You’ve seen them, you’ve probably used them: In a world full of virtual meetings and online classes, custom backgrounds help us add a little fun, camouflage our clutter, and express our hopes and wishes for someday being able to be somewhere other than our home, work or study space.

New to background basics? Here’s some advice on how to use backgrounds for your Zoom or Microsoft Teams sessions. Both Zoom and Teams include some background images to choose from, and also allow you to upload your own. Below are some tips on how best to optimize your custom background for meetings and classes.

Choose a horizontal image

In general, images that are roughly the same dimensions as a computer screen (1920 pixels wide x 1080 pixels high) work best for backgrounds. Otherwise, your conferencing application may crop or distort the image. Check out some of these ready-to-go Northeastern background images.

Don’t be a cat

A background is meant to highlight you, not change your appearance. Apps like Snap Camera, which alter the presenter’s appearance, can be fun, but they’re not professional and may be confusing or disturbing.

Avoid moving pictures

Yes, you can use an animated GIF as a background image in some applications, but it’s distracting and usually not a good idea.

Be appropriate

You may feel right at home surrounded by a particular atmosphere, such as a Star Wars Tatooine background, but know your audience. While something may be fine and entertaining for personal sessions with family or friends, that may not always be the case for online classes and work meetings. When in doubt, neutral backgrounds such as professional office templates, are always a safe choice.

Keep it simple

Overly complicated pictures, or images with people or animals, can distract other participants from your contributions to the meeting.

Arrange your real-life background

The best choice is a blank wall, but anything you can do to declutter the space within the camera view will help minimize the chance of odd artifacts interrupting your virtual background.

Looking for other ways to improve your virtual meetings and online classes beyond using a good background? Check out these Northeastern-focused tips for Teams and Zoom.