Custom Background Images for Teams Meetings

Blurring and Images

Microsoft announced background blur for Teams meetings in September 2018. If your workstation hardware supports blurring, Teams can isolate your image from the background and apply a mask (like a green screen) to the background to remove the distraction of a cluttered office. Announced in Office 365 notification MC208577 on April 3, (Microsoft 365 roadmap item 62890), Teams meeting participants can use a custom background effect (image) instead of a simple background blur. Microsoft started the general roll-out of custom backgrounds on April 9, 2020.

Background effects are available on Windows and Mac workstations but isn’t available for the Teams browser or mobile clients. There’s no word about availability for Teams Linux clients either.

Users can choose from a set of curated images provided by Microsoft or upload a custom image of their own (see below). Today, no administrative control is available for background blur and background effects, but this will change when Microsoft makes the VideoFiltersMode setting active in Teams meeting policies. The setting allows tenants user-level control over the ability to use background blur, blur and background effects, or upload custom images. You can also apply policies to stop users having any access to video effects (and take some fun out of their working lives).

Hardware and Client Requirements

Three conditions must be met before you can use custom backgrounds:

  • Your workstation supports background blur. Blurring and background effects depend on the hardware supporting the necessary AVX2 extensions (see this page for details). Background effects aren’t available in the Teams browser client.
  • Your Teams client supports the feature. Use the Check for Updates function in Teams Settings to grab the latest version. Version 1.3.00.8663 or above should work.
  • The update has been deployed to your tenant.

In addition, background blur and effects are unsupported when Teams runs in a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) environment no matter if the underlying platform supports the necessary graphic extensions.

The ability for users to upload their own custom images will follow in May (see section below to learn how to do this now ).

Choosing a Background Image

Background images won’t be available until you are in a meeting. Any type of meeting including a personal video chat will do, including Meet now in a channel or a call that you set up with another user for testing purposes. When the meeting starts, click the […] in the menu bar and then select Apply background effects (tip: use the CTRL-Shift-P combination to reveal background effects on a Windows PC). You can then select from a set of images:

  • None (blank).
  • Blur (same effect as background blurring)
  • One of the set of curated images chosen by Microsoft. Figure 1 shows some of the images you can choose from (others are now available).
  • Custom images uploaded by you (see below).
 Teams background images
Figure 1: Teams background images

When you select one of the standard images, Teams downloads a copy from a content delivery network to create a local copy on the workstation. If you can’t reach that network (perhaps because VPN settings prevent access), you won’t be able to see or download the default background images. To test if this is true, try to access one of the standard files, like the contemporary office scene.

For scheduled calls, you can also select a background image before joining the call. Selecting a background image is something you need to do for each meeting. You can’t select a default image to use for every meeting.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to choose a default background image that is preloaded into all Teams meetings. This might come in the future.

Where’s the Option to Upload Custom Images?

What’s missing in the Teams client is the ability for users to upload a custom background image of their choice to use in meetings. This feature has been discussed extensively online, featured in Microsoft news releases, and shown off by Microsoft employees. Microsoft is not enabling upload of custom images now, but has promised to do so in a refresh of the Teams client due in late May.

Custom images span an immense spectrum of possibilities. I like the image shown in Figure 2 because it seems like I am sitting in front of a large window onto a beach with a storm rolling in (typical scenery from the West of Ireland).

Teams displays a Background Image in a Meeting
Figure 2: Teams displays a Background Image in a Meeting

Note: when you test a background image before using it in your video feed, you’ll notice that the image is reversed. This is normal and the image will be seen the right way round when viewed by others.

Video Bleeding

Background blur and effects work by isolating the person from the video feed and inserting blurring or an image around the person. Sophisticated AI techniques are used to make sure that a clean merge happens between the background and the person, but sometimes “bleeding” happens. Usually this occurs where the AI can’t distinguish the precise dimensions of the person’s image and can be caused by spectacles, wearing a headset, or even fluffed hair. You won’t be able to eliminate bleeding as some will occur at the edges where the background and person meet, but you can minimize it.

  • Use a plain background to make it easier for the AI to differentiate between background and person.
  • Wear clothes with a contrasting color (no stripes) to the background.
  • Use good lighting to increase contrast and sharpen the image.

Video (Moving) Backgrounds

Apps like Snap camera can generate images for Teams backgrounds using filters. This are static images and some would like dynamic images. I’ve seen this done using tools like XSplit Virtual Cam where people tape a video lasting a couple of seconds and play it on a constant loop as their background. Virtual Cam can generate other effects too, so clearly there’s some pretty interesting techniques to explore here in an attempt to turn fellow workers wild with envy.

The free Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) can also be used to create moving background effects for Teams. Here’s a post explaining how to use OBS for this purpose.

If You Want Custom Backgrounds Now

Microsoft confirmed (Office 365 notification MC212361) that they will allow Teams users to upload their own custom background images through a client upgrade that they expect to release in late May 2020. If you can’t wait, you can upload your own images today.

The first thing to do is to sign into Teams and start a meeting (for example, a video call with a colleague). Access the Show Background Effects option from the meeting menu and click on one of the standard images. This action creates the folders used to store images on your workstation. Exit the meeting.

On a PC, you can now select some suitable images and copy them to the %AppData%\Microsoft\Teams\Backgrounds\Uploads folder (Figure 3) and will then be able to select those images for a meeting background.

Where to upload background Teams images to on a PC
Figure 3: Where to upload background images to on a PC

I have uploaded large high-fidelity JPEG photos to the Uploads folder and used them as a background. Usually, I size images at 1920 x 1080 pixels (the same size used for Microsoft’s default backgrounds) with a graphic editor (Paint can do this). You can use full-fidelity images, but it’s probably a good idea to downscale them so that images are around 1 MB. Note that the display of any graphic image can be adjusted to match the dimensions of a screen. If something in an image is really important to you, make sure that it’s positioned in the center.

Apart from deleting the image file from the folder, there’s no way to remove it from a PC after it’s uploaded. If you use Teams on several devices, you’ll also find that images don’t roam across devices. You must upload and maintain images on each device.

On Macs, the images should be copied to:
/users/<username>/Library/Application Support/Microsoft/Teams/Backgrounds/Uploads

You may need to hold down the OPTION key before you choose GO from the Finder Menu to get the Library to appear.

Finding Sources for Background Images

Given the popularity of background images across all video conferencing platforms, it’s unsurprising that companies publish images for people to use. For example, Star Wars fans looking for themed background images can find them here. Quite a nice collection is available, even if I look unsure about the runs of the Death Star in Figure 4.

In the ruins of the Death Star
Figure 4: In the ruins of the Death Star

The Wallpaper Hub site is a rich source of images that can be used as background images. These images are created for use as PC desktop wallpaper but many of them make excellent background images for use with Teams or other conferencing software.

Another example is the IKEA collection, complete with IKEA-assembly style instructions (Figure 5). IKEA has a large Teams deployment, so it’s totally understandable why issue their own take on background images.

How to assemble Teams backgrounds by IKEA
Figure 5: How to assemble Teams backgrounds by IKEA

The Fox TV Twitter feed includes links to images from several popular shows such as the couch from the Simpsons, Pixabay has many free to use Harry Potter themed images, and Pixar has made images available from films like Toy Story and Up. In general, any images published for use as a background with Zoom will work nicely with Teams.

Using Bing Images

Bing publishes a daily photo which it uses as the daily background for its home screen. The daily photo varies from market to market and are usually quite attractive. You can copy those images and use them for Teams backgrounds with some PowerShell code. In this case, the code downloads the images for the Irish market (en-IE). Change this to the market appropriate to your needs (for example, (fr-FR for France, en-UK for the UK, en-US for the U.S., and so on).

The script can be downloaded from GitHub.


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184 Replies to “Custom Background Images for Teams Meetings”

  1. I have a strange situation where I can see the backgrounds when signed into the Teams app on my laptop but not from with in my VDI environment on persistent desktops. In the Teams logs I see a reference to “vdimode”. Do you think they are disabling the feature on VDI’s? We have blur avaliable so i do not think that would be the case. Also, my host processor runs the skylake architecture which is capable of AVX2.

    We are on the latest Citrix LTSR 1912 which has support for Teams optimization however we turn it off via policy as I do not feel it is ready for production yet.

      1. I would appreciate that, its strange that background blur does work as I feel that would be more taxing on processors than a static background. If you are able to find a list of things that are disabled when the Teams client detects its running on a VDI that would be very helpful. I really hope they don’t disable the 3×3 meeting window on VDI’s when it is eventually released.

      2. The Teams development group tell me that background blur (and effects) is not supported on VDI platforms. They are going to update the documentation.

      3. Hi Tony, thanks for checking with the development group but that’s just not true, background blur has and continues to work in my VDI environment. I just cant use custom backgrounds.

      4. I said “not supported” not “doesn’t work.” Not supported means that the development group cannot test all the available VDI platforms to be confident that a feature will work reliably.

  2. I have Teams on two different machines and neither have a backgrounds folder. I uninstalled and re-installed with no success. Why do i not have the folder?

    1. Have you attempted to use a custom background? Teams creates the folder the first time you try and set a background effect.

    2. It’s possibly to do with your graphics capability? I have Teams installed on several different machines. All have the same software version, but my oldest machine doesn’t show the control to change the background and it doesn’t have the Backgrounds folder. I’m assuming it’s just not capable enough.

    3. usually you need to press windows key and the “R” key to get a file search the search %appdata% and click microsoft not the microsoft teams folder then in the microsoft folder. click the teams folder then there it is in backgrounds.

  3. I have the latest version of Teams but I don’t have the Background option at all or the folder for Backgrounds. I am using if for work. All the other collegues have the option but I do not, so I know it’s not an option that was blocked by my company. What is VDI? I see these comments popping up.

    1. VDI = Virtual Device Infrastructure.

      It’s hard to know what the problem might be with your PC. It could be a hardware issue as your device must be able to support background blue before background images are supported.

      1. Hi, Tony. How do I recognise that my PC support background blur? Or, if I do not see background icon, it means that my computer doesnot support This feature, and it means I’!ll better change the computer? I have 2 devises: a PC (an old one) , and a new laptop. I use browser (googlechrom and installed versions) but there are no background setup menu at all :(.

  4. hi Tony! cheers from Brazil. I copied the pics PNG file into the folder you mentioned above in a Mac, restart and nothing. Its not allowing me to pick different backgrounds. I missed something maybe?

    1. I found this on another page:

      Anyways, if you’re on a Mac, it’s this. Just tried it and it worked.

      Macintosh HD -> Users -> Library -> Application Support -> Microsoft Teams -> Backgrounds

      For security reasons, library is hidden by default in MacOS. You can get to it by clicking on your desktop, choosing Go, and then typing out this -> ~/Library

      Once there, just follow the path as above and drop your image in the uploads folder and you’re good to go 😀

  5. Do you have to use the command prompt to upload the custome background? Really not good at programming like that. LOL

  6. I’ve uploaded the files and I see them when I select the command prompt (and in the file directory) but when I go to use Teams I cannot see the new backgrounds. Any idea?

    1. Have you updated the software to make sure that you’re running the most recent version? Have you tried to set any other background? Does that work with one of the standard backgrounds?

      1. Microsoft Teams Version 1.3.00.9267 (64 bit). It was last updated on 2020-04-24. Yes, I’ve tried setting (resaving) backgrounds without success. Oh well.

    2. I had the same problem, but once I entered a real Teams meeting (no one has to be on it but you) and accessed the default backgrounds within the Teams meeting menu (the ellipses button), I was able to go back to the C:/ drive folder and navigate to the Backgrounds/Uploads folder.

  7. I suspect our tenant has not been updated yet, because we do not yet have the background feature (only blur) (nor some of the other features recently released). I have admin access to Office365/Teams: do you know of any way to find the update status / planned landing date for the new ‘tenant-server-side’ release? I have the correct client, but without the back-end tenant update, the client version appears to be unaware of the new features it is supposed to support.

  8. Very commendable. Good to know the work from home era is seriously making majority think outside of the box. First it was Zoom, and now Teams

  9. Uploading images to the Uploads folder does the job, but if I want a moving background image (wind in tress or waves on shore) can I upload a short video or animated gif, or something else that would do the job?

    1. As I say in the article, there are video capture tools that can do what you want… but think about it. Do you want to distract everyone in a meeting?

  10. I was hoping there was an easier way but good point about the distraction. Still perhaps it’s better they see what’s going on behind me rather than hear the nonsense I’m saying!

  11. This is good but wish they would add the ability to see more than 4 of the team at once as need to remember what they look like! Is there a site for Star Trek backgrounds? Maybe what we need next is the ability to switch clothing then could overlay a suit to save us getting changed! Or a starfleet uniform of course.

      1. Thanks, also what would be really useful would be a way to share an Excel document on Teams/SharePoint with track changes turned on as currently enabling track changes leads to a lot of confusing messages in the web version and then even after you explain to people about right-clicking to open in app, only 1 person can edit at once. Not great when a whole college need to collaborate to rank student grades for GCSEs and A Levels.

  12. Just tried this and some strange effects. 1. All photos are reversed, so American cars are driving on the left, like here in Australia. 2. Higher quality photos become blurry – will try to downscale them a bit more.

    1. Are you looking at the photos in preview? If so, it’s a preview and they are reversed. I have not noticed any problems with quality for photos scaled to 1920 x 1080 pixels.

  13. Hi. I have just tried uploading custom images, but couldn’t find the Background and Uploads folders. I then uninstalled and re-installed MS Teams, and am now back to only having the background blur, the set background images from MS Teams have disappeared. I have version 1.3.00.12058, so this should have the images. Any thoughts…? Thank you.

  14. Hi, I used Teams first time yesterday and was could not change the background. The blur feature was greyed out inTeams and it was a scheduled video conference. I use Windows and prefer web version. What am I missing?

    1. I do not believe these features are available in web version.

      Three conditions must be met before you can use custom backgrounds:

      Your workstation supports background blur. Blurring and background effects depend on the hardware supporting the necessary AVX2 extensions (see this page for details). Background effects aren’t available in the Teams browser client.
      Your Teams client supports the feature. Use the Check for Updates function in Teams Settings to grab the latest version. Version 1.3.00.8663 or above should work.
      The update has been deployed to your tenant

      1. As the article says, background blur and effects are not available for the browser client.

  15. Thanks so much for this. It seems like making a common set of backgrounds available for a company using Office 365 would be a familiar request. It should be something the Admin can do in the Teams Admin Dashboard.

  16. My Teams is under C:\Users\USERNAME\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Teams\Backgrounds\Uploads

    (I added the folders Background and Uploads myself) still unable to select a background, no option available in the advanced settings tab (within the
    ‘ … ‘ settings)

  17. I manged to upload a JPEG image as my custom background and successfully activated it during a Teams meeting and when the meeting ended and I was on another video call with my colleague the background file was not in the Teams “Change Background Effects” folder to allow me to select it again. I tried to replicate it but to no avail. What seems like the problem?

  18. I really don’t know how to answer this Tony because in Teams I don’t have access to verify this except when in an actual call where I can select the (…) to see if this works or not…not sure if this helps.

    1. You can start a call in a channel or personal chat and use it to test background effects.

  19. Right. So here’s an example of how this product is rather half baked. This is just one issue- but it is a good, simple stand-in for how the product is not finished.
    What order are the pictures displayed in, when you go to Background Settings? Ordered by date? Size? Filename? I can’t figure it out. I shouldn’t have to. But along with the inability to pin an entire team, only a channel and other navigation oddities; the way in which there’s only one Teams window; the way in which searching for content in teams isn’t even a joke- it just doesn’t work….
    This “who knows what order they are in” is one simple example of many of this this product has just been released to the public and promoted and pushed and- it’s half baked.
    Bah.

    1. Dear Annoyed, AFAIK the images are sorted alphabetically in two sections: the first are the images from the Teams CDN, the second are your custom files. Please take a chill pill.

  20. I video called a colleague and I looked but couldn’t see my uploaded file image in the Background section of Teams….what a disaster I must say!

    1. Can you use background blur? The problem might be that your workstation doesn’t have the necessary video extensions to support background effects.

    2. Be sure to check if you put it into “backgrounds” or “uploads”. Your custom backgrounds only appear when they are in the “uploads” folder.

      1. That’s true. The Uploads folder is for custom images, the Backgrounds folder holds copies of the standard images downloaded from the Teams CDN.

  21. It did work well during my mid-day meeting as my colleagues were all excited to see my new look background however after that when I tried to show my other colleague and even now it doesn’t work at all…the file is in the correct folder but doesn’t show up in the Teams folder.

    1. Agreed with Tony. I had it happen once where the backgrounds stopped showing up (even the Blur function died). I closed Teams and restarted, and it seemed to recover okay.

    2. Thanks for your blog, Tony. The same issue has arisen with my version (running 1.3.00.13565) in which non-stock backgrounds no longer are selectable. Using a bit of experimentation, I totally removed the stock backgrounds out of my user profile and moved them to the C: drive, logged out of teams, rebooted and re-started Teams.

      Confirmed that the stock backgrounds are sourced out of a CDN as they appeared in my profile “Backgrounds” folder as each was selected as a background. However, I can no longer select any custom backgrounds within the Uploads folder. Although I now suspect that the ability to apply custom backgrounds are now limited by corporate IT, my other colleagues are able to use custom backgrounds.

      Headscratcher.

  22. Ok guys I’ve got news for you…while I was calling my colleague on Teams & taking him thru the process of uploading his custom images, he erroneously uploaded a file into the Background folder and not in the Upload folder within the Background folder….& he managed to activate his custom background effect. He told me what he did & I thought well let me try that scenario but to no avail….so I deleted the image from the Background folder and left the initial one in the Upload folder…The great concern is that one isn’t able to test if it works unless you call someone which is a bit disturbing as I don’t want to inconvenience another colleague Appreciate if anyone has a positive workaround given the circumstance….

    1. Go to your calendar and select Meet Now then you can try out your background picture without actually having to join the call.

      1. Sorry, I posted this same question just a moment ago before seeing that it had already been asked. Please disregard and thank you so much for your insight here!

    2. I have just uploaded an image on Teams and had to use a png file – that worked for me – a jpg didnt.

  23. Hi Tony thank you for this information it’s really useful. Do you know how to have the custom background “fixed”? I have to select an image every time I get on a call, which is anoying. Zoom automatically uses the last image as background, so you don’t have to do it again. Thanks!

  24. Do you know any way to remove the stock backgrounds from Microsoft? Just deleting them from the backgrounds folder does nothing and strangely there are more images available than there are files! I’d like to have more custom backgrounds but it really slows down the time to open the selector so I’d like to eliminate the ones I’ll not use.

    1. You can’t remove the standard images. They are stored on a CDN managed by Teams and the client looks there if the images are not on the PC.

  25. Looks like you were able to preview your custom background in Teams without being in a meeting? How did you do that? 🙂

  26. This is working wonderfully for me. But I discovered a small oddity. When I added images to my Uploads directory (and have deleted and added others), they are all visible. However, there is one background option showing a “missing image” logo. The logo is between the CDN-managed images and my images. This is happening on MacOS version of Teams, if that matters.

  27. I want to add a company background to all users’ devices so they have it as an option when they select their background. I imagine this can be done with some scripting and pushing the file. Do you know if that would be the only option or is there something at the Office administrator portal that could implement this?

    1. This isn’t possible right now. We’re waiting for Microsoft to build out the admin framework around background effects. It’s very manual at present.

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