professional headshot can integrate fairly seamlessly directly onto most websites.
Several years ago, most headshots were printed or projected.
The shift to web based viewing has created the need for a bit more vanilla in the background of headshots to make them work best across viewing platforms.
White portrait backgrounds fit this bill very well.
If you will be posting your headshot primarily on the web, white is often the best choice for displayability and viewability.
Corporate Look Matching of Headshots
For companies wishing to maintain a ‘corproate look’ to their employee headshots, for headshots taken on different days of different people in different locations, the easiest look to consistently match looks is with plain white backgrounds.
Any other background look, like red, blue, grey, or various color gradations, environmental looking backgrounds, and so forth have much more variance in their looks than does a pure white background across the entire background.
For example, when you have a red background say, and headshots are taken at two different times, or by different photographers, tone and color matching become issues. White is pretty much white. Red has various shades and tones that the eye catches very immediately, when several varying shades are viewed close together.
While some of these other background looks bring other advantages and definite feels, they are just harder to keep consistent, and definitely more expensive, company wide, to keep a consistent look to the backgrounds for all the team members. Not that a consistent look of a red background cannot be done by professionals, it is just quite a bit more skill, time and expense intensive, for all parties concerned.
Thus white backgrounds are the easiest most flexible background color choice for larger companies, with constant new hires and multiple sites, wishing to maintain a uniform corporate look to their headshots. They are also simpler for smaller operations, though not as much an issue on this score, until a new hire is brought on board, or if one of the team members needs an update for a new look they may have, due to a new hair style or significant loss of weight, etc.
Plain White Backgrounds are Distraction Free for Headshots
Whether we are shooting a black and white or color headshot, plain white is the most consistently distraction free background color for headshots.
For black and white headshots, the pure white tone is usually lighter than any skin tone and separates faces well from the background for most people, regardless of their race. For example, with grey backgrounds some skin tones will be close in value to the grey when converted to black and white and so will not separate the face well from the background, giving a kind of muddy look and feel to the portrait.
Other background colors, like red, can draw eyes away from the face. This is not effective for headshots and is a sign of poor headshot planning… unless the red works overall for some other reason, like it works with the corporate colors and so is important in its own right.
When running an operation with hundreds of employees, the most ubiquitous color will be white.
Even grey has issues with certain people. Also with grey, we tend to put a bit of tonal gradation across the grey as it gives the grey and the headshot more character. However, this reduces the overall ‘corporate feel’ as each portrait becomes more unique as the gradation is shifted for each body type and client height. It is not possible to have every client have the same gradation on their background as the subject changes, so does the bit of background showing behind the subject’s head shift.
Smaller Screens Are Most Effective with White Background Headshots
We have already touched on how headshots are most effective when they display the subjects face without distracting elements.
The smaller the actual size of a headshot, the more pronounced this effect. Headshots today may be seen on average between 4 inches on a side to something like a 1/4 inch on a side on your smart phone screen.
At the small tiny scales we view so many headshots today, a plain white background is a huge boost keeping your face still recognizable when seen so small.
In fact, as you get smaller in size of the display, the distraction of the background becomes more and more critical and can make a headshot which looks fantastic full page size look indistinguishable on smartphone screens.
Environmental headshots in particular become hard to distinguish as size becomes smaller due to their many distracting elements.
Pure White says Professional Headshot
The pure white background is a very difficult look to emulate with a selfie and must be taken by a professional or have quite a bit of post production work done to create the pure white background look.
Thus, anyone posting a headshot with a pure white background has gone an extra mile somewhere in their headshot creation process and has probably hired a professional.
Pure white backgrounds silently convey the powerful message that this headshot is a Professional Headshot of a Business Professional.