Since the start of lockdown, many of us have been relying on video conferencing platforms to stay in touch with colleagues, friends and loved ones.
Whether video calls are for personal or professional reasons, it’s easy to feel conscious about background elements that appear on the camera when you’re calling from your home.
You never know what people are going to think when they end up seeing your pile of dirty clothes or messy living room at 9am. And video calling from home every day is a bit boring. It’s not like you have the luxury of meeting people in a picturesque park or rustic cafe when you’re social distancing.
But with popular video call platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, you can actually change the background of your calls. Although there are stock options available, you have the option of uploading your own. We’ve rounded up the top 20 free virtual backgrounds for personal and business use.
If you’re a fan of the BBC, you’ll be happy to learn that the broadcaster is offering its own video call backgrounds. There are some stunning wildlife shots, including a cute sea turtle, and 100 empty sets from the BBC Archive. Should you fancy a spin in the Tardis or a drink down the Old Vic, you're in luck.
With an archive of more than 200 million stock images, Getty is one of the world’s largest visual media companies. It, too, is offering virtual backgrounds for remote workers. Hand-picked and aimed at brightening up your Zoom calls, they include Jurassic dinasours, the Eygptian pyramids and red carpet photographers. All backgrounds are completely free and can be downloaded straight onto your device.
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Using Adobe Spark, you can access a wide array of professional designs and resize them to be used as Zoom virtual backgrounds. There’s also the option to create a custom background by adding photos, text, icons and logos, which only takes a few minutes. You can sign up via Gmail, Facebook, Apple ID, email or Adobe account.
Free stock image website Pexels has over 500 engaging video conference backgrounds, which include everything from offices and colleagues working together to friends hanging out and people celebrating their birthday. They’re free, high-res and easy to download onto any device.
The BBC isn’t the only media giant to release its own backgrounds for video calls; Disney is looking to “brighten up your next video call” with a series of Pixar backgrounds. They include scenes from iconic movies like Toy Story, Finding Memo, Monsters Inc and The Incredibles. It’s like living your childhood all over again!
DisneyLand wouldn’t be a bad place to be right now, but while lockdown makes that impossible, you can travel there virtually as you can download video call backgrounds of iconic Disney Park locations globally.
Fox “Animation Domination Zoom Backgrounds”
If you’re a fan of cartoons, it’s definitely worth checking out Fox’s Animation Domination Zoom Backgrounds. The American broadcasting giant is offering a selection of backgrounds taken from shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy, and they’re completely free. Just save the backgrounds onto your device and upload them straight to Zoom.
According to Marvel, video calls with your home background are “typical, mundane, and not at all dangerous”. So, with more people using their computers for work and fun, it’s released cinematic shots of its most iconic locations. For instance, you can download a high-res background of Wakanda. Again, you don’t have to pay a penny.
A bit of a Star Wars fanatic? Then you’ll be thrilled to learn that you can download free high res backgrounds from the iconic movies. Whether your call is personal or professional, we’ve all dreamed of travelling the galaxies. Backgrounds include The Millennium Falcon, Death Star, Cloud City and Jakku.
For anyone using Microsoft Teams, you can download over 300 hand-picked custom backgrounds from this website. They’ve been sorted into bundles across areas such as graffiti, offices, buildings, nature and popular TV shows. You can download them on both Windows PC and Mac.
Despite the fact that we’re living in lockdown and unable to jet off to somewhere sunny, that doesn’t mean you can’t look like you’re somewhere nice while on video call. In fact, Airbnb is aiming to “transport you outdoors” through its virtual background collection. It’s full of stunning shots, including a Balian treehouse to a vintage home in Hollywood.
Space lovers will rejoice at the fact that NASA is allowing people to download free galactic backgrounds to be used on video calls, including the launch of a Mars parachute, aerial shots of various parts of the world (including the Dnieper River in Ukraine), a glimpse of Jupiter and other wonders of space.
Since lockdown, lots of people have been going on virtual dates and catch-ups. Of course, the background of your bedroom or living room isn’t quite as impressive as the great outdoors or a fancy bar. But dating app Hinge has your back with some free backgrounds to “make your Zoom dates feel a little more like real dates”, which it posted on Twitter.
ITV’s Coronation Street
Fancy a pint down the Rover’s Return? It’s sort-of possible thanks to these free Coronation Street backgrounds from ITV. They feature iconic scenes from the soap, such as The Kabin, Roy’s Rolls and various homes of the show’s characters.
Lego is another high profile company that has its own background images for video calls. Looking to make video calls fun, it’s released high-res images of its toy characters travelling the galaxies, sailing on pirate ships, hanging out in the jungle and many more. They’re great for anyone who has children.
Walking around Ikea truly is an adventure and sometimes feels like being on a film set. Now you can feature its famed designs on your video calls. The furniture giant has a vast collection of video call backgrounds, including offices, celebrations, views, romantic dates and spaces.
Canva, a graphic design platform, offers a range of free Zoom backgrounds and animations. Whether it’s a custom business card, a classroom blackboard, swirling stars, a city backdrop or cute dogs, there are loads of fun and professional templates to choose from. You can even create your own virtual background if you can’t find something for you and are feeling creative.
Shutterstock is another popular graphics website providing free backgrounds to customise Zoom and Skype calls. There are 50 static backgrounds available as part of a downloadable pack, ranging from office shots for professional business calls to stunning geographic photos that make you look like you’re in a far away destination rather than lounging in your PJs at home.
Like many others, moving image art platform Niio has released a collection of complimentary 40 Zoom backgrounds in response to COVID-19. They include pieces from leading artists, such as Quayola’s Camouflage abstract landscape algorithmic paintings and Joe Hamilton’s Cézanne Unfixed. According to Niio, its aim is to inspire people while they work from home.
Unsplash is probably the best resource for premium stock images that don’t cost a penny, covering everything from business to architecture. You can easily use them as backgrounds for video calls, and there are thousands of options available. If you don’t want to spend hours searching for the perfect picture, it’s definitely worth browsing Unsplash’s dedicated Work From Home page.