How to look good on zoom, an example with good lighting.

5 Tips to Looking Good on Zoom!

The online meeting is now a ubiquitous part of the office job. For 4 years now, industries of all types have communicated with colleagues and clients online and this looks unlikely to change. Working from home and online is here to stay, whether we like it or not! So, how do we make the most of the tech and look our best in those online meetings? As a professional photographer with many years experience lighting scenes and helping people look their best in images, here are my 5 top tips:

1. Nail the Light:

Good lighting is the best way to look good in a web meeting.  You need soft, flattering light.  Without professional equipment, I recommend using a humble window.  I often use natural light to create beautiful portraits for my clients.  You want your window light source either directly in-front of you, or ideally, slightly off to one side.  If you can find a window that’s higher up than you are, even better!  Never have your light source behind you and avoid sitting under an electric light bulb, unless you like looking odd and shiny.  Spend a few moments looking at your current working-from-home space.  Can you re-arrange your desk to make better use of window light?

How to look good on zoom, an example with good lighting.
How to look bad on zoom, an example with poor lighting.

2. Check Your Background:

We don’t all have the luxury of a dedicated space for home working. Many of us use our lounges, kitchens and dining rooms. That means there’s typically a lot of domestic/family detritus lying around. Make sure it’s not in shot! Take note of what’s behind you when your camera is on. Remove those random objects that stick out your ears or from above your head. Make sure there’s nothing embarrassing in shot. When shooting editorial commissions, I take care not to include extraneous items in the background. I consider confidentiality too. Make sure bank statements, credit cards, or embarrassing family photographs aren’t in shot.

How to look bad on zoom, an example with cluttered background.

3. Choose a Flattering Camera Angle:

This one’s an easy, rule based tip. Make sure your camera isn’t too low, or too high. The bottom of your nose should generally line up with the bottom of your ears! That’s good advice for taking a flattering portrait generally, but it works for web meetings too. Try propping your laptop on books or adjusting the height of your chair with some well placed cushions. Looking up someone’s nose during an online meeting is not an hour well spent…

How to look bad on zoom, an example with a low camera angle.

4. Use ‘Enable HD’ & ‘touch up my appearance’ in Zoom’s Video Settings:

Handily, Zoom has an auto-retouch mode and you simply need to activate it to instantly improve your look. If you can get your lighting right (see tip 1), you’ll look even better, even if you’re in your pajamas! Find Zoom’s video settings by clicking on the camera icon and check the box that says ‘touch up my appearance’. I also recommend checking the box that says ‘Enable HD’ as it will maximise the resolution of your webcam.

5. Hack Your Webcam’s Auto-exposure:

Put simply, your webcam is unlikely to be a very good camera. It guesses how bright a scene should be. If it sees a lot of dark, it will brighten the scene to compensate. If it sees a lot of light, it will darken the scene to compensate. Without the manual controls of a professional camera, altering the brightness of your online meeting look is impossible. This means you may appear over-exposed (too bright), or under-exposed (too dark), even if you’ve followed my tips so far. Try introducing a piece of white/black paper at the edge of your camera’s frame. Counter-intuitively, use white if the scene looks too light and black if the scene looks too dark. Slide it in and out and watch the brightness change! Pick a sweet spot and carry on with your meeting. I doubt anyone will even notice the strange object at the side of frame, but if they do, you’ll have to invent a story that says nothing of your vanity…

How to look bad on zoom, an over exposed example.
How to look bgood on zoom, an tip for fooling auto exposure with white paper!