If the last few months have taught me anything, it’s how Zoom and other video conferencing platforms have become an important medium for communicating, but it’s also a fabulous way to make you look your fabulous worst too. It’s a minefield of double chins, halo hair, or even the under exposed “person shaped” figures on bright backgrounds. Video conferencing has brought out the best and worst in us (but mostly the worst). I call it the Zoom Effect.
I share an office with my husband whilst he, like the rest of corporate Australia, works from home during this pandemic. Much to his delight he was my guinea pig, to help me help you with some simple tips to reduce the Zoom effect and help you look your best on your next Zoom call.
The before: Jon before, a few double chins, a few unfriendly shadows and a whole lot of what he calls “iso beard” since working from home during isolation. I can’t do anything about the beard (though I have tried), but I can help him be less scary on zoom.
Tip no 1. Double (or triple) chins be gone !
This one is particular relevant for laptop and smart device users. Remember the “shock” factor you have when you first open Zoom to see yourself looking back at you and for a fleeting instant you wonder who this double-chinned friend is that has already joined the meeting before you?? When you realise its you, do you instantly regret the chocolate cake? Sound familiar? Well you aren’t alone. Laptops with inbuilt camera make you look down, so you need to move them …UP…..
Got a laptop stand or even a bunch of old telephone books? Grab them and stack them high! The camera on your laptop needs to be located ABOVE your eye line. Ideally at the line of the top of your head so that when you tilt the screen, the camera is pointing slightly down at you. Oh, and be sure you can see your whole face when the camera is tilted down, nothing worse than have a conversation with someones forehead.
Tip No 2. Find a window and face it
So often I see a dark silhouette of someone and not their actual face. This defeats the whole purpose doesn’t it? Thats because the light source (the window or the sky) is behind them. FACE the light (but don’t walk towards it). Put your back to the darkest part of the room and face the light. . Turn off the overhead lights to avoid shadows over your face if you can. If you are outside on your verandah or patio, turn and face the outside of the patio with the wall or house behind you.
Tip no 3 – Get rid of distracting backgrounds
Yes you can use zoom to add some cool virtual backgrounds like the Golden Gate bridge, but they can be distracting and they can chop bits off you or add bits on (2nd head anyone?). Nothing can beat a white, non-distracting background. Simple is best. Plants and books work well, mess, clutter and yesterdays plates from your lunch don’t really say “professional”.
Tip no 4 : Step back, slightly.
Most smart phones and laptop cameras are wide angle lenses and therefore can distort the look of your face. If the camera is too close to your face, it will make your face look wider too. To avoid this, step back slightly (or move the device forward) to avoid the dreaded “wide angle face”. Careful though, you don’t want to knock your headphones off!
Tip no 5: Touch up your appearance
Most people don’t know that zoom has this little setting called “Touch up your appearance” which makes you look more glowy, smooths out your wrinkles (hello middle age!) and less “I’ve just got out of bed for this meeting”. Go to Preferences > video and choose Touch up my appearance” under the “My video” section. I’m on a Mac but I’m pretty sure Zoom will hide its settings somewhere under preferences for windows users too.
And the result? What a difference these tips have made for my husband here!!!
Now to just get him to get rid of the “ISO-beard”!!!!
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