This post was written by Dan Barker of Dan Barker Studios. As a commercial and industrial photographer, Dan works to understand the businesses he supports and how they want to be perceived. Taking this brief, and his background in aerospace engineering, he helps growing businesses to create the photographic images they need. Photos to enhance a brand and attract the customers needed to support growth.
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There are a lot of tips flying around for how to use Zoom and other video conferencing apps at the moment, as the world takes to the virtual meeting! How to look good on Zoom is sometimes overlooked in amongst the technical information.
I hope I can add some useful tips into the mix from a photographer’s point of view…
As a photographer, I’ve trained myself to notice how people look in different lighting conditions. While out shooting, I need to constantly assess the light in order to decide where to position myself and my subject to make them look great.
In the studio, it’s all about choosing the lighting modifier and positioning that light to give the look you want. Subtle repositioning of the light can make a big difference to how someone looks.
So when it comes to videoconferencing on Zoom, I can’t help but notice how people are looking in the lighting conditions they have at their home or office.
I think a lot of the time, we just think about positioning our laptop/camera wherever it’s convenient for us at the time. But consider your colleagues on the other end and think about how it looks to them, and in turn, what that might be making them think about your business.
Vanity aside, if you’re having calls with clients, you’ll come across as more professional if you look good on camera, in the same way as having a professional headshot on your LinkedIn profile.
So, what can you do to project your most professional side during video meetings?
No one wants to be looking up your nose for the entire call!
So you need to consider where you position your camera. This may be integrated into your laptop, which means you’ll need to adjust the position of your whole laptop. But it will be worth it!
Move your camera up so it’s directly in front of you.
Don’t move it too high though, you want it looking straight at you ideally. If it’s too high, the viewer will be looking at the top of your head, which is no good either.
Ideally, you want the camera as close as possible to the screen you’re using. That way, as you look at your colleagues on the screen it will seem to them as though you’re looking directly at them, rather than above, below or off to the side of them.
Finally, think about how far you are from the camera. As you get closer, you become distorted, which isn’t a good look for anyone! So move back a little – usually just to where it’s comfortable to type on your keyboard is far enough.
This where most people can improve a lot. You can make a dramatic difference with the right lighting.
First some theory.
When the camera assesses the ‘scene’ in front of it, it makes a judgement as to how bright to make the picture. Therefore, if there’s a lot of background light (from windows or other lights), the camera will lower the overall brightness in order to compensate. Consequently, it will make you look less bright.
The other aspect of lighting which is important is what we call the ‘quality’ of the light. There are two main types of light – hard light and soft light. Hard light creates very hard shadows – for example, your nose may create a shadow on your face, or you may have ‘panda eyes’.
Soft light creates more of an even light across your face, with less harsh shadows.
The ideal light for making you look good on a Zoom call is a fairly bright and soft light. So how do you create a soft light?
There are a few ways to do it. You can either use a large light source, use multiple lights, or bounce light off a wall in front of you.
An example of a large light source would be a window (during the day), but not with the sun shining directly onto you. Or if you have access to a bright light, you can shine it through a diffuser, such as a piece of white fabric or tracing paper. You can also direct your lights at a neutral coloured wall in front of you to create a soft light (reflecting off the wall onto you).
If you can’t use daylight or a large light source, the next best thing is to simply make sure you position yourself so that the light or lights you have are in front of you. That way they’ll be lighting your face.
Recommendations for Looking Your Best on Zoom
In summary, there are two things to consider:
- Camera Position – directly in front of you, pointing horizontally towards you. Don’t sit too close to the camera or you’ll become distorted.
- Lighting – ensure the light source is in front of you, not behind you. A large, soft light is best – window light during the day and whatever you can manage at night.
Additionally, you can use the features of these platforms to boost your brand. If you have one to hand, why not place a pop-up banner behind you during your call. Not only can this help to heighten awareness of your business, but it can also act as a handy shield from a messy office! Alternatively, design your own virtual background using your company logo and contact details, and use this during your calls.
I hope these tips from a photographer’s point of view help you to maximise the effectiveness of your Zoom calls (other videoconferencing apps are available!).