How to Look Better on Zoom (and Other Video-Calling Apps)

Portraits of the author in different lighting situations.

More professional (and personal) interactions occur through Zoom and other video calling apps, and it doesn’t look like that will change anytime soon. As with a meeting or an in-person date, it’s important to do your best when making video calls. Here’s how to use it for your webcam.

Find better lighting

In a professional broadcast studio, the cameras aren’t what make people look good, it’s the lighting. No matter how much money producers spend on expensive lenses, they can’t make anyone presentable if the lighting is terrible. The same is true at home.

Now, we do not recommend that you invest your savings in a 10,000 lumen studio lighting setup. However, you can choose a location in your home for video calls with good lighting.

You want to avoid overhead lights because they cast weird shadows and highlights on your face. They also tend to upset the general balance.

A man in the shadows due to poor lighting. An example of bad lighting. Don’t look at my shiny forehead!

The backlight is also bad. You appear dark and shaded against a background that is too light. Compensating with a light in front of you doesn’t help either.

A man in the shadows because of a bad backlight.Backlighting is not a strong look for me – nor for anyone.

What you are looking for is a place with beautiful lighting even before. The easiest place to find it is in front of a large window.

A man clearly visible and well lit thanks to the front lighting.In front of a window, things are much better.

He is one of the best “Photography Hacks” to look good, whether you’re taking a selfie or giving a professional presentation. Just find the biggest and brightest window in your house and put it in front. You will be better than anyone on the call!

RELATED: How to take better photos at home (no flash needed)

Lift your camera

The best angle for anyone is to look under their chin, but that’s probably where your laptop’s webcam is located. Computer makers prioritize minor things like practicality and price over how you look on camera.

To look your best, you want your webcam to be at eye level (or just above). This is how people normally see you in person, and it is what they subconsciously expect.

A man at eye level.Look how much better my jawline looks with the camera at eye level.

To put your camera at eye level, you can invest in a laptop stand or go old-school and stack books underneath. If you are using your smartphone, place it against whatever you have on hand or get a small tripod.

You may also want to get an external keyboard and mouse if you need your computer during a call.

Look at the camera (and dim your screen)

Eye contact is extremely important in Western culture. We are wary of people who cannot hold it or constantly look away. Unfortunately, the way video calls are set up makes it impossible to make actual eye contact. If you look at someone’s eyes on the screen, that person sees you looking down.

Man looking forehead. Look at this nice guy; he would not sell you a timeshare.

While you may not be able to maintain it all the time, if you present or speak a lot you want to create the illusion that you are watching your audience. So, look directly at your webcam whenever possible. It’s hard to do this with all the distractions on the screen, but here are a few things you can do:

Hide or minimize your preview: I use mine as a mirror and I know I am not alone. It’s easy to find yourself checking her hair out.
Darken your screen: Unless you absolutely need to see everyone, try this. It is more useful to create the illusion that you are looking at people than it is to look at anyone.

Test your internet connection

A pixelated image.

Video chats require a reasonably fast and very stable Internet connection. It doesn’t matter how you look on your webcam if all your Wi-Fi can send is a pixelated glow.

Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, and all other video calling apps dynamically adjust the quality of the video you send and receive to keep you connected. This means that even if you have a slow connection you will still be able to connect, you just won’t look very good.

Zoom minimum system requirements give you a good idea of ​​the specifications needed:

For individual calls: 1.8 Mbps up / down is required to send and receive 1080p HD video.
For group calls: 2.5 Mbps up / down is required to receive 1080p HD video, and 3.0 Mbps up / down is required to send 1080p HD video.

AT check the speed of your internet connection, go to Speed ​​test. If you get less than 3.0Mbps, you will not be able to send high quality video. Even if your connection is 3.5 or 4.0 Mbps, it will probably drop enough to cause you problems sometimes.

If you have a fast internet connection, that’s wonderful! If not, there are steps you can take to speed up the process for an appeal. First, ask anyone else who is using the network to stop (take a break from Netflix, kids!). Use a device with wired Ethernet.

If these tips still don’t get you connected quickly enough, there are some other tips you can try.

RELATED: How to speed up your Internet connection

Use your best camera

A photo of a man taken with a digital SLR camera.A better camera makes you look better.

the webcam on many laptops is, well, mediocre, especially when you compare them to the front cameras of modern smartphones. The iPhone 11’s 12MP TrueDepth camera is better in the world than the 720p FaceTime Camera on a brand new 16-inch MacBook Pro. If you use an iPhone as a webcam, you are guaranteed to get better video quality than your MacBook.

Of course, it’s easier to just use your laptop, especially for business calls. If you have the chance, the few moments it takes to bring your smartphone to eye level and plug it in to charge it is well worth it. Not only will you look better when you call, but you will also be free to use your computer if necessary.

If you really want to look amazing and have a DSLR camera, you can take things one step further and use it as a webcam. There is a little setup involved, and not all cameras can, but the payoff is huge.

RELATED: How to use a digital camera as a webcam

Go ahead and zoom in!

It doesn’t take a lot of effort to look better on video calls. Whether you’re using Zoom, FaceTime, Google Meet, Skype, Slack, Microsoft Teams, or one of the countless video chat apps, you can make sure you’re always looking your best.

Just set your lighting situation, put your best camera at eye level and watch it, and you’re good to go!

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