5 Video Conferences Do’s & Don’ts
A Pro Photographer’s Tips to Look Your Best
By Kenneth Wajda, Director of Video & Photography
As a professional photographer, I am often in the position of helping people look their best. The tried and true rules of good photography can be applied to make you stand out (for all the right reasons!) in a virtual meeting in Zoom, Microsoft Teams or any other video conference platform.
1. Lighting is King
Photographers don’t photograph stuff, we photograph the light on stuff. Think about that. Same with people. That’s why it’s not the camera but the light that make or breaks a photograph. (Next time you hire a photographer, don’t look for one with the best camera, but the best light!) There are two types of light: soft (no shadows) and hard (dark shadows), as shown here.
On your next video conference, sit so that you face a window. A large north-facing window will provide the best illumination for your face: soft and natural. If your only option for natural light is a south-facing window, hang a white sheet or any white fabric across the window to diffuse the light.
Do not make the mistake of positioning yourself with your back to the window as your screen presence will be a dark silhouette, and no one will be able to see your face.
If you don’t have a window, set a lighted mirror or lamp next to your computer. If you have a bright desk lamp, face the bulb towards the wall so the light bounces off the wall to illuminate your face with soft light. Experiment with your lighting to determine what works best for your room.
2. Camera Position
Everyone who’s not a supermodel looks better with the camera slightly higher than their head, looking down on them rather than looking up and under their chin. Put your computer on top of a pile of books if needed to get the camera lens higher than your face. You will have a stronger chin/jaw with this position, and you’ll look poised and confident for your video conference call.
3. Chin Jut
Want the secret of every model? Simply look forward and jut your chin out slightly. Don’t tilt your head back—the chin jut is all you need to look your best. The jut combined with the higher camera angle cited in Tip #2 combine to give you a long neck and strong jawline.
4. Dress Your Best
The savviest professionals dress for a video conference as if they were going into the office. Watch this clip of a real professional who properly dressed for his meeting (credit: Jimmy Kimmel Live). Wear strong solid colors that complement your background. Don’t wear stripes or anything with a large logo that can be distracting.
Photographers pay attention to every detail in the background and with good reason. The formula for a great photograph is a strong foreground subject, a strong background, and nothing else! Remove any and all distractions from your background, so the focus is on you.
I find the simpler the background the better. A plain wall works great! The participants want to see you, not the contents of your kitchen or the clutter in your makeshift home office. If you have a background that includes a bookshelf, place items that speak to who you are and what you want to represent. Consider all aspects of your frame as it all contributes to how you present yourself.
In the Jimmy Kimmel Live video, check out the background, and you’ll see that the items on the bookshelves were chosen with care.
What do you see? Jimmy has studio lighting on his face set above his head, so that he has even light on his face and strong chin shadow. All the background elements have been carefully considered and placed. Click the image to play the video. Credit: Jimmy Kimmel Live.
Kenneth Wajda is an award-winning professional photographer with over 30 years of experience. He is a photojournalist and commercial photographer who specializes in authentic portraits, product and event photography, storytelling editorial photographs and video production. He has served as Mosaic Marketing’s Director of Video & Photography for more than 15 years and travels across the country to create one of a kind visual images and videos for companies, nonprofits, associations and artists.
# # #