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. As the article says, it will roll out in April. It will take time for the change to be deployed everywhere.

  1. Zoom already has this feature active and running. suprised to see Microsoft is playing catch up. there option is to choose any picture what you like.

    1. You’ll get the same ability to choose your own picture very soon. The difference between Microsoft and Zoom is that Microsoft needs to pay attention to the needs of large corporations (like Accenture, with 400K users of Teams) who don’t want employees using inappropriate background images in video calls. Zoom has a more diverse base with lots of consumer users… and that’s a very different audience to deal with.

  2. You can manually add custom backgrounds in Teams now by dropping an image file here:

    %APPDATA%\Roaming\Microsoft\Teams\Backgrounds\Uploads

    1. You’re absolutely right. I removed text about this when Microsoft decided to release the feature with curated images. They never removed the ability to copy images to the folder because they’ll probably use the same folder when they release the admin framework to control image uploads. So seeing you mention it, I’ve restored that text to the post.

      1. You’ll need to get the code. Microsoft is deploying the update to Teams users in mid-April.

      1. My initial response was no, but since then I’ve seen people using XSplit Virtual Cam to record videos that they’ve used for a background, so I have updated the post.

      1. JPEG images work just fine too. The Star Wars backgrounds that I point to in the article are all JPEG.

  3. I don’t see that directory on my PC. %APPDATA%\Roaming\Microsoft\Teams\Backgrounds\Uploads

    1. %APPDATA% is a Special Windows folder. You won’t see this literally as %APPDATA%. Windows 10 resolves/expands %AppData% to C:\Users\\AppData\Roaming. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_folder for more details on other special folders.

      So don’t browse File Explorer expecting to see an %APPDATA% literally. Copy and paste %APPDATA%\Roaming\Microsoft\Teams\Backgrounds\Uploads directly into the Address Bar of File Explorer (press Alt-D as a keyboard shortcut to take you straight to the address bar) and hit return. If it exists, you’ll see the Uploads folder as being empty.

      1. This worked for me; you may have to “help” it along by typing C:\Users\ and then your user name (if you’re on a company computer for example) then add \AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Teams\Backgrounds\Uploads – feel free to copy/paste into an explorer window and you should be able to find it. As Sayeed pointed out above, you can’t just browse in an Explorer window for your C: Drive and find it (thanks, Microsoft)

  4. Thanks Tony….not sure what that means but I assume I won’t be able to upload a background if I don’t have the directories locally. It’s weird because I can start Teams locally.

    1. What is means is that I guess the folder wouldn’t be there unless the software had created it, and if you don’t have a version of Teams which supports background images, it won’t have created the folder…

      1. I’ve got the version stated in the article and the folder doesn’t exist. Manually creating that directory and providing jpg images doesn’t add the ability to choose a background. Sounds like you might be an outlier, not the norm.

      2. I just had the same problem. There was no uploads folder. Now I tried a solo call with myself and tested the background images. And just afterwards the folder “upload” was created automatically.

  5. I see. Welp….guess I just wait along with everyone else until MS decides to roll out the feature.

    1. No, it probably means that the software hasn’t landed in your tenant yet. Microsoft says that deployment will start in mid-April.

  6. What version is this working on? I currently have “1.3.00.8663 (64-bit). It was last updated on 4/9/20” on Windows 10 (1909), but cannot see this feature yet. Eagerly waiting to get it.

    1. Both client and server components are needed to enable the feature. It is impossible to say when your tenant will be enabled. Be patient!

  7. Is there some way to preview your own video in Teams, without being in a call, showing the background?
    Thanks!

      1. How do you preview the video feed, showing you with the background behind you, without having to be in a call? That is what I can’t figure out.

      2. In a meeting, select background effects, select the image you want to use, and then preview… You’re the only one who can see the preview. You can’t preview outside a meeting.

  8. I’ve done similar when I want to check my video before actually entering a meeting. I just go to the calendar in Teams and select ‘meet now’. Boom…there I am….so long as I don’t invite anyone I can see what the video looks like, and if/when we have the custom background feature, that’s what can be used to test.

  9. All the A B testing does cause confusion and make supporting users more difficult and I really don’t understand why things cannot roll out at the same time or at least have a button to force the update check. For around a year Office 365 switched backwards and forwards between new and old icons depending if new icons had hit that specific PC. A PC may have new icons but after being re-imaged would be back to old icons.
    I am pleased this is coming though. I just wish you could view the whole team on a video call like you can on Zoom but I believe this change is also coming at some point soon? Please just make the change for everyone at the same time without making some users wait for months whilst others have the functionality.
    (posting this again as reply didn’t seem to work)

  10. Is this only for x64? I’ve currently got Version 1.3.00.4461 (32-bit) from 3/31/20. Also, I don’t see the option for developer preview. Is it also x64 exclusive?

    1. I don’t believe so.

      The thing about Teams features is that few are just client-dependent. Most need bits enabled in the client and some in the server. You get the server bits when software is deployed to your tenant. It takes time for Microsoft to roll out updates across the millions of Office 365 tenants, so be patient.

  11. Just started using Teams. One thing that is bothering me is the amount of background blur. Its too much, I find it weird. When they roll out the custom background, I might create background with already a good amount of blur to use it with. Let’s see.

  12. Hi Tony, changed the background to the balloons during a party meeting, this morning. However… no one saw it because it appears that the back camera was then used instead so no-one could see me and the balloons AND now it’s stuck like that. I have googled it but found nothing. Hope you can help

  13. Just trying… When I opened Teams again there was an update. I think it’s fixed itself because it is working again now. Ph.
    ew! That wouldn’t look very good for my first lesson next thursday – thank you so much for coming back to me

  14. I don’t have this folder (Backgrounds) for Teams in AppData. Is there an update in the meanwhile and the images are located somewhere else?

  15. when i click on the three dots the option to select a background is not there. Others my team have this option

  16. When I click on 3 dots there is no option for background. My colleagues all have this option but I don’t.

    1. If your colleagues have the feature, it’s available in your tenant. That leaves two other variables. First, your Teams client software might need to be updated. Second, your PC doesn’t have the necessary hardware to support background images.

  17. Hi, Just wanted to add some info for anyone waiting for this update to land. I checked my version of Teams this morning and have Microsoft Teams Version 1.3.00.8663 (64 bit). It was last updated on 14/04/2020. This version contains the update for setting background effects, but I noticed that the folders didn’t appear in the ..\roaming\microsoft\teams\ location until I’d actually started a call, previewed the feature and selected one of the pre-canned backgrounds. Each one you select is then downloaded and its when the first one is applied that the folder is created. There’s also an Uploads folder created, where you can put your own images and they appear at the bottom of the list of available backgrounds that can be chosen from within the Teams client

    1. First, find the Caps Lock key on your keyboard and turn it off to stop shouting. Then follow the guidelines in the article to join a meeting and access background effects to cause Teams to create the folder…

  18. Check if your CPU supports AVX2, if no, it is not available for you (google it or use AIDA64 sw). Otherwise it is quite simple: if you have the option – you can use it, if not, it is not available for you.

  19. Is there a way to make the background my default? I don’t want to have to pick a background every time I start a video call.

  20. Hi, Tony,
    Our company wants to make a background with a logo.
    Can you write the technical requirements according to which the design should be prepared?

    1. Use any graphic editor (Paint, Adobe PaintShop Elements, etc.) and create a new file measuring 1920 x 1080 pixels. Compose the graphic image. Save as either JPEG or PNG. Apply in Teams… Easy!

  21. Thanks Tony for posting this! Works like charm BUT when I us a jpeg with wording in it, it displays backwards. I noticed the default backgrounds display reverse as opposed to what is displayed in the thumbnail… Are you experiencing this on your end as well?

  22. Tony, as a solution to the last message I sent, if you flip the image the logo or wording will be displayed correctly when used as a background in Teams… Thanks again for posting this tip!

    1. That’s exactly true. When you test an image, you see it reversed. But it is fine when displayed “for real.”

  23. i have uploaded a new picture for the background but in teams the picture shows upside down. do you know why and how to fix it?

      1. I have them both ways. Upside down and right side up. Both pictures are visible but BOTH are upside down!

    1. check the image in a decent editor like GIMP. I had a college who had the same issue and when I looked at the image it contained Exif metadata to correctly orient the image and Teams apparently can’t read that so it presents it in original orientation, which in this case was upside down

  24. I have found the pictures and they are upside down! They are not from an Apple product, they were sent from both Google photos and an Android. I have tried to flip the photo and they are still appearing in the TEAMS folder upside down. Any ideas?

    1. I would open the JPEG or PNG files in a photo editor and check their orientation. It sounds like they are 180 degrees out. I use Adobe Photoshop Elements for this kind of manipulation.

  25. I have Teams client version 1.3.00.8663 (64-bit). It was last updated on 4/16/20. I resized 2 images (1920×1080) and dropped into C:\Users\\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Teams\Backgrounds\Uploads folder. I tried joining a meeting invite and looked for switching to my image, but they wouldn’t show up.
    Any idea, if i am missing something else? I have the default 14 images from the Backgrounds folder though, but just not my custom images.

    1. Did you look at the end of the set of standard images? That’s where the custom backgrounds are found.

      1. Interestingly, there are 10 more default background images as of this morning that weren’t there last night. Along with those are my 2 images now. I am not sure if it required computer to be restarted to reflect these. But good that i see my images now. thanks

  26. Virtual background doesn’t seem available using iPad? I see the option on my desktop but not iPad. How can I change the background on the ipad?

  27. It worked for me for a few images (put into the Upload folder), all fine. Then, suddenly my background images would show up in Teams no longer. No matter how I would remove them from Upload, replaced them, nothing! In Teams there are currently 25 background images to choose. In the C:\Users\…\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Teams\Backgrounds folder there are just 5 files. Where are the other 20 default image files?

    1. You can’t unless you’re in the meeting app. But as another comment says, you can test before joining,

    2. If you click “Join” but before then confirming with “Join Now” where you can set mute options, etc you can also select video and blur and preview the backgrounds before actually joining the meeting (you can do this on a meeting in the past aswell)

  28. Just added a couple of background pictures using the method you suggest for my MAC. method worked perfectly – thank you for the tip.

  29. Adding functionality to upload custom photos, without an equivalent administrative option to disable it, has caused a nightmare for us.

    Out techs of course immediately started using custom backgrounds (sometimes inappropriate: alcohol/religious symbols/cartoons/jokes). If this wasn’t bad enough, regular users now constantly ask how to do it.

    As most regular users usually have a hard time understanding the concept of user profiles and system paths, let along graphic formatting etc., now they’re asking for support.

    It would be nice to tell them “Sorry, we do not allow custom backgrounds within our organization”, yet it is difficult to do this when we have no way to stop more computer-savvy users from taking advantage of the feature… causing a discrepancy between what different users get to have as their experience.

    *sigh*

  30. Tony, do you know if there is a group policy that blocks custom backgrounds? I have the exact same laptop model as my coworker, but his machine has a different group policy set assigned to it. He is able to see custom backgrounds on his machine, but i am not. We are both running the same version of Teams.

    1. Not at present. I know some people are looking at this but I don’t expect anything will happen until Microsoft delivers the promised management for custom backgrounds.

  31. I was unable to add this feature on the version running on the organisation’s workstation that I am using. What should I do please?

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