How to Look Good on Video Calls

Updated: Jun 18

Working from home is the new normal. And sitting in front of a webcam for hours is now normal – for both business meetings and sharing a ‘quarantini’ during virtual happy hours.

Now that Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Skype and other services have taken over our daily lives as we know it – including job interviews and social gatherings – many are wondering how to look as good on the internet as they do in person. That means figuring out how to flatter your face on your colleagues’ laptop screens, or the importance of a tidy living room in the background. It’s not for just vanity though; viewers could “make snap judgments, unfortunately, about you as a person.”

So here are some tips on how to look good on video calls.

Find Better Lighting

So here’s the thing. In a professional broadcast studio, the cameras aren’t what make people look good—it’s the lighting. It doesn’t matter how much money the producers throw at expensive lenses, they can’t make anyone presentable if the lighting is terrible. The same is true at home.

Now, I am not saying that you need to invest your life savings into a 10,000-lumen studio lighting setup. Definitely not! However, you can pick a spot in your home for video calls that has good lighting.

So here’s what you should do. Turn your camera on, and walk around your house to find the best lighting. Try to avoid back light as you’ll appear dark and shadowy against a too-bright background; or top-down lighting, as they tend to cast weird shadows and highlights on your face, which are not flattering at all.

Instead, find the biggest, brightest window in your home with natural lighting, and set up in front of it.

You’ll look better than anyone else on the call! But make sure you aren’t directly in the sun.

If you don’t have natural lighting, the next best thing is to use a lamp or a TV. If you have a smart TV and it has the YouTube app, you can search for a video with just a white screen. Play that, and your video is now a light source.

This is one of the best and easiest “photography hacks” to look good, whether you’re taking a selfie or doing a professional presentation. Just find the biggest, brightest window in your home and set up in front of it. You’ll look better than anyone else on the call!

Mind your skin

In our webcam-dominated situation, practising good skincare is even more important than usual.

The camera can make bad habits “look ten times worse,” as the computer screen tends to highlight things like oil on your face. I would recommend blotting your face before you go live. Be on the lookout for uneven skin tone or chapped lips, too.

The experts recommend applying a tinted moisturiser to your face before booting up your video meeting. (Tinted moisturiser is filled with subtle pigments of makeup that help your skin tone appear even.)

It’s not full-on foundation, but a lot of the men on camera tend to wear tinted moisturiser so it doesn’t look like they’re wearing just a full face of makeup. (Also, if sitting in front of a window, make sure you use a product with sun protection.) Meanwhile, use lip balm for chapped lips, and regularly wash your face to avoid blemishes.

Check your Appearance

Now, while you may be living in PJs the whole day when working from home, I am sure your colleagues or boss do not want to see your PJs in a work video call!

Dig through your wardrobe, find a decent work-appropriate top to wear, and change into that. Steer toward solid colours and avoid sleeveless tops or anything off the shoulders.

Otherwise, you run the risk of seeming like you’re taking the call in your birthday suit. And since no one will be seeing the lower half of your body, your PJ bottoms can stay!

For makeup, do what you are comfortable with. If you normally do not wear any makeup to work, and your colleagues are used to seeing your bare face, then great, you don’t have to do much at all. However, if you normally wear makeup to work, you will want to look how you normally look. But if you are short on time, here’s what you can do for a less-than-5-minutes makeup look:

  1. Skip foundation, and go straight to concealing any spots or dark circles with your concealer

  2. Fill in your brows, while still keeping it natural

  3. For eyes, just curl your eye lashes and apply mascara

  4. For lips, a natural pink shade of lip stick or gloss will do the trick

  5. And using the same lipstick, apply it to your cheeks, and use your fingers to blend it all in as your blush

And you’re done!

Find a Quiet Place (and your best earphones)

Most of us do not have a great deal of control over audio, but you’ll sound better if you take a call in a quiet place. Also keep in mind that your headphones might have a better mic than your computer. Most videoconferencing apps have a tool in their settings for testing your mic, and I recommend collecting all the mics in your house (headphones often have one built in) and testing them out to find the one that sounds clearest.

And as a courtesy to others, please keep your mic muted unless you are talking. You might be used to your neighbour’s lawn mowing or karaoke sessions, but no one else is.

Pick the right background

On a video call, you want the focus to be on you, so choose a spot without a cluttered background.

Turn on your camera before a call and make sure you look around and check your background to see what’s being captured and make adjustments to ensure your framing is good. You want to appear as though you’re “taking good care of yourself,” and that things are clean and organised behind you.

If you live with someone else, be sure to let them know that you have a video call on and that it’s important. This is to let them know not to disturb you. Because the last thing you want is for them to barge in and embarrass you in front of your colleagues.

Use Your Best Camera

The webcam on a lot of laptops is, well, mediocre—especially when you compare them to the front-facing cameras on modern smartphones. The 12MP TrueDepth camera on the iPhone 11 is worlds better than the 720p FaceTime camera on a brand-new, 16-inch MacBook Pro. If you use an iPhone as your webcam, you’re guaranteed to get better-looking video than you will on your MacBook.

Of course, it’s easiest to just use your laptop, especially for professional calls. If you have the option, though, it’s worth the few moments it takes to prop up your smartphone at eye-level and plug it in to charge. Not only will you look better on your call, but you’ll also be free to use your computer, if necessary.

If you really want to look incredible, and you have a DSLR camera, you can kick things up even further and use it as a webcam. There’s a bit of setup involved, and not all cameras are capable of it, but the payoff is huge.

Raise Your Camera

There is one, and only