Because Zoom calls and video conferences don't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.
Virtual conferences, Zoom meetings, Skype, FaceTime and video calls are a vital part of working from home these days. As the COVID-19 pandemic raged on, more and more people started working (and meeting) digitally. But some days when you sit down, faced by a screen full of your own face, something looks off. And it’s not just you - everyone else looks bad in their little squares too. So how do you make yourself look your best in a virtual interview or corporate presentation? From good lighting and at home camera hacks, to the best makeup and style for virtual meetings, these tips will make you never want to turn off your camera again.
We've all been there, you open up Zoom and suddenly, you have a double chin and a 5-head. You know you may have been overdoing it on the quarantine snacks (I mean seriously there's nothing else to do) but why does the computer make everything look so bad?
Don't worry, it's not you - it's technology. Ever opened up your phone camera to realize the room has a wonky, distorted shape? All camera lenses, even the tiny little ones on laptops, are convex - meaning they have a fishbowl-like shape. When subjects get too close to the edges of the lens, they bend with the shape and become distorted.
Our tip? Get away from the edges!
Position yourself in the screen with ample space on all sides of your face. A trick you can use is to place your open palm above and below your head and make sure they fit in frame. Don't get too close! The closer you get to the screen, the more distorted your face will be. Not to mention you'll end up looking like someone's grandparents who are trying to use Skype for the first time.
Angle is also a huge reason you look more unattractive online. If your camera is too low, you get that double chin and nostril shot. If it's too high, you end up looking like every teenager on MySpace in 2008. The most flattering and true-to-life angel is keeping your camera at eye-level, just like if you’re speaking to someone in person.
Quick fix: Get creative!
Don't tilt your laptop screen too far back, rather keep it pretty straight. Depending on the height of your desk, you might need to raise your laptop or phone. If you're using a mobile device, you can always get an inexpensive tripod (get a versatile flexible phone tripod here). Or you can get creative. I've been known to make rigs out of paper clips, water glasses, and towering stacks of anything I could find in my early days of videography. For laptops, it's as simple as stacking up a few books to get your camera to the right height.
My days of hanging around in various college theatre departments and my mild obsession with YouTube beauty influencers has taught me one thing - good lighting is everything.
Ever notice how all the aging celebrities look way better than normal people? Their secret: it’s not the facials or the Botox... it’s the ring light! A ring light is a circular studio light that beautifies complexion, smooths shadows, and gives an overall diffused look.
While you definitely can go out and get a ring light (link), you might not want to invest that much in something you’ll only use a few times. Unless you’re planning on starting a cooking channel or something - if so, can I subscribe?
The concept of ring lights is simple. They surrounding the face with light to cancel out uneven shadows. So how do we get this look at home? First, move away from your desk! If you can, sit in front of a window. Natural light, even on a cloudy day, has a blurring effect on the face and removes those unsightly shadows and brightens up the screen. Bonus tip: if you have sheer curtains, pull those on extra sunny days for a diffused filter.
No windows or just need to stay at the desk? No problem! Make sure you have even light sources on both sides of the screen. This cancels out the shadows that you get with a single light. Two desk lamps, or even a lighted makeup mirror work just fine.
Okay, you don’t need to have a staged set in your home office, but please clean up your room! One of the most unprofessional things I encounter on video conferences is messy rooms. To make yourself the center of attention, you need to remove distractions.
A plain wall works just fine, as does a nice piece of wall art. Just make sure there’s nothing odd directly above your head. You don’t want to look like you suddenly sprouted horns. That nice IKEA faux ficus seemed like a good idea when it was 50% off, but now it looks like you are slowly turning into a tree.
If your only option is a background shot of your room, please make sure it’s clean. Get the laundry off the floor, close the closet doors, straighten the decorative pillows. Finally, beds in the background are my biggest pet peeve. I know we’re all probably taking the call in our bedrooms, but at least make it look like you’re not immediately crawling back in bed after the call. Can’t angle the camera where you can’t see it? Sit on the bed! They’ll never know.
The great thing about professional lighting is it gets rid of shadows, the bad thing - it gets rid of shadows. Looking a bit like an egg in your Zoom calls? This is the culprit!
Lighting has no mercy. It will remove all the good shadows: your contour, eyelashes, even make you look balding if you have light colored hair and have it pulled back. The key is to add these good shadows back in just slightly more exaggerated than normal.
Here’s a webcam-friendly makeup routine:
Apply just a little more bronzer and blush to your cheeks - this will bring back the color and angles. Use your same eyeshadow, you want to still look like yourself, but using deeper colors around the lash line will keep your eyes from getting lost. If you aren’t blessed with naturally full brows, lightly filling them in will make them stand out.
Lighting also doesn’t do any favors for thin or light colored hair. It can blend in with the skin and give a balding effect. Avoid pulling your hair back into tight buns or ponytails. A time-honored tip from television newscasters is to bring all your hair to the front over your shoulders - it’ll make it look extra full.
Men: that quarantine beard might actually have a purpose! A well-trimmed beard can actually make the face look more angular and bring back some of the shadows that the lights can take away. Just make sure it’s groomed please!
Not a big makeup person? Avoid excessively bright lighting and follow the rest of these tips!
I’m not here to tell you what to wear... my only note:
You are at work, so you should wear what you’d wear to work.
It is too easy to get in a rut when working from home. You can quite literally roll out of bed and into a staff meeting. Most of us haven’t even been out of our sweat pants in months. But productivity is linked to mentality. When you wear cloth, you’re subconsciously more likely to want to do what you normally do in them. If you wear sweats to work, you’re more likely to want to relax. But if you put on your blazer you wear to conferences, your brain will be more likely to get into work mode.
This is also why on screen you don’t look professional. If you’re blessed with a workplace that allows casual dress... great! Enjoy that. But during times of low motivation or when you really want to take charge of a meeting with a great impression, put on the suit! You look good when you feel good.
Lastly, our thoughts on the “business on the top, casual on the bottom“? Just put on the pants too! Why wear the clothing version of a Billy Ray Cyrus haircut when you already have them right there in the closet? Plus, it'll be a life saver if you have to quickly stand up and don't want the whole meeting to see your fuzzy pajama pants.
That rounds out our top tips for looking your best while on video calls. Do you have any creative ways to make yourself look better on camera? And what keeps you motivated while working from home? Leave them in the conversation below!