Have you been on Skype lately? Had a meeting via Google+ hangout? Done any video-blogging? These days more of us are communicating via video rather than just voice or the written word — and I highly recommend it. People seem to like it because communication is more effective and memorable when you can see the other person’s face.
The downside is that you’ll probably need to get out of your PJ’s and run a comb through your hair for your “phone call” or blog — potentially a big deal for those who work at home. Since it’s important to make the right visual impression, I thought I’d share a few tips I’ve learned from experience.
First, let me say:
With a little effort, it’s not difficult to create the right impression on your webcam. If you’re a writer, working at home, then that’s exactly the kind of environment that’s appropriate for you. In other situations, you may want to create a more polished professional impression. I’m going to give you a few simple tips that you can take or leave, according to your own needs.
Most people’s webcam is situated too low, and people don’t look their best in a camera angle that’s coming from beneath their chin. Grab a couple of books and place them under your laptop if necessary. Get that webcam up above your eyes.
Move your webcam a little closer to your face, and a little farther away… figure out what looks best. If your webcam is at the top of your laptop screen, move your screen back and forth, creating different angles, again attempting to determine which angle suits you.
Make sure you’re not backlit — the light should come from in front of you (behind your webcam) or from the side, but not from behind. You may want to try putting a lamp on or near your desk so that it lights up your face. Try different ways of lighting yourself, avoiding glare and washout, creating a pleasing and clear image.
One of the problems of the too-low webcam is that the background becomes a giant white ceiling, which doesn’t look that great. A right-height webcam allows for a more pleasing background. What’s in your specific background doesn’t matter all that much, so long as it’s not distracting. You want your viewers to focus on you, not the pile of laundry on your bed. If you’re using a laptop, you have a lot of flexibility to take it wherever you want to get the background you want. Again, experiment.
It’s not a beauty pageant, but you’ll still want to spare a moment before getting on your call (or recording your blog) to check your image and make sure it’s what you want to portray. You can stay in your pj-bottoms and slippers if you want, but put a decent shirt on! Women who typically wear makeup should wear some for the video, maybe even a little brighter than usual — it makes a big difference on a webcam.
If your webcam doesn’t provide a pleasing picture no matter how you adjust it or set the lighting, you may need to look at getting a new one. They’re relatively inexpensive these days, and they’re made to clip conveniently on to your laptop or monitor.
I think this this the most important tip of all. Once you’ve done some experimenting with lighting, background, webcam placement and angles, create a space that you always use for your video blogging or chatting. It should be quick and easy for you to get your lighting, camera level and angles just right so that you can go into a video session with very little preparation each time. Since I have several video sessions each week, I have a permanent setup at my desk with just-right lighting and camera height, and it makes my life so much easier.
As you can tell, my overall recommendation is to give this some thought and experimentation before your next video chat. With just a few moments of practice, you can determine exactly what works, and always be ready to look your best on video.
7 Ways to Look Good on Your Webcam. (Click to tweet.)
“Put your webcam level with your eyes or higher.” Tips for webcam use. (Click to tweet.)
“Create a videochat space in your home or office.” Tips for webcam use. (Click to tweet.)
“Use plenty of light; mind your background; brush your hair!” Tips for webcam. (Click to tweet.)
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