Virtual Backgrounds: Setting the Tone for Your Next Video Call

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Virtual backgrounds have become pivotal, particularly for businesses that communicate online. Their evolution and widespread adoption underscore their significance in setting the tone for video calls. In this article, we’ll discuss the evolution of virtual backgrounds, where to get your own and more.

The Evolution of Virtual Backgrounds in the Digital World

virtual backgrounds

Virtual backgrounds have followed a fascinating path in the digital realm. What started as a fun little feature has grown into a must-have tool for professional online meetings. This evolution showcases their pivotal role in improving our virtual interactions, seamlessly connecting our physical and digital worlds.

Free Virtual Backgrounds vs. Paid: Making the Right Choice

virtual backgrounds

When deciding between free and paid virtual backgrounds, there are a myriad of factors to consider. Both options have their advantages and drawbacks, and the right choice will largely depend on the specific needs and preferences of the user.

Free Virtual Backgrounds:

  • Pros:
    • Accessibility: Free backgrounds are easily available from numerous online sources, making them widely accessible for users regardless of their budget.
    • Cost-Effective: As the name suggests, there’s no cost associated with these, making them perfect for those who don’t want to invest in backgrounds, especially if they use them infrequently.
    • Variety: Many free platforms offer a broad range of choices, from serene landscapes to professional office backdrops.
  • Cons:
    • Lack of Uniqueness: Given their accessibility, there’s a higher chance that many other users will have the same background, which can detract from its appeal, especially in larger meetings.
    • Potential Quality Issues: Free options might not always offer the highest resolution or the best overall image quality.
    • Limited Customization: While some free platforms allow for minor edits, they might not offer the same depth of customization that some paid versions might.

Paid Virtual Backgrounds:

  • Pros:
    • High Quality: Paid options usually guarantee a high resolution and professional-quality backdrop.
    • Brand Authenticity: Businesses can purchase or commission backgrounds that align with their brand image, ensuring a consistent visual presentation.
    • Exclusivity: With premium choices, there’s a lower chance of encountering someone else with the same background.
    • Advanced Features: Some paid platforms offer features like animated backgrounds or the ability to add logos and brand elements seamlessly.
  • Cons:
    • Cost: The most evident drawback is the investment. Some high-quality backgrounds or platforms with advanced features can be expensive.
    • Overwhelming Choices: With a plethora of options available, making a decision on the perfect background can sometimes be challenging.

In conclusion, the decision between free and paid virtual backgrounds hinges on individual or business needs, budget considerations, and the desired impression one wants to convey in virtual meetings. If a user is keen on high quality, brand consistency, and exclusivity, then a paid option might be best. However, for infrequent users or those on a tight budget, free backgrounds can serve just as effectively.

AspectFree Virtual BackgroundsPaid Virtual Backgrounds
CostNo investment required.Comes with a price, which can vary based on quality and source.
QualityMay vary, with some options potentially lacking in resolution or overall quality.Typically high resolution and professional-quality.
UniquenessHigher likelihood of others using the same background due to wide accessibility.More exclusive choices reduce the chance of duplicate backgrounds.
CustomizationLimited; may offer basic edits but lacks in-depth customization options.Advanced customization, including adding logos and brand elements.
VarietyBroad range from numerous sources, though may lack in specialized themes.Diverse options often tailored to professional or specialized themes.
BrandingGenerally generic; not tailored to specific brand aesthetics.Allows for brand-aligned backgrounds, enhancing brand consistency.
FeaturesBasic static images with occasional simple animations.Advanced features like animated backgrounds and seamless integration.
AvailabilityWidely available from various online sources.Exclusive to certain platforms or available for purchase/commission.

Best Places to Find the Best Free Virtual Backgrounds

virtual backgrounds

In 2023, several websites offer an array of free virtual backgrounds:

1. Canva provides a versatile selection of free virtual backgrounds, allowing you to customize your virtual environment effortlessly.

2. Videezy offers a collection of video backgrounds, adding dynamic elements to your online meetings.

3. Unsplash features a vast library of high-quality images that can serve as virtual backgrounds for a professional touch.

4. Pexels offers a wide variety of free virtual backgrounds, making it easy to find the perfect backdrop for your virtual meetings.

5. Pixabay provides an extensive selection of free images and videos suitable for virtual backgrounds, ensuring you have options to suit your needs.

Premium Sources for Professional Zoom Background Images

virtual backgrounds

For businesses seeking premium virtual backgrounds, consider the following options:

6. Adobe Stock offers a premium collection of zoom backgrounds that are professionally curated and visually appealing.

7. iStockPhoto provides access to high-quality illustrations and images suitable for professional Zoom meetings.

8. Shutterstock boasts an extensive library of premium images and videos for creating a polished virtual backdrop.

9. Getty Images offers a premium selection of professional-grade zoom backgrounds that can elevate your online presence.

10. Envato Elements provides a subscription-based service with access to a vast collection of high-quality images and resources, including zoom backgrounds, perfect for businesses looking to make a lasting impression.

CanvaFreeVersatile selection allowing effortless customization of virtual environment.Free
VideezyFreeOffers dynamic video backgrounds for online meetings.Free
UnsplashFreeVast library of high-quality images suitable for a professional touch.Free
PexelsFreeWide variety of free virtual backgrounds.Free
PixabayFreeExtensive selection of free images and videos for virtual backgrounds.Free
Adobe StockPremiumPremium collection of zoom backgrounds; professionally curated and visually appealing.Premium Price
iStockPhotoPremiumHigh-quality illustrations and images suitable for professional meetings.Premium Price
ShutterstockPremiumExtensive library of premium images and videos for polished virtual backdrop.Premium Price
Getty ImagesPremiumPremium professional-grade zoom backgrounds.Premium Price
Envato ElementsSubscriptionSubscription-based service with vast collection of high-quality resources, including zoom backgrounds.Subscription Fee

Steps to Elevate Your Background for Your Next Virtual Meeting

virtual backgrounds

Selecting the right virtual background is just the starting point for a successful virtual meeting. To shine in the digital realm, remember to present yourself effectively. Ensure good lighting, a clutter-free environment, and a professional appearance to complement your chosen backdrop.

Picking the Right Zoom Backgrounds for Your Brand

Choosing a virtual background should align with your brand’s identity and messaging. It’s an opportunity to reinforce your brand image and values. Opt for backgrounds that resonate with your audience and convey the right message, whether it’s corporate, creative, or casual.

How to Change Your Zoom Backgrounds

Changing your Zoom background is a simple process:

  • Sign in to the Zoom desktop client.
  • Click your profile picture and select “Settings.”
  • Choose “Backgrounds & Filters.”
  • If you have a green screen, check “I have a green screen” and select the appropriate color.
  • Click on an image or video to set your virtual background.
  • Optionally, add your own image or video.
  • If needed, click “Download” to get the virtual background package without a green screen.

Virtual Backgrounds Etiquette: Do’s and Don’ts

virtual backgrounds

Using virtual backgrounds can be both entertaining and functional. While they offer an opportunity to express oneself, they should also be chosen with consideration to context, ensuring that the setting of a virtual meet-up aligns with its purpose. Here are some virtual background etiquette do’s and don’ts to bear in mind:


  • Tailor to the Occasion: Different meetings call for different settings. An informal chat with friends might permit a relaxed beach background, while a work call may necessitate a more muted, professional backdrop.
  • Prioritize Clarity: Ensure that the background does not affect the visibility of the user. The backdrop should be well-lit and should contrast well with your attire to prevent any blending issues.
  • Test Beforehand: Before entering the main call, test your background to ensure it appears as desired, especially if utilizing green screen software. Most platforms offer a preview feature.
  • Seek Feedback: Especially in professional settings, occasionally asking colleagues for feedback can be beneficial. Something that seems non-distracting to you might be distracting to others.
  • Maintain Professionalism: For formal meetings, webinars, or professional presentations, opt for backgrounds that are neutral and devoid of busy patterns. Consider using a virtual office, a bookshelf, or a neutral color gradient.


  • Avoid Controversy: Steer clear of backgrounds that might be divisive, be it politically, religiously, or culturally charged. Such choices can quickly turn a productive meeting into a heated debate.
  • Stay Away from Overly Animated Backgrounds: A background with too much movement can be a significant distraction. This includes flashing colors, rapid animations, or bustling scenes.
  • Refrain from Overly Personal Settings: Sharing a backdrop of your recent vacation or a personal event might be great for close friends but could be viewed as unprofessional in a work setting.
  • Don’t Clutter: Just as a cluttered real-life background can be distracting, a virtual background with too many elements can detract from the main purpose of the meeting.
  • Avoid Inappropriate Humor: A joke or meme might be funny in a social setting but could fall flat or even be seen as inappropriate in a professional environment.

The choice of a virtual background should be made thoughtfully, with both the context of the meeting and the attendees in mind. While it’s an opportunity to showcase creativity, it’s also crucial to enhance communication rather than become a topic of distraction. The golden rule? When in doubt, always err on the side of caution and simplicity.

SuitabilityTailor to the Occasion: Choose settings that match the nature of your meet-up.Avoid Controversy: Don't use backgrounds that might incite debates or offend participants.
VisibilityPrioritize Clarity: Ensure visibility and choose well-lit backdrops that contrast with your attire.Stay Away from Overly Animated Backgrounds: Backgrounds with excessive movement can distract and be bothersome.
PreparationTest Beforehand: Use the preview feature to check how your background looks before entering the call.Refrain from Overly Personal Settings: Using overly personal images might not be suitable for all settings, especially work-related ones.
FeedbackSeek Feedback: In professional settings, it's beneficial to know if your background works well for others too.Don't Clutter: Busy backgrounds can detract from the conversation and cause distractions.
ProfessionalismMaintain Professionalism: Neutral backdrops or professional settings like a virtual office are ideal for work calls.Avoid Inappropriate Humor: What might be funny in a casual setting could be viewed as unprofessional or inappropriate in a work context.

FAQs: Virtual Backgrounds

What differentiates a Zoom virtual background from regular virtual backgrounds?

A Zoom virtual background is a backdrop you can use during video calls to replace your real surroundings. What sets it apart is its compatibility with Zoom’s platform, allowing for easy integration and customization. These backgrounds are designed to work seamlessly with Zoom’s virtual background feature, ensuring a smooth and distraction-free experience during meetings.

How do Zoom background and background image differ in setup and utilization during video calls?

A Zoom background and a background image both serve as virtual backdrops for video calls, but they differ in setup and utilization. A Zoom background is a feature within the Zoom platform, enabling users to change their backgrounds effortlessly. In contrast, a background image refers to a static image that can be uploaded as a custom backdrop. While both enhance visual aesthetics, the former offers more dynamic options and flexibility during calls.

Where can one find the best free virtual backgrounds suitable for professional meetings?

Finding the best free virtual backgrounds for professional meetings can be done on various online platforms. Stock image sites like Canva, Videezy, Unsplash, Pexels, and Pixabay offer a wide selection of high-quality virtual backgrounds that can elevate your online presence. These sources provide diverse options, ensuring you can find backgrounds that align with the professional tone you want to set for your meetings.

Are free Zoom backgrounds different in quality from paid virtual background images?

The quality of free Zoom backgrounds can differ from paid virtual background images. While free backgrounds can be of decent quality, paid options often offer a broader range of high-resolution, professionally curated images and videos. Paid backgrounds may also provide more customization features, ensuring a polished and impressive appearance during virtual meetings, making them ideal for businesses and individuals seeking top-notch visuals. If you’re learning how to become a master presenter, paid virtual backgrounds may be worth the investment.

Why is there a growing trend in customizing backgrounds specifically for Zoom video calls?

Customizing backgrounds for Zoom video calls is a growing trend due to several reasons. Firstly, it allows individuals and businesses to maintain a professional image while video conferencing from home or other non-office settings, enhancing their brand’s presence and avoiding zoom fails. Secondly, it adds a personal touch and creativity to virtual interactions, making meetings more engaging. Lastly, it provides privacy by concealing one’s actual surroundings, ensuring a level of comfort and security during calls. Learning how to use a green screen and other virtual backgrounds can be especially useful for those working from home with kids or those communicating with members of the public.

Image: Envato Elements

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Kevin Ocasio Kevin Ocasio is a staff writer for Small Business Trends and has been with the team for 2 years. He holds certifications in SEO, digital marketing, and content marketing. Kevin is also certified in Information Technology Technical Support Fundamentals.