May 1

Upgrade Your Zoom Backgrounds

By now you may have discovered the cool little Zoom feature that lets you add a virtual background. When you click on your video icon in Zoom, the option pops up to choose a video or image for your background. You don’t even have to have a real green screen… Zoom will superimpose the background even over your messy office, dining room or closet.

(Note: if your graphic processor is slow, you may not be able to use virtual backgrounds.)

Here are some options to create great backgrounds for your (kabillion) video meetings.

Canva Zoom Backgrounds

Of course our old graphic pal Canva jumped in on the Zoom action! The site now has a whole category of Zoom templates for customizing, everything from professionally branded backgrounds to fun ones for a virtual happy hour. Most are free, but some images cost a credit or are only available with the paid Canva accounts.

Free Images Libraries

Pexels is a giant library of free images, and you can find all kinds of beautiful backgrounds. Use the images as is or pop them back into Canva to add your name or other elements.

Pexels Free Backgrounds

Unsplash has a robust collection as well. All are royalty-free and ok to use.

books on brown wooden shelf
Unsplash Backgrounds

Pop Culture Backgrounds

Star Wars fans, the franchise has you covered. They’ve released a bunch of free backgrounds so your home office can be on Tatooine, among the Death Star Ruins or on the Destroyer Bridge. And since the official site released it, it’s not copyright infringement.

Star Wars virtual background: Tatooine
Star Wars virtual background: Death Star ruins

Want to hang with “Friends” during your video meetings? Interior design company Modsy recreated famous tv interiors so you can broadcast from Carrie’s living room a la “Sex and the City” or The Golden Girls’ kitchen.

SATC themed video meeting background
Carrie’s Bedroom
Gilmore Girls themed video meeting background
Blanche’s Kitchen

BONUS: Upgrade Your Webcam

Besides changing the background, you can upgrade your computer’s webcam to improve your online meeting image. Download a third-party camera controller to enable zooming, filters and more. To use these cameras, you install them on your computer, then you choose that camera via Zoom instead of your regular webcam.

This morning I downloaded ManyCam, a tool that will let me zoom in to tighten my background, blur the background, add filters and even switch back and forth among, well, many cams. They have a free version, but I upgraded to the full one for a one-time price of about a hundred bucks.

Another great tool is iGlasses, but it doesn’t have a Windows version.


collaboration, just plain fun, meetings

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  • Hi Beth –

    As usual, thanks for your fun, informative, and relevant newsletter. I appreciate the art and creativity that is being spurred during this crisis, like the zoom backgrounds.

    I’d like to share a resource with you for some additional background images for use on social media and video chat platforms which all support awareness of the International Day of Light on 16 May, #IDL2020.

    SPIE mission is to partner with researchers, educators, and industry to advance light-based research and technologies for the betterment of the human condition.

    Your extra voice to help spread the word and share the images would certainly be appreciated.

    Stay safe, be well, and keep the nerd tips coming.

    Kind regards,


  • I need help to develop some informative video(with cartoon characters) for my buyers and sellers, Please advice when can we talk briefly so I understand the implications price and my role. Thanks

  • Have you added a green screen to your setup? Any recommendations? I’ve seen someone with a pop-out version that you might put in your windshield, but that seems rather small. I don’t need studio quality, but I haven’t seen something that’s big enough for the job, yet won’t break the bank.

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