The global pandemic has ground much of the world to a halt. Worldwide, likely tens of millions are working from home as part of social distancing. Sitting in front of a webcam for hours is now normal – for both business meetings and sharing a “quarantini” (martini + quarantine) during virtual happy hours.
Now that Zoom, Skype and other services have taken over our daily lives as we know it – including business meetings and dinner parties – 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. Dressing for success even behind a webcam is equally as important.
For people whose job largely features talking in front of a webcam all day, here are our tips to look nice and professional on camera.
1. Fill Your Face with Light
If you take away nothing else, focus on your lighting. Front-facing natural light is best. It evenly accentuates and brightens your skin and features, giving you a clear, flattering, bright quality. It’s amazing for making your eyes pop and making you look really presentable on camera.
Set up your computer in front of a window, and importantly, make sure that light is hitting your face straight-on. Because whether you’re snapping a picture for Instagram or dialing-in for a video call, having that light come from behind you will end up drowning you out entirely, reducing you to an inscrutable silhouette. After all, assuming bad lighting doesn’t render you a dark shadow, it can cast shadows on your face, making you look tired, ill, or even creepy – the opposite of that natural light effect.
It doesn’t end there: light coming from behind you could also cause for a harsh effect on everyone else’s screen. If video chatting in a windowless room? Putting a lamp behind your laptop and in front of your face works extremely well. And for the pros, get a ring light. It does wonders.
2. Avoid Low Angles
It’s one of the cardinal rules in camerawork: keep the camera eye-level or higher. You want to make sure your computer’s at least a little bit elevated so that you don’t have the double-chin effect or the computer’s looking up your nostrils. It’s not a pretty picture for sure! You can easily give your laptop some lift by stacking a bunch of things just lying around. Cookbooks or coffee table books work well and angles make a huge difference.
3. Mind Your Skin
In our webcam-dominated situation, practicing good skincare is even more important than usual. The camera can make bad habits look ten times worse since the computer screen tends to highlight things like oil on your face. Definitely consider blotting your face before you go live. Be on the lookout for uneven skin tone or chapped lips, too.
In particular, Zoom also has a wonderful feature including a filter you can use to even out your skin tone. Consider this tool! For both women and men, consider applying a tinted moisturizer to your face before booting up your video meeting depending on the meeting’s importance, of course.
It’s not full-on foundation, but surprisingly a lot of professional men on camera tend to wear tinted moisturizer 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. Especially when you’re really close to your computer camera, you don’t want to show off bad hygiene and bad skincare habits.
4. Know What You’ll Look Like – Check the Video
Preparation is important. You don’t want to join a call using the webcam or the computer camera as a mirror to make any finishing touches to your hair, face or lighting you could’ve done earlier. Take a phone call using your webcam to prep. The call can be on your phone, but make sure your webcam is on so you can practice seeing yourself and your mannerisms. A little practice will make perfect so that it won’t feel so foreign the next time when you’re actually doing it for real. Whether it’s a video conference or live TV, do not forget that you are on camera. Part of looking good on a webcam means acting as you would in person: treating the Zoom call as if you’re in an actual meeting at work or in an office. Oftentimes, people think we can’t see each other or act different, more casually, to some extent. This happens quite often. While many video chat apps have audio-only options, pay close attention to whether you’re using that or if your camera’s on.
Also, be very aware of the settings on Zoom because you may notice people dazing off, or go on their phone, and they’ll pick it up and start scrolling. Everyone can still see you!
5. Pick the Right Background
Although our homes are inherently less equipped for professional meetings than your office boardroom, there are better places to take a call than others. Zoom isn’t the place to showcase your bookcases particularly on a work-related call. Though tempting, and you’ll see interviews on TV with personalities reflecting this background, that kind of home décor flexing takes focus away from who should be the star of the show: you!
The most recommended background is actually something plain, simple, and white. You also want to appear as though you’re taking good care of yourself, and that things are clean and organized behind you. Additionally, when you’re getting dressed for your call you want to steer toward solid colors, and avoid sleeveless tops or anything off the shoulders. Minimize distractions since the focus is always on you.
When you combine all these tips, you’ll be better equipped to think about how you are presenting yourself as a person. It’s an important skill, especially when all people will have to go on is your face on a computer screen.