Have an important Zoom meeting and want to look like a pro? Want to look your best but have a messy background that upsets you? Well, you’re not alone – these are feelings that many of us will have become familiar with since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Until a few months ago, videoconferencing platforms like Zoom were probably a mystery to many of us. But sitting in front of a Webcam for hours on end has now become normal, with nearly all non-essential employees now working from home as part of social distancing. Many of us have also turned to video meetings in place of school, university and work conferences.
Almost everyone is using chat applications, and not just for work purposes. In our new socially distanced world, fitness instructors are hosting workout classes, groups of friends are gathering for virtual parties, and some families are having social gathering via Zoom, Hangouts, Skype or Face Time.
Here are some tips to help you look your best, limit distractions and make wherever you’re working from look and feel professional on video.
Act as if you are in a real meeting. Start with the basics: comb your hair, shave your face or apply makeup. Opt for plain, solid colours and stay away from sleeveless tops. Avoid shirts that are too bright or too dark, as they look awful on camera. In the Zoom desktop app, there’s a “touch up my appearance” option that also applies some skin smoothing.
Front-facing natural light is best as it evenly accentuates and brightens your skin and features and makes you look more presentable on camera. So, open up your shades and let the natural light pour in. If possible, sit facing a window and make sure that the light is hitting your face straight-on so you don’t get accidentally silhouetted. Opt for one steady lamp directly by your face for even, steady lighting. Your screen can also be a source of light, so adjust your screen brightness, especially if you are taking a call without natural light.
Avoid low angles:
Angles make a big difference. So, keep the camera at eye-level or higher. Look at the camera directly, straight ahead or a little bit elevated, to avoid a double-chin effect. Stack a bunch of books under your laptop until you see the Webcam eye to eye.
Fill the frame:
Position yourself in the middle of the frame. Fill up at least one third of the space with your nicely lit and smiling face. The cameras on smart phones and Webcams are wide-angle, so step back from the camera, as if you get too close to it, you will look distorted.
Bring life to your space:
Indoor plants are important on and off your video call. Vibrant colours, great lighting and plants can do wonders for interiors, and if you are doing constant videoconferencing, these features can boost your mood, increase productivity, and purify the air
Control your background:
Your environment says a lot about who you are, and you will definitely share a little more than usual when working from home. If you have video meetings on a regular basis, it’s worth having a dedicated space, so you can control what people see behind you.
Put the kids and other distractions in another room during your meetings, and remember that sitting in front of anything other than a blank wall creates a mood, so try to make backgrounds as eye-catching as possible, but don’t overdo it with too much going on behind you.
Mute the noise:
Mute your microphone when you are only listening and spare the rest of the meeting from hearing the background noise in your house. You can also use an accessory microphone, which will make you sound a lot better. In Zoom, you can go to general settings and adjust the audio to pick an accessory microphone instead of the microphone from the Webcam.
Change the background:
For those of us working from home with kids, the house may not be clean and clutter-free all day. Add to that seeing the same rooms over and over again, and meetings can get a little boring, no matter how much you love your home’s design. Try using Zoom’s virtual background feature, which introduces a still image or video as a backdrop to your call. Go to preferences then virtual background and upload your selected images.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 9 July, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly