How to Use Background Images and Blur in Teams Meetings

 Background Blur and Custom Images


Microsoft introduced background blur for Teams meetings long back  now. 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), Participants in Teams meetings can choose a custom background (an image) instead of a simple background blur. Microsoft started the general roll-out of custom backgrounds. Background filters (also called background effects) are available on Windows and Mac workstations but aren’t currently available for the Teams browser or mobile clients. The Teams desktop client for Linux supports background blur but doesn’t support background images. The Teams for iOS client supports background blurring.

Users can choose from a set of curated images provided by Microsoft or upload a custom image of their own or images from many web sources (see below). Tenant-level administrative control is available for background filters is available through the VideoFiltersMode setting active in Teams meeting policies. The setting allows tenants user-level control over the ability to use different types of background filters and uploading of custom images. You can also apply policies to stop users having any access to background filters (and take some fun out of their working lives). 

Hardware and Client Requirements

Three conditions must be met before you can use background filters:
  • Your workstation supports the necessary hardware. Background filters depend on the hardware supporting the AVX extensions. AVX2 used to be the requirement, but Teams changed to support AVX for background filters. Background filters aren’t available in the Teams browser client.
  •  Your Teams desktop client supports the feature. Use the Check for Updates function in Teams Settings to grab the latest version. Version or above should work.
 Background filters are unsupported when Teams runs in a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) environment no matter if the underlying platform supports the necessary graphic extensions.

Choosing a Background Image

Background filters are supported in personal and channel Teams meetings, including Meet now in a channel. Filters aren’t supported for Teams Live Events. Users set background filters through the meeting pre-join screen (Windows client) or after the meeting starts. During a meeting, click the […] in the menu bar and then select Apply background effects (tip: use the CTRL-Shift-P combination to reveal the option to choose a background filter on a Windows PC). You can then select from the available filters:

  • None (blank).
  • Blur (same as background blurring)
  • One of the set of curated images chosen by Microsoft.
  • Custom images uploaded by you (see below).
A user’s ability to apply background filters can be controlled by a setting in the Teams meeting policy assigned to their account. For example, they might be limited to use background blurring only. See this post for more details.

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 standard background images. To test if this is true, try to access one of the standard images, like the contemporary office scene.

After you select a background filter, Teams remembers your choice and applies it to every meeting you use with video enabled until you choose a different filter.

Together Mode

Together mode is where Teams takes video feeds from meeting participants, isolates their heads and shoulders, and combines the feeds with a selected background to create the impression that everyone’s in the same place. Together mode is only available when five or more participants are in a meeting. This article explains more about together mode and the available background images for that mode.

Uploading Custom Images

Custom images span an immense spectrum of possibilities. I like the image shown in Figure 1 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). 

The first implementation of custom images involved a manual upload to a specific folder on the client PC (described below). This is still useful because you can exploit the technique to upload many custom images at one time or do the job with a PowerShell script or other programming language. In June 2020, the Teams client was updated to support the option to update a custom background.

To upload a custom image via the Teams desktop client, access the Apply background effects option in a meeting and click Add New (Figure 2). Browse to the folder holding the image file and select it. Teams then copies the file to %AppData%\Microsoft\Teams\Backgrounds\Uploads. The original file name is retained.

Once copied to the Teams folder, you can select an use the image in a meeting. If you make a mistake and copy the wrong file, you can remove it by hovering over the image to expose a … menu. Select Remove (Figure 3) and Teams will delete the image from the Uploads folder. If you decide to delete a file from the Uploads folder, make sure that you delete its thumbnail as well to avoid the potential of displaying a thumbnail in the gallery and the actual background can’t be loaded. You can’t remove one of the standard images provided by Microsoft.


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 standard 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.

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.

No Roaming Images

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.

Video Bleeding

Background filters 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 filters, so clearly there’s some pretty interesting techniques to explore here in an attempt to turn fellow workers wild with envy.

Manual Upload of Custom Backgrounds

Here’s how to upload custom images manually. First, make sure that the target folder to hold the custom images exists. The easiest way to do this is to sign into Teams and start a meeting (in a channel or personal chat). Now use the Apply Background Effects option from the meeting menu and select 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 4) and will then be able to select those images for a meeting background.


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 5.