A feature many people have been excitedly waiting on is custom background effects in Microsoft Teams. This feature allows people to block their background with a fun image; it’s usually a great way to show off some personality and a great conversation starter in a meeting.

Teams comes with some default backgrounds, but quickly people figured out how to upload their own images. This can cause some heartburn with system administrators and human resources as people can always ruin something fun by uploading inappropriate backgrounds. Initially background effects released without any administrator controls, but coming soon is the ability to control which background effects are available to users.

This week I started experimenting with this new meeting policy property to control background effects. When testing this feature, my Teams client was at version 1.3.00.12058 last updated on May 10, 2020. While the policy configuration is available today, it may take a few more weeks before your client respects the settings in the meeting policy.

Staging Custom Background Images

First, I need some images to use as my custom backgrounds. My wife and I love visiting national parks and have taken some pretty good landscape pictures, and I want to use these as my custom background. Like I mentioned earlier, there is not an upload option inside the Teams client to use your own images, but on a Windows desktop we can navigate to:

%AppData%\Microsoft\Teams\Backgrounds\Uploads

And copy some images into this folder. Here are my 8 landscape pictures I want to use as my custom backgrounds.

Placing custom backgrounds into the Upload folder

When I start video inside my meeting and choose to enable background effects, my custom images are available at the bottom of the list after the default images (only 6 of my 8 images are displayed in the screenshot but all 8 were available):

Choosing custom background image and previewing the video


Creating the Meeting Policy

Next, I want to create a new meeting policy using a new property named VideoFiltersMode. This property has four options available for values:

  • BlurOnly: offer background blur only
  • BlurAndDefaultBackgrounds: offer background blur and default-provided images
  • AllFilters: All, which includes the ability for Teams to use custom images
  • NoFilters: offers no background effects or filters

Right now this meeting policy is only available by creating a remote PowerShell session out to Skype for Business Online using its PowerShell module. Once the module is downloaded and installed, check out how to connect to Skype for Business Online using PowerShell.

For my first meeting policy, I’m going to go with BlurAndDefaultBackgrounds so I can test and see if Teams will ignore my custom backgrounds in the Uploads folder. Let’s create a new meeting policy using the New-CsTeamsMeetingPolicy command:

New-CsTeamsMeetingPolicy -Identity BlurAndDefaultEffects -VideoFiltersMode BlurAndDefaultBackgrounds
Creating a Teams meeting policy using VideoFiltersMode property
Creating a Teams meeting policy using VideoFiltersMode property

Once the policy is created, I will assign it to my user account using the Grant-CsTeamsMeetingPolicy command:

Grant-CsTeamsMeetingPolicy -Identity <user ID> -PolicyName BlurAndDefaultEffects
Assigning meeting policy in PowerShell
Assigning meeting policy in PowerShell


Testing the Policy

After assigning the policy, I waited about one hour to see if the policy had taken effect. So far it did not, so I left it for the rest of the day. Later, I went to enable background effects and my images were not longer available by scrolling to the bottom of the images list:

Custom images are missing

So somewhere in that 24 hours the policy took effect. This has always been an issue when applying policy changes inside of Microsoft Teams; there is sometimes a significant delay in them taking effect. This is why I suggest configuring the VideoFiltersMode on a new or existing policy now.

Let’s try again with just a blur only policy so default and custom images are both not available.

New-CsTeamsMeetingPolicy -Identity BlurOnly -VideoFiltersMode BlurOnly

Grant-CsTeamsMeetingPolicy -Identity <user ID> -PolicyName BlurOnly
Creating and assign blur only meeting policy
Creating and assigning blur only policy

This time I checked more frequently for when the policy takes effect. My testing process is to test the policy, and if it isn’t taking effect, sign out and exit the client. After trying this every now and then for about 2 hours, the policy took effect. When I got to enable background effects in a meeting, only the blur option is available.

Only blur background effect available in the meeting
Only blur background effect available in the meeting


Teams Admin Center Configuration

Right now the ability to set the video filter effect is not available in the Teams admin center under meeting policies. The assumption is it will be a configurable option in the future, but these new controls typically come to PowerShell first.

However, policies you create in PowerShell are available in the portal so you don’t have to drop out to PowerShell to assign them. Here are my policies under Meetings > Meeting Policies:

Custom meeting policies created in PowerShell are available in Teams admin center

These policies are also available for assignment when going to an individual user, selecting the Policies tab and opening the Edit menu:

Assigning a meeting policy in Teams admin center
Assigning meeting policies on user account


Questions or comments? If so, drop me a note below or find me on Twitter or LinkedIn to discuss further.

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