We’re using video conferencing more and more, especially when working remotely and doing job interviews. But how many of us have received any training on how to present ourselves this way? Most businesspeople are thrown into it and expected to communicate normally. The result is poor lighting, bad sounds, and other distractions. Knowing how to look good on camera during online meetings is crucial for projecting the right image to your peers.
To look good on camera during online meetings, the lighting, angle, and background of the shot need to be optimized to highlight your facial features and create a personable yet professional image. Wearing the right clothes and practicing how you act on-camera will help you see the impression you make. And to broadcast clear audio and video, fast internet and a good-quality webcam and microphone are an inexpensive but valuable addition.
The goal is to create the same lasting impression that you do during face-to-face interactions. It doesn’t take long to get set up, and it’ll make you stand out among those with dark faces, up-nose shots, and silly backgrounds in your next Zoom or Skype meeting. Let’s get to work.
Set the Stage for Your Online Meeting
Your background is the first thing to get right as it will be the entire foundation of your on-screen appearance.
Avoid the temptation to appear on screen with a background cluttered with books and diplomas. It’s better that your background is as simple and distraction-free as possible. Trinkets and other pieces of home decor will take attention away from the focus of the shot – you.
A neutral background, even a blank wall, is best. But it’s OK to add a touch of personal flair. Spruce up the shot with a plant or painting, but keep it simple.
Even without an ideal space in your home, always consider the background of your shot carefully. Your colleagues will be seeing your home life or another private space, so you want it to look respectable.
Choose a Comfortable Space and Prepare, So You Don’t Have to Get Up
Meetings can go on for some time. Remote work has an advantage here because you don’t have to be stuffed into a meeting room. But don’t overdo the comfort and stay on-camera and engaged.
Avoid moving around or getting sidetracked mid-meeting. Be ready for the call before it starts by being in a comfortable distraction-free environment:
- Have an ergonomic seating space – Somewhere you’re comfortable staying seated for an extended period of time.
- Be charge-ready – Have your laptop either fully charged, plugged in, or with a charger easily accessible. Videoconferences can quickly sap your battery.
- Be refreshment ready – Have your water or other drink on hand.
- When nature calls – Use the bathroom before the meeting begins!
Get the Lighting Right for Your Online Meeting
It’s quite amazing how even the C-suite often attends meetings with backlighting, in a dark room, or casting huge shadows. It’s quite easy to get the lighting right, and it will make you look so much healthier and more confident.
Specifically, get a front-facing lighting source (light hitting your face).
A healthy source of natural lighting is optimal. The closer to front-on your biggest light source is, the better. Generally, that means you want to set up your shot with you facing a window.
If there’s no natural lighting available, normal house lamps work, too. Try setting up two lights on both sides of your computer, slightly above eye-level, and about 3 feet apart.
However you do set up the lighting for your online meeting, avoid bad lighting. Especially, avoid light sources from behind you (backlighting). At best this will silhouette you in darkness, and at worst, it will leave you looking tired and even a bit sick on-camera.
Finally, turn down the brightness on your monitor, because the harsh glow can blow out the highlights on your face.
Frame the Shot
No low angles. Having your camera slightly above eye level is acceptable. Eye-level is perfect, so it’s like a normal face-to-face conversation.
A low-angle shot with you looking down at the camera (as is the natural setup for laptops) will give your colleagues an up-nose shot and it tends to cast shadows on wrinkles and sagging. A quick-and-dirty solution is to prop up your MacBook or laptop with a stack of books.
Even better is to buy a webcam. It doesn’t have to cost you much, either. Most common webcams will take a better shot than your in-computer camera, and you can position them wherever you like.
Next, take a step back and create some distance from the camera. Otherwise, the perspective of the shot will be distorted, and your face will appear stretched on screen.
The sweet spot is being positioned about medium-depth with your face squarely in the center of the frame and filling at least one-third of the shot.
Upgrade Your Equipment for a High-Quality Feed
Worst-case scenario, you’ll be using the default hardware on your laptop or computer/monitor. To present a truly professional front during online meetings, upgrade your hardware…
Primarily, make sure three things are up to the task:
- Internet connection – Fast and wired is best
- Microphone – External mic for clearer sound and no yelling
- Webcam – External webcam for better angles and image quality
Get Your Internet Connection Up to Speed
Your internet speed and connection are the entire basis of your call’s audio-visual quality. Zoom – one of the current leading platforms for video conferencing – sets its internet speed requirements for streaming group video calls as:
- 800kbps/1.0Mbps (upload/download speed) for high quality video
- For gallery view and/or 720p HD video: 1.5 Mbps/1.5 Mbps (upload/download speed)
- Receiving 1080p HD video requires 2.5 Mbps (upload/download speed)
- Sending 1080p HD video requires 3.0 Mbps (upload/download speed)
This gives you a benchmark of the kind of bandwidth you’ll need. Run a speed test on your internet connection to see if you’re meeting the requirements for the desired level of quality.
Keep in mind that a consistent internet connection is even more important! If your home’s internet connectivity has a tendency to sputter and drop out, you’ll need to upgrade to something more suitable for online meetings.
Upgrade Your Microphone to Sound Clear
You don’t have to buy an incredibly expensive microphone for online meetings, however, almost anything is better than your computer/webcam’s onboard mic.
A simple accessory microphone that plugs into your computer’s USB port can usually be purchased for around the $100 mark. The Rode NT-USB is a fantastic example.
For a cheaper alternative, try a lapel mic (the Movo LV1 is an awesome device). These can be bought for around $20. They usually plug into your computer’s microphone jack, and have a lower learning curve – just clip-on and go.
Just remember to change the settings on your software to be taking audio input from your microphone and not your webcam before you start the meeting.
Upgrade Your Webcam to Look Great
Most onboard computer webcams are extremely low-resolution. You’ll need to upgrade your webcam for sending high-quality visuals.
Pretty much any Logitech webcam is an upgrade over your stock hardware. The Brio is one of their most powerful devices, broadcasting up to 4k resolution. But even the cheaper model will still give you higher resolution and other features. Just be careful about speed and bandwidth if you’re going high-res.
Don’t limit your shopping to Amazon, either. There are thousands of distributors and suppliers on platforms like Alibaba and Rakuten. You can also pick up a webcam on Craigslist and through other used outlets like Gumtree. And of course, there’s eBay for much of the world. Unlike PCs and phones, webcams haven’t massively improved in the past half-decade, so you’ll usually be fine with an older model.
A final option is to use your phone to broadcast. Most modern smartphones have better camera hardware than a stock webcam. Follow the same guidelines for setting your shot, and make sure you have power, and power back-up, ready to go.
Run Some Tests to be Sure All Systems are Go
Once everything is set up, do a test run.
Skype, Zoom, and most platforms let you preview your video feed. You can even run a “test meeting” before starting the call.
Use this to check everything covered so far. Inspect the composition of the shot and ensure that you appear both professional and presentable onscreen.
For more in-depth testing, make some video calls to friends or family, and get some feedback on how you’re looking during the call. If you can organize several people for a group chat, that’s even better!
Brush Up Your Appearance to Look Your Best On Camera
When it’s time for the broadcast itself, your physical appearance is crucial to get right:
- Wear smart clothes – Wear something professional, fitted, and breathable – the same kind of clothes that you would wear for an in-person meeting (on your upper torso). Don’t wear something sleeveless or off-the-shoulders as you may appear nude or provocative on the feed.
- Wear suitable colors – Stick to singular, solid, and neutral or pastel colors (cool tones like light shades of blue are excellent), and avoid patterns or distracting outfits.
- Prepare your complexion – Both women and men will stand to gain from applying a little skincare. Women can easily modify their makeup routine for the best appearance on webcam feed while men should even their skin tone. Experts recommend using a tinted moisturizer for this, and lip balm is good for highlighting the lips. Zoom also has an option to touch up your appearance. It’s subtle and effective.
And Be Your Best When You’re in a Remote Meeting or Interview
Even with everything ready, it’s your confidence and personality onscreen that will carry through your final impression.
To keep it simple, follow these actionable steps:
- Do a final check of your shot preview before the meeting, and check that it looks good.
- Shut off the video preview during the call as this can be very distracting.
- Mute yourself when you’re not speaking, especially if you have a busy household. Chat platforms like Zoom usually have a push-to-talk function, i.e. you’re muted by default and hold a button to unmute yourself when speaking. This is useful for cutting out distracting ambient noise.
- Sit up straight with good posture and make eye contact by looking into the camera. This projects confidence, warmth, professional etiquette, and keeps you engaged. The tendency is to stare at yourself and others on the screen, but looking at the camera is like looking someone in the eye – very powerful.
- Keep your hands onscreen as much as possible and use them when talking. Hand gestures while speaking (in any scenario) are a powerful aspect of body language. They are a key part of succinct, engaging communication for both speakers and listeners. What’s true in real life is true on camera. And almost NO ONE does this! (hint: big advantage to you)
- Finally, don’t forget you’re on camera! Stay professional, block out distractions, don’t guzzle a 64-oz Mountain Dew, and remember that you can be seen by your peers at all times, so long as your camera’s on. If you have to do something a little bit private (like blowing your nose), turn off the camera (and mic) or duck out of view.
Appearing on camera can initially be both unnerving and even awkward, especially when you’re used to a life of face-to-face contact. That’s why it’s key to lay the right groundwork first.
Take the extra time to prep your shot beforehand, and check that your hardware is broadcasting a top-quality feed. With this in place, you can feel good and look good on camera during online meetings.