We’re all using video conferencing more than ever before. Whether we are recording your video for a project, or if you just want to look, and sound professional during meetings, there are things that can be done to produce a polished look. These will work whether you are using Zoom, WebEx, Skype for Business, or any other video conference platform.
1. Place your camera at eye-level
The most appealing height for your camera is about eye-level. To do this you might have to put your laptop on top of some books. If you are using a desktop, you might have to raise your chair.
2. Avoid placing windows or bright lights directly behind you.
Cameras need to expose themselves for either a bright object on a frame or a dark one. When there is a bright object (like a window) the camera will darken everything until that window is less bright. That means darker objects like your face will be made too dark by the camera. The best way to avoid this is to avoid placing windows or bright lights directly behind you.
3. Move yourself so that you have a “medium shot”, with your eyes are on the upper third line
The view that we are most familiar with as an audience is a medium shot with your eyes in the upper third line. Third lines are just invisible lines from splitting the screen horizontally and vertically in three. They are a common tool that cinematographers use to frame a shot in a pleasing way. In an interview, or a video conference setup that means the eyes should be placed on the upper third line.
4. Add lighting for your face.
Without bright windows, the camera can set its exposure so that everything is somewhat illuminated. However, we still need the face to be the main focus. Therefore you will need some light.
One way to do this is to have a window with some curtains for diffusion to your side, out of the frame. If the window is directly to the side it could cause one side of your face to be lit and the other to be dark. So the effectiveness of using a light depends a lot on the exact angle and the specific setup of your room.
Another way, and usually the preferred setup, is to use a lamp or two to the side and slightly behind your laptop or monitor where the camera is located. You can have the lamps on both sides of the camera or just to one side. For the most pleasing look, you want one side of the face to be slightly brother than the other. However, you don’t want the darker side too dark.
You also do not want the lamps to be blaring on you as if you were in an interrogation room. If possible, it is good to diffuse the light by draping a white sheet or fabric over the lamp (only if you are using LED bulbs) or use something to make the light less harsh.
5. Get the best audio possible.
For most people, you either have the computer’s built-in microphone or a headset. Or, if you want the best possible setup, you can purchase a dedicated computer microphone. Whatever you have, you want to do some tests with all of your possible options and just listen to which sounds best. You can test this by using Quicktime on a Mac or the Camera app on a PC.
6. Keep the background simple.
We’re all tempted to set up the perfect background with a stack of all the smart books we’ve never read. However, to keep the viewer focused on you, it is always better to keep the background simple.
As far as wardrobe, it might be best to avoid intricate patterns and stripes. It is not the end of the world, but patterns can sometimes create difficulty for the camera. So solids that are not very bright are usually the best. You might also want to avoid bright white since it can reflect the lights and appear overly bright.