Updated: Jun 18, 2021
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:
Skip foundation, and go straight to concealing any spots or dark circles with your concealer
Fill in your brows, while still keeping it natural
For eyes, just curl your eye lashes and apply mascara
For lips, a natural pink shade of lip stick or gloss will do the trick
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 one, acceptable camera angle: head-on and at eye level. Nobody’s best angle is looking up from below their chin, but that’s probably where your laptop’s webcam is.
To look your best, you want your webcam to be at (or just above) eye-level. That’s how people normally see you in person, and it’s what they subconsciously expect. You don’t want people to feel like they are looking up or down at you.
Your table is almost certainly going to be lower than your face, and that means people are going to get an unflattering look up at you. To get your camera up to eye-level, you can invest in a laptop stand or go old-school and stack some books on top. A stool or a higher table can also help make sure your camera is at the same level as your eyes. If you’re using your smartphone, prop it against whatever you have on hand or get a small tripod.
You might also want to get an external keyboard and mouse if you’re going to need your computer while you’re on a call.
Look at the Camera (and Dim Your Screen)
Eye contact is hugely important. Unfortunately, the way video calls are set up, it’s impossible to make real eye contact. If you look at someone’s eyes onscreen, that person sees you looking down.
While you won’t be able to maintain it all the time, if you’re presenting or talking a lot, you want to create the illusion that you’re looking at your audience. So, do look directly at your webcam as much as possible. It’s hard to do this with all the distractions onscreen, but here are a few things you can do:
Hide or minimize the preview of you: I use mine as a mirror, and I know I’m not alone. It’s easy to find yourself checking your hair.
Dim your screen: Unless you absolutely need to see everyone, try this. It’s more useful to create the illusion that you’re looking at people than to actually look at anyone.
Test your Video before the Call
You want to show up to your meeting already looking good so that you’re not adjusting your surroundings, screen brightness, angle, or hair live for everyone to see.
Microsoft Teams, Zoom and WebEx have an option for showing you a preview of your video before the call starts.
If you select this option, a video preview will pop up before you enter a call to check how everything looks. Skype will show you this preview by default, but when using other videoconferencing apps, such as Houseparty, open Photobooth to check your video before entering a call.
Once the call starts, I recommend hiding your video preview from yourself. Not only will you be less prone to fixing your hair or moving the angle during the call, you will also be less distracting to yourself and others. However, it can be easy to forget you’re on camera without your video preview, though, so try not to pick your nose.
Test Your Internet Connection
Video chats require a reasonably fast, very stable internet connection. It doesn’t matter how good you look on your webcam if all your Wi-Fi can send is a pixelated splodge.
Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, and all the other video-calling apps dynamically adjust the quality of the video you send and receive to maintain the connection. This means that even if you’ve got a slow connection, you’ll still be able to connect, you just won’t look very good.
Microsoft Team’s minimum system requirements give you a good idea of the necessary specs:
For a better experience with 1:1 video calls, we recommend using a computer that has a single-core processor and 4.0 GB RAM (or higher).
For a better experience with online meetings, we recommend using a computer that has a dual-core processor and 8.0 GB RAM (or higher).
The optional Background video effects require a processor with Advanced Vector Extensions 2 (AVX2) support or that is running Windows 10.
See Hardware decoder and encoder driver recommendations for a list of unsupported decoders and encoders.
Joining a meeting using proximity detection in a Microsoft Teams Room requires Bluetooth LE, which requires Bluetooth to be enabled on the client device, and for Windows clients requires the 64-bit Teams client. It’s not available on 32-bit Teams clients. video.
To check the speed of your internet connection, head over to Speedtest.
If you’re getting anything less than 3.0 Mbps, you’re not going to be able to send high-quality video. Even if your connection is 3.5 or 4.0 Mbps, it will likely drop low enough to cause you issues sometimes.
If you have a fast internet connection, that’s wonderful! If not, there are some steps you can take to speed it up for a call. First, ask anyone else who’s using the network to stop (aka your kids who are netflixing). Another way is to use a device with wired Ethernet.
And if all else fails, and you don’t have enough time to do any of the tips I mentioned above, just turn yourself into a potato like this boss did!
Or you can simply contact us today by clicking the green button below!
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