For photographers and illustrators, Zoom backgrounds aren’t just a way to pretty up a desktop, they’re great for sharing your work with a wider audience.
First there was Instagram, then there was TikTok. Now, there’s Zoom? Zoom virtual backgrounds are the ultimate way to showcase your personality to friends and colleagues you’re staying connected with. The trendy teleconferencing app, which surged in popularity during COVID-19, has become an unexpected platform for photographers and illustrators to share their work on. In this article, we’re sharing tips on how to make Zoom backgrounds out of your own art.
Zoom users have made creative and frequent use of the app’s virtual background feature, where you can substitute out your IRL space in favor of interesting virtual backgrounds. On Shutterstock, keywords “Zoom background” are trending among our customers. This is a great opportunity for contributors to maximize their ability to earn money from their images, by selling images, vectors, and videos that make perfect Zoom backgrounds.
Virtual backgrounds are not only a form of creative self-expression — what scenes you gravitate to, where you want your next vacation to be, what art you admire, the office space you’re lusting after — but have the added benefit of privacy (hiding your messy office or the fact that you WFH from bed).
Here’s our guide on how to create Zoom-friendly images, videos, and illustrations. And if you’re someone who just wants to find a great background to use right away, check out our post on picking the right Zoom virtual background.
What Makes a Good Zoom Background?
The beauty of Zoom’s virtual backgrounds is that users can transport themselves anywhere — even (virtual) space. A good Zoom background should be able to be downloaded from Shutterstock, and uploaded straight to Zoom with no editing required. That means it should be technically sound (in the right dimensions) and visually works for the teleconferencing app. The user shouldn’t need to crop, edit, or change the colors of the Zoom background to make it work for them. Here are some technical requirements for creating Zoom backgrounds that work for customers.
Technical Requirements for Zoom Backgrounds
Have an image or clip in mind for a Zoom virtual background? Great. You’ll need to consider these technical specs:
- Zoom Background Image Size: Zoom recommends a background image size of 1920 by 1080 pixels (an aspect ratio of 16:9). Other dimensions may result in black bars cropping out the virtual background image. When you upload to Shutterstock, ensure your image or video is top-quality so customers can download and use your asset for quality Zoom backgrounds.
- File Formats: File formats can be JPG/JPEG, 24-bit PNG, or GIF. Keep in mind any transparent areas of PNGs will be shown on a white background.
- Video Resolution: A video (MP4 or MOV file) with a minimum resolution of 480 by 360 pixels (360p) and a maximum resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels (1080p).
And, while there are no rules when it comes to creating Zoom backgrounds, here are a few tips to keep in mind to maximize the opportunity to create inspiring Zoom backgrounds.
Six Tips for Creating Zoom-Friendly Images and Illustrations
1. Don’t Use a Vertical Image
Zoom backgrounds should be landscape orientation vs. portrait orientation. If you use a vertical image, it’ll most likely lose quality when you upload to Zoom, as the platform features a horizontal orientation background size. You also risk losing key elements of the Zoom background within the image, if it’s uploaded in portrait orientation.
2. Don’t Center Your Image
Keep in mind that Zoom subjects will be front and center, and since virtual backgrounds act like green screens, they’ll obscure anything that’s centered. Keep the most important, eye-catching details to the left or right side of the image.
3. Don’t Get Personal
Don’t create an image that’s overly personal. Portraits, while beautiful, don’t make sense for Zoom backgrounds. Portraits, and images that feature people, are often too personal. The only exception to this is if the subject is facing off camera, where you just see their back or side profile. An example of this could be a hike on a beautiful destination, with someone looking over the view. Images like these allow the user to imagine themselves in that moment, and can be a great way to include people in your images.
4. Use Screen-Friendly Colors
When viewed on a screen, some colors are better than others. And in our technologically-obsessed society, this can make a huge difference for eye-strain.
We won’t take you too far down the color theory rabbit hole, but there are reasons as to why this is the case. The easiest colors on our eyes are either shades (white, black, and grey), or colors that are in the middle of the spectrum (green, yellow, and orange). Our eyes aren’t as receptive to colors at the ends of the spectrum (as in blues and reds). When we view an image with these colors, the focus point for the eye is situated at different distances behind the lens. To see those colors well, the eye has to focus quickly and alternatively at different distances.
Try creating images with colors that sit next to each other along the spectrum, for optimal viewing on a screen. For illustrators, think about your color choices and the sense of pattern, when it comes to creating Zoom-friendly backgrounds.
5. Think of the Themes (and Subjects) for Your End User
Subject matters. These days, people are Zooming for all sorts of reasons — work from home, telemedicine, fitness classes, yoga, book clubs, or simply catching up with friends and family. When creating images for virtual backgrounds, consider the variety of ways in which people Zoom.
For those who work from home, keep it appropriate — employees are still at work, even if they’re on the couch. For fitness, an image could be something fun, upbeat, and bright. Try putting together a Zoom virtual background pack, with a variety of images that hit on a few different themes!
6. Be the User — How Do You Zoom?
Think to your past Zoom backgrounds or ones that have caught your eye previously. What images stood out to you? Were the backgrounds scenic? Peaceful? Did they have muted tones? Were there people in them? Was it a collage art? Was it graphic? Did the image come across as soft and blurry, or was it sharp and crisp? Was the image black or white, or did it have vibrant hues? Did it have texture?
Whatever stood out to you, or whatever you like to use when it comes to creating your own Zoom backgrounds, is a great starting place when it comes to putting together images for Zoom’s virtual backgrounds.
Seven Popular Zoom Background Images
Videos bring a whole other level to innovative Zoom backgrounds. Make videos specific for Zoom backgrounds, such as a time-lapse of a sunset, trees blowing in the wind, or ocean waves. With this idea, make sure it’s not too distracting — you don’t want the video background to take away from the conversations being had on Zoom.
2. Office Spaces
Given that Zoom’s popularity surged during COVID-19, it’s not surprising that the need for a (digital) office is high on the list for customers. Shoot empty office spaces, and ensure you obtain a property release so that users can up their office game (virtually). Check out this article for some ideas to get you started.
3. Beautiful Landscapes
We can no longer travel like we once did. Enter: virtual travel. Customers will be searching for images of destinations and landscapes that inspire their wanderlust.
4. Stunning Architecture
Part of the fun behind Zoom’s virtual backgrounds is feeling like — even if it’s just for one terrible conference call — you can live out your fantasies. Want to live in a 19th century mansion? Pretend you’ve finally found yourself in the cabin of your dreams? Zoom backgrounds are escapist fantasies at their finest. For tips on shooting images of architecture and buildings, check out this article.
Florals are big in 2020 and who doesn’t want to be shown amidst a stunning bouquet? Check out Shutterstock’s 2020 Creative Trends to discover the “In Full Bloom” creative trend and ideas on how to shoot floral backgrounds.
Why stay above ground when you can go below? If you’re into underwater photography, or just itching to play with your housing, take users on a deep dive into the wonders of the sea. This is a great way to give Zoom users a totally different perspective for their Zoom backgrounds.
7. Living in Neon and Technicolor
Zoom backgrounds should show personality, and what’s more personal than your most creative self? Users will be looking for super fun and trendy images akin to memes and TikTok, that bring some hilarity to boring video conferencing chats. Look for repeating collages, funny slogans, and bright and bold colors when creating these images.
These are just some of the themes we’re seeing when it comes to Zoom’s virtual backgrounds, but the beauty of Zoom is that no rules apply! For now, companies haven’t (yet) enforced policies on virtual backgrounds for meetings, and Zoom communities are still in full force. For photographers and illustrators, creativity on Zoom knows no bounds. Have fun!
For more tips on how to level up your Zoom game, head here:
- How to Create Zoom Virtual Backgrounds in Shutterstock Editor
- Zoom Virtual Backgrounds During Social Distancing
Cover image by Ksenia Zvezdina.