Tips More Video Call Tips – Putting Your Best Foot Forward
We want to make a good impression. Looking put-together and professional on camera is just as important as when in person. We’ve found some simple and practical ways to “put your best foot forward” on a Zoom call. Okay – so others may not actually see your feet, but they will certainly be looking at your face – and you can bet they’ll have time to notice if your space is less than tidy. Take the following simple and practical steps to improve your online presence.
Test Your Lighting
Who knew lighting could be so complicated? Photographers and videographers know the intricacies of balancing light for the most flattering glow, but you don’t have to be a professional to look good on your video call. For balanced lighting, the most basic setup is a three-point light scheme consisting of a primary light — typically placed in front of you at a 45-70 degree angle, directed down slightly — a secondary fill light on the opposite side in front of you to soften the shadows of the primary light, and a backlight to separate you from the background. As you’re creating balanced lighting, make sure you don’t have harsh shadows or that one side of your face is dark while the other is washed out. Here are a few things to consider as you’re setting this up.
Front-facing indirect natural light can be a great source but, disclaimer, it’s inconsistent. It changes throughout the day and with the weather. Try setting up your computer in front of a window, allowing the light to illuminate your face. Test it at different times of the day and before each call. If the light is too bright, you may need to soften it with a light-filtering curtain. Otherwise, it can also wash you out or leave you squinting. Be prepared to supplement with other artificial light sources, particularly on overcast days.
If you find yourself without any natural light, consider what other artificial light sources you could use such as floor or table lamps. Avoid overhead lights like can or ceiling fan lights, which tend to cast harsh shadows, accentuating wrinkles and undereye bags. We can all agree that’s not the best look.
In this example, you can see the harsh shadows created by overhead lighting. In addition, we recommend elevating the computer for a better camera angle.
If it’s in your budget, consider purchasing a light ring, which is great for your primary light. You can get a decent one for around $25, and they have adjustable light settings. Otherwise, start with two lamps. Try placing them at “10 and 2” or a 45-degree angle on either side of your computer. If the light from a lamp is too harsh, try a softer bulb, adjust the distance from you to the light, or bounce the light off a nearby wall by angling it.
This is an example of balancing a ring light with natural light.
Avoid having your only and/or brightest source of light behind you, including light from a window. This can create a silhouette and leave your face in the dark while your background is overly bright. You can, however, add a softer light that is behind you and out of view from the camera, in addition to your other main lighting. This helps create definition between you and the background.
Consider Your Office Layout and Background
Try to allow three to eight feet between the back of your chair and your wall or background. This, along with a well-placed plant or shelf, can add depth to your video.
Ensure that everything that will show up in your video background is clean and organized; eliminate clutter. Then, think about what you want to show in your background, including the wall color, art, and other décor.
NBC News correspondent Vicky Nguyen received a 10 out of 10 rating from a Twitter handle dedicated to rating video call lighting, setup, and backgrounds. She scored points for the mountain art, dried flowers, green glass, and framing of the video.
When it comes to the wall in your background, a well-painted, clean wall is the safest option. Good background colors include neutral tones like blue, light gray, or soft white; try to avoid flashy patterns or bright colors like yellow, orange, or red. Remember that dark colors absorb light while light colors will reflect it.
If you want to add texture and a more dynamic look, consider creating a backdrop using a wallpaper mural; with their endless designs, images, and styles, it’s easy to find one to suit your taste and profession. You might like a geometric, world map, or forest scene. A large, fabric wall hanging can work well; so can a brick wall – especially a vintage one.
If you’re keeping your wall simple, consider adding a bookcase, open cabinet, or other piece of furniture in your background. A few, well-chosen items such as hard-cover books (remove the paper jackets), plants, fresh flowers, photographs, sculptures, artwork, decorative boxes, professional tools, personal or professional awards, items representing your community, travel souvenirs, or items with interesting textures such as a rough wicker basket, a shiny metallic bowl, or soft velvet cushion are just a few ideas. Think about your interests and hobbies, which communicate a little bit about who you are. Curate your space, keeping in mind that simpler is better when it comes to décor items.
In a pinch? Try the new Blur Background feature in Zoom. You’ll need to update Zoom to the latest version in order to utilize this feature. Once you’ve done that, select the “blur” background option.
Avoid Wardrobe Malfunctions – However Big or Small
Try to select clothing that is simple, elegant, and professional. Dress in colors that complement your background, but aren’t identical; for instance, if you have a bright floral item in your background, you may not want to wear a bright floral blouse or tie.
You also may be tempted to wear business dress on top and loungewear on your lower half, but keep in mind that this has backfired on many now internet-famous people. Save yourself the embarrassment and put on a proper pair of pants.
Good Morning America Reporter Will Reeves learned the hard way to always wear the proper attire on camera, even if you think your lower half won’t show.
Adjust the Camera
The best, most flattering camera angle is head-on and at eye-level or even a bit higher. Think about it – no one wants to see up your nose and you don’t want to appear to have a double chin! Use a monitor stand or even a set of books to achieve the best position possible. Only your head, torso, and shoulders should be in the video. Eye-to-eye contact is the best connection, so look at the camera directly – straight ahead.
Try using the “Touch up my appearance” feature on Zoom. It can make a difference by helping to brighten your face and even minimize dark circles under the eyes. You’ll find it under Video Settings. There’s a sliding bar to maximize the effects. Zoom even remembers your preference and uses it the next time you start or join a meeting. Check it out.
Try Using Earbuds
They don’t show too much (as a headset might) and most have built-in mics, as well. Using earbuds will limit any background noise at your site, while avoiding any feedback which occurs when you use your computer’s speakers and microphone.
Review Your Internet Connection & Equipment
Your internet connection is also important when avoiding any buffering or other issues with your video feed. If you’re at home, check your internet connection and equipment. Do you have enough bandwidth? Is your router more than three years old? Lack of bandwidth and faulty, dated, or otherwise inadequate equipment can lead to issues with video calls.
For a more consistent internet connection, try plugging directly into your router and turn off Wi-Fi. If that’s not an option, just remember the further you are from your router, the less likely you are to have a strong signal. Consider adding a mesh Wi-Fi extender (available to pair with your router in SKT’s Managed Wi-Fi system) to boost the signal in hard-to-reach areas.
Turn off unnecessary devices in your home – particularly if you’re limited on bandwidth. For instance, you may want to pause your OneDrive syncing if it’s eating up all your upload speed. This helps avoid any issues with your audio/video breaking up during a call.
Do a Final Audio & Video Check
Most video calling applications allow you to test your audio and video in settings prior to joining a call. Testing your video will allow you to see how you come across on the screen. Do a final lighting check and adjust your camera angle. Make sure there’s nothing confidential, ugly, or embarrassing that will show from your camera. Even electrical cords or cables can be unsightly. If you’re using them, make sure your earbuds are paired to your computer.
And finally, try to eliminate any and all distractions. No other people, dogs, children, cats, birds (or cats chasing birds) in the background!
Video conferencing does require a little more thought in terms of planning, scheduling, setup, and technology, but once you have everything in place, it’s a highly efficient and effective method of communicating.