Video calls: find your light

My friends are calling me the queen of the video call…The set up of it comes as second nature to me, but the more people I see doing it wrong, the more it seems like there is a secret sauce I can share with you.

Like everyone else in the world right now, both work and social life is revolving around video calls. Through a mix of Zoom, WhatsApp and Houseparty I’ve been staying connected to everyone in my personal and professional life. One thing my friends have been commenting on a lot is how I look on video calls. Now I can assure you this is not because I am looking any better than them. I haven’t been dressed up, brushing my hair or putting on make-up. While I’m the same unwashed legging-clad mess as the rest, I have a couple of tricks up my sleeve, learned from years as an editor producing fashion and beauty shoots, selecting the best photos from hundreds of shots, and dabbling in the worlds of TV and film. 

The secret to a good photo and a good piece of film, what separates out the professional-looking from the amateur, is understanding first lighting, and then camera angles and body positioning.

Find Your Light

It’s become second nature to me to understand lighting, to the point where I don’t even think about it. I automatically position myself to, as Tyra Banks would say on America’s Next Top Model, “Find your light”. Sitting directly under a ceiling light is a no-no though, as it casts unflattering shadows downwards on your face.

If I’m on Houseparty app, using my phone, I tend to sit facing a light, so that my friends can see my face from the light hitting it.

If I’m using my laptop, especially in daytime, I tend to angle myself so I’m looking out the big front  window of my house. If I had my back to the window, the light coming in would cause too much glare on my screen. 

In both these situations, the light is hitting my face. You might think too much light on your face will show up too much and you’d be better off in semi-darkness! Well you’d be wrong. As any beauty YouTuber will tell you, good light bleaches out imperfections. In fact, a lot of professional content creators use what is called a ‘ring flash’ or ‘ring light’ which, as the name suggests is a circle of light, which they then film with the camera of phone in the centre of the circle, creating a perfectly even light on their face. These have long been used by professional photographers on beauty shoots for a perfect finish look on the model’s skin. 

While I won’t be going quite that far, a lamp or window shedding light directly on your face is going to make you look a lot better, and clearer on your video calls.

Another tip is to wear a vibrant colour top. Red comes out very clearly on a conference call and makes you stand out. 

Know Your Angles

If I’m using my phone, I don’t hold my phone below my chin and look down into it. I hold my phone up high, so it’s aimed down at my face, which, by the way is the most flattering angle to take a selfie from.

If you have any kind of tripod or mount you can put your phone onto, or something to prop it up on, all the better, as you can sit back and relax.

If you’re using your laptop build a pile of coffee table books under it if you don’t have a stand for it. Try and get it approaching your eye level. If you’ve been working from home, you should be doing this anyway, and using an external keyboard so you can sit up straight and stop hunching over a small laptop. Your back and shoulders will thank you for this.

One last little trick, if you’re using Zoom for conference calls, is to go to the video settings on the bottom left hand corner of your screen, and check ‘Touch up appearance” for a little skin-perfecting help.

And as Tyra always says…Don’t forget to smize!