Now that much of our days are spent on video calls, it’s important to think about how we can maximize our appearance. When we are doing business online at home, it’s important to maintain our professional appearance, at least from the waist up. (LOL)
How we appear on camera will impact how others perceive us which in turn impacts our ability to connect and influence others.
Fortunately, there are some simple, low/no-cost things we can do to improve how we show up on video calls.
Are you ready to improve your appearance on video calls? Here are 7 simple things you can do.
1. Check your lighting.
Getting your lighting right makes a difference in how well others can see you. Ideally, you are facing a window because natural light is usually the most flattering look for us. If you aren’t able to face a window or have a window off to the side or even behind you, I recommend that you invest in a ring light.
Ring lights are easy to purchase on the internet and they come in various sizes and types. You can get one for as little as $20 online. My ring light is about 12” in diameter and has a few different light colors (white, blue, pink lights) that can be adjusted from low to high. For my skin tone, I usually find the white or pink light is best. You’ll want to experiment to see what looks best for you.
However, if you wear glasses, be aware of the ring light reflecting in your spectacles. This is extremely distracting to people talking with you because it blocks your eyes. The secret to avoiding rings of lights in your glasses is to get two ring lights and put them above your head and out to the sides. Or if you only have one, place it a little higher than your face, so there is no reflection or glare.
If you are using Zoom and have low lighting, there is a way to adjust for this. Simply go to the Video Settings in Zoom and click on the box beside “Adjust for low light” and it will brighten your image and background too.
2. Angle the camera a little bit above your line of vision.
If you watch people who know how to take a good selfie with their phones, they always hold the camera above their head to take a photo. When the camera is just above you and slightly angled down, it is the most flattering. You never want to have the camera looking up at you, and straight ahead is not ideal. An easy way to adjust your camera height if your webcam is attached to your computer is to use books or a box to raise the height of your computer when on video calls. Play around with different heights and get your camera just above your eye-level for the most flattering angle.
3. Touch up your appearance in Zoom.
I love Zoom for many reasons. One is that I look so much better on Zoom calls than on WebEx or Microsoft Teams because they have features that allow me to “Touch Up My Appearance.” To use this feature, go to your Video Settings and select “Touch up my appearance” – then move the slider bar over to the right until you like the way you look. Try not to go more than halfway, or you will start to look unnatural.
If you want to add a little color to your lips or cheeks or thicken your eyebrows or beard, you can go to Zoom’s Video Filters and then select “Studio Effects” and try out the appearance flattering features. It’s amazing and fun, but be warned, a little goes a long way. You don’t want to look like a clown; unless, of course, you are one.
4. Be aware of how close you are to the camera.
You can be too close or too far from the camera. You’ll want to have your full face and the tops of your shoulders showing. If you are presenting and want to use gestures, you can have your face and your chest showing. Remember, the more of your body that shows, the smaller your face will be and your face is the most important visual on a call.
Sometimes you’ll see people whose head is the only thing you can see and their neck is cut off. Usually in this situation, the webcam is angled too high for them and there is a lot of unused space above their heads. So, check to be sure you are centered well.
5. Wear solid-colored clothing that matches your background.
I was a little bummed to discover that many of my favorite patterned tops looked horrible on video calls. They were overwhelming, too busy, or didn’t look right. After learning that the hard way, I now wear solids colors on video calls. Solid colors are not distracting and according to one study, they make us look more credible.
6. Ensure your background is clean and not distracting.
Our backgrounds give information about us to those on the call with us. How many times have you caught yourself looking around someone’s background, trying to see what is on their walls or shelves?
Also, backgrounds can be very distracting… when they should just be the background. So, be sure your background does not overshadow you.
Try to have a wall behind you, not a bedroom, kitchen, or any area that is busy. This might be as simple as turning your desk around. Then, put up a simple picture or piece of art on the wall behind you. Perhaps a piece of furniture with books and a plant.
I was renting for a few months last year and had little control over my workspace, which was a bedroom. So, I angled my desk (a cardboard table) so that my back was to a corner. Then moved a side table behind me and topped it with a lamp and a green plant. My only expense was the plant.
Another option is to use a background filter. If you use a background filter you need a computer with a strong processor or you will blend in and out of the background which is very distracting to others. Consider ordering a green or blue screen to hang behind you if you plan to use a filter. Blue and green screens come in a variety of styles and prices, some as low as $20.
Zoom and Microsoft Teams have a “blur” feature, which I recommend if you are in a busy room or large room.
7. Turn on your camera and see how you look before joining a meeting (just like looking in a mirror).
Even once you have your settings and lighting all setup. It’s wise to do a quick check on camera before you join a meeting. Make sure you are centered and well lit before you join your meeting, so you make an excellent impression as you enter.
There are simple ways you can improve your appearance on video calls. It is important to have a professional appearance on video calls because it affects how people will view you.
About the Author: Leigh Ann Rodgers, Founder of Better Teams and the Forward, community, is an IAF Certified Professional Facilitator with 20 years of experience in the human development field. Leigh Ann is a skilled meeting facilitator, trainer, and coach working across the globe to help leaders cultivate teams that are happy and high-performing.
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