If you’re working from home these days, you’re probably putting some serious time in video meetings. We’ve put together 15 things you can do to look your best without upgrading to a nicer webcam.
1. Plan Ahead
Start the day before. Clean your house, and ask a friend or family member to do a test call. You’ll get some quality time, plus they’re more likely to give you honest feedback. If you live with people, keep a shared calendar or warn them so they know you’ve got a meeting. If you’re coparenting, and your partner ends up doing extra childcare because of your meeting schedule, think about extra housework you can do to return the favor!
2. Avoid Flat Walls to Reduce Echo
You’ll get the worst echo from hard, flat walls. The more soft and irregular surfaces you have in your room, the better. Bookshelves, tapestries, and furniture all help.
3. Avoid Background Noise
Close your eyes, and listen to the sound around you. If you can hear it, your computer mic will pick it up too. To get rid of a sound, you can either stop it, move away from it, or muffle it as a last resort. You may have to turn off your thermostat while you’re in the call if your HVAC system is loud.
4. Get Close to Your Microphone
I highly recommend getting a headset. Even the earbuds with the dangly mic do a great job. If you don’t have a headset, get close to your device. The closer you are, the better you’ll stand out from the background noise around you. Remember, you have to be comfortable too. Move your chair or your device, don’t crane your neck. Make sure you know where your mic is, and don’t block it with your hand or an object.
5. Use Only One Audio Device
If you use external speakers like a sound bar, you’re more likely to get feedback. Unless you’re looking to put a lot of work into your setup, stick with the onboard mic and speakers or a headset.
6. Light From the Front
The clearest lighting for your face is going to come from in front of you. You want it a little higher than your head to bring out your jawline and brows. Imagine you’re a unicorn, and put the light right about where the tip of your horn would be. Keep your light low enough that you can see the little catchlights in your eyes.
7. Put More Light on Your Face
You want more light on your face than on the background. Your webcam will adjust automatically to all the light in the scene, and if you’ve got a lot of other light, it’ll put your face in shadow. You might have to add light in front of you or move closer to it, or you might have to turn off a light or close a window behind you.
8. Use a Soft Light
When I say soft, I’m saying a light source that’s big enough to wrap around your face. When it casts shadows on your face, like by your nose or cheekbone, they won’t have a hard edge. This should be a light source that’s bigger than your face. A window works great, and is pretty unbeatable, just remember to put your device between you and the window, so the light is on your face. You can reflect a smaller source off a white wall so you’re lit with the large reflection. A lamp with a large shade, like a paper lantern, can be great. If you’re in a total pinch, you can also open a large calendar window on your computer and turn up the brightness.
9. Don’t Mix Light
Most artificial lights are yellower than daylight. That’s fine, but don’t light your face with a window and a lamp. Part of your face will look blue or yellow. Really, if you’re using a window for light, you should turn off the other lights in the room.
10. Put Yourself in the Center
It’s easy to end up at the bottom of the frame, especially with a laptop. Keep yourself in the center of the image so we aren’t looking at your ceiling fan instead of you.
11. Keep Your Camera at Eye Level
You can get some pretty strange effects when your camera’s too low. If you need to prop up your computer, do it. You don’t want people looking up your nose. You may need to prop up your device, or make your chair lower.
12. If You Want to Hide One Side of Your Face, Move to One Side
You don’t want to have to remember to turn your head. Scoot your chair a little so you’ll naturally turn to see the camera.
13. Make Your Window Small to Maintain Eye Contact
That way you can put people’s faces right up next to the camera
14. Stay Muted
When you’re not talking, get used to muting yourself. In Google Hangouts, the keyboard shortcut is Cmd+D. In Zoom, you can actually stay muted, and hold down the spacebar to talk.
15. Use First Names
You can’t make eye contact when you talk to someone. Make sure you start sentences with someone’s name, especially when you’re asking someone a question. Keep the list of participants handy if you have trouble remembering.
Good luck, and happy video conferencing!