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How to Look Good During an Online Video Call

by Margaret Joy

Here are the four simple steps to looking good on a video call—no makeup team or fancy, expensive camera necessary.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that no one looks good on video calls. From eternal bad lighting to the shocking number of people who never realize the camera belongs at eye level, video call images are the gift we wish would stop giving. Don’t get us wrong—video calling is an incredible tool we’re lucky to have. We can simultaneously recognize that we always look like a gremlin in webcam quality. Humans are vain creatures, especially when it comes to our careers. It’s why you dress your best for interviews and do your hair with extra care before a presentation. Our outward appearance matters, plain and simple.

Cyberspace is no different; it just requires a bit of thought beforehand until webcam quality catches up to smartphones. We covered the professional demeanor and attire side of looking good on video calls. Now, we turn our attention to how you look through your video conferencing camera. 

1. Good Lighting for Video Conferencing Is Necessary

And that light should be soft, in front of you, and preferably natural! If you’re short on sunlight, a lamp behind your screen works well. Avoid noir interrogation lighting by directing the lamplight to the wall rather than your face. Bouncing the light off a neutral-colored wall softens it so that you have a close alternative to natural light through a window. 

2. Video Conference Camera Placement: Find Your Angles

Let us help: There’s only one, and it’s eye level, dead ahead. Not below you, not above you. Repeat after us: Eye. Level. Eye level. Take a look at your square on the screen. Is it below you like the laptop in the image at the top of this page? That’s terrible placement. Pop your laptop on a stack of books to raise the camera. We say this not for your sake but for the sake of those too polite to tell you they’re sick of looking up your nostrils. 

Image from Epicurious blog with a laptop on a stack of cookbooks.

Epicurious noted that cookbooks make good laptop stands, too. 

3. Your Video Call Background: Location Matters

When it comes to your video call background, there are two cardinal rules. First, don’t be right up against a wall—depth is your friend! It keeps your colleagues’ focus on you, not the titles on your bookshelf or neglected plants. Nor should you sit with your back directly to a window. Backlighting is no one’s friend.  If you can sit facing the window, however, that’s perfect! If there’s no window, scroll back to #1.

4. Tinted Moisturizer

You don’t need a full hair and makeup team to come powder your face just before the cameras turn on (unless that’s your style). But as we mentioned earlier, live streaming video from a typical webcam doesn’t give the same quality as your phone’s portrait mode. The dulled colors, combined with unflattering lighting, can make everyone look faintly gray. A tinted moisturizer evens out your skin tone and helps deter shine or glare. Most also come with SPF so your skin will thank you anyway!

Anchor Bob Herzog understands the power of makeup for video streaming. 
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