5 ways to look great on a video call

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Lighting? Check. Clothes? Maybe. Teeth? Absolutely! Flattering angle? Nope. Use these videoconferencing tips to look your best on calls.
Lighting? Check. Clothes? Maybe. Teeth? Absolutely! Flattering angle? Nope.
Photo: Austin Distel/Unsplash

Whether you’re working from home, hanging out with friends on group FaceTime, or attending events remotely, you’re probably using video calling a lot more than you ever have before. While you probably make the effort to present yourself well in real-life meatspace, on Skype, Zoom or FaceTime, I bet you look terrible.

Fear not. Today we’ll see five ways to make sure you look great on a video call.

Video call tips

Whether you’re using the slightly suspect Zoom or one of the alternative services we recommend, these videoconferencing tips will make you look better.

Lighting

Whatever service you use, this tip and the next one on the list — camera angle — are the most important to get right. You need to get some light on your face. That means you can’t sit with a window or a lamp behind you, because you’ll end up as a silhouette. But neither do you want to just train a spotlight on your craggy, imperfect face.

Ideally, you want a large, soft light source. If you’re chatting during daylight, you might be able to take advantage of the perfect soft light by sitting near a window. Put the computer/iPad/iPhone on a stand with the window behind it and you’re good. You’ll benefit from beautiful, soft light — with no silhouettes. If the sun is shining directly through the window, draw a pale curtain over it or hang up a thin white bedsheet.

If it’s dark outside, try setting a soft lamp behind your device to give you a warm glow.

Get a good camera angle

Now that your lighting is sorted, you need to get that camera up to eye level. If not, your videoconference companions will be looking up your nose. A bad angle will also distort your face, emphasizing the chin while your forehead and eyes recede.

To get the right angle, put your device on a stand. Even a stack of books will work. Alternatively, you could lower you chair. Unless you’re on a very casual call, don’t hold your computer or mobile device by hand. The wobbling will get very annoying for your callers.

Watch the background

If you’re on a work call, make sure you have a nice clean background. It doesn’t need to be a blank wall, but neither should it be your clothes-drying rack or a pile of unwashed dishes. If you can, pick a spot with a neutral yet interesting background. Bookshelves are good (after removing all the Dan Brown and 50 Shades books). A window works OK, as long as you also have good lighting on your face. Just pay attention. Nothing distracting or embarrassing.

Lipstick

While researching this post, I consulted with a professional stylist. She says that a good smear of lipstick will pep up a pale on-camera face. Similar to makeup on TV, but obviously less overwhelming, a bit of lippy can do wonders. This tip is more for the ladies. Gentlemen can of course slap some on, but should consider the opinions of the person(s) they are calling.

Don’t dress up

You’re working from home, so you shouldn’t be wearing a suit — even on a work call. My consultant stylist says that one should not dress up too much, as you can look too desperate to give a good impression. Naturally, that ends up leaving a bad impression on your callers. Still, pajamas are probably still too casual, even for family chats. Aim for something comfortable but still presentable. An open shirt or blouse is fine. Your favorite Christmas sweater is not.

Bonus tip: Get good audio quality for video calls

Now that you’re looking your best, you might want to make sure you sound as good as you look.