If you’ve ever cringed when you saw yourself back in the thumbnail on your smartphone or laptop when making a FaceTime call, you are NOT alone!
Despite our best efforts, video calls seem to have a magical ability to make us look so much worse than we do in real life. Thankfully, I’ve picked up a few tricks along the way and I’m going to share them with you today.
It’s one thing to get yourself looking nice for a YouTube video or a Facebook live, but there is something about where you see yourself on Skype, or Zoom, or FaceTime that usually makes people just go, “Ehhh!”
Well, hello and welcome back, or if this is your first time here, welcome. My name is Kat Elizabeth. I’m an active business owner and online course creator, and I’m here to give you all of the resources and confidence I can so that you can go after your dream career. Now, something that I get asked a lot, mostly because, as some of you know, I teach makeup and I work with a lot of freelancers and entrepreneurs, and they all struggle with how they look on video calls. It’s one thing to get yourself looking nice for a YouTube video or a Facebook live, but there is something about when you see yourself on Skype, or Zoom, or FaceTime, that usually makes people just go, “Ehhh!,” And it can be really distracting.
Obviously you don’t attend to give a crap if it’s with your friends and family, like whatever, they’ve seen worse. But if you are using this to chat with a potential agent, to pitch to a potential client, or to coach someone who’s meant to be taking you seriously, well then there could be an issue. One, it’s how they perceive you, which is actually a smaller part of the issue, because the bigger part of the issue is how it affects your confidence. If you don’t feel good about how you look and you’re distracted every time you look into that thumbnail and just cringe, you’re not going to be present and giving them your best. That is why I’m going to be talking you through my five top tips for looking better on video calls.
Number one is lighting, lighting, lighting. You actually can’t do anything to override bad lighting. There is no amount of makeup and her hair and wardrobe magic that is going to help you look better if you’re in bad lighting. If you are someone that is going on video calls all the time, you need to sort this out. You need to set yourself up in a location where you know that no matter what time of day it is, you’re always going to have what you need. The best source of lighting is obviously natural light, but that is not always an option because of where we live or work, also if you’re doing the call at night.
One thing that I do is I have a little mini ring light that I have on my desk. Now, this is nowhere near as good as the ring light that I’m using right now for my YouTube videos, but it is portable, it’s small, and I can move it around even if I’m changing desks and things, and it’s not this huge drama. It’s just my absolute backup that helps just light my face and helped separate me from the background when I’m on a call.
Something else you can do is make sure that your desktop’s wallpaper is white or a very pale color and that you have the brightness turned up, and then just to put your sort of your previous screen of the cal, a little bit smaller, and then you’ll have this kind of like a pretend ring light. You’ll have the white around the outside providing a little bit of even lighting directly onto your face. Then obviously, other things like above lighting, real ring lights, all of that, but that can get a little bit crazy, so my number one tip would be to get some sort of led light or too little LED lamps that you can sit either side of your screen and it’s going to make all the difference.
Now if you’re doing this from your phone, you can always get one of those little portable selfie ring lights for your phone. I’ll link to those below. They’re not super powerful, but they’re enough that they’ll give your face an nice glow. That is just way more flattering than if you’ve got nothing.
Tip number two is to de clutter your backdrop. Having all sorts of stuff going on in the background does actually detract from how you look. It just automatically makes you look less professional. It can also affect how the camera is focusing on you. If you’re too close to a backdrop and there’s heaps of stuff going on, your camera, your lens may actually focus more on what’s behind you than on you. My number one tip is clear out as much clutter as you can.
I love a good lifestyle backdrop where you’ve got a few key pieces in the background. It might say a little bit about you or your business. That’s totally fine. Then try and separate yourself from the background so that your camera can focus just on you and provide that little bit of background blur behind. That’s just immediately going to make you look more professional.
Number three is the camera itself. Now, obviously if you’re using your phone, then you’re stuck with whatever camera is built into your phone. But if you aren’t using a desktop computer and you’re not happy with the quality of your webcam, then just upgraded. The built-in ones are okay, but they’re not amazing, and I find that they don’t have the amazing autofocusing ability and and the ability to create a little bit of depth of field that the separate ones do. For instance, I’ve got a little baby Logitech one that cost me less than a hundred bucks, actually way less than a hundred bucks, and it is high definitely, so it provides really high quality recordings. You can actually use it to record normal videos, not just to hop on a video call.
It just, again, is so much more flattering on your face, because it’s not blurry. It tends to work well in low light. Again, even if you don’t have that much light, it’s going to be more forgiving. It’s just worth the investment, again, if you are someone that is using video calls a lot for your career.
Number four, it might seem like an obvious one, but wardrobe choices. Certain things just look better on camera than other things. My general rules are to stick to block colors, or if you’re going to use a pattern, make sure it’s a large print. Anything that’s too small can make the camera go blurry and a little fuzzy, like again, it doesn’t actually look like the print does in real life, so little spots, little checks, little stripes, and they’re also really distracting.
Ultimately, you want people to be focusing on your face, not your outfit, so generally the cleaner the outfit, the more they’re going to focus on your face. Same when it comes to busy necklines and things. If you’re a girl, you probably know what a cowl neck is, where it kind of is all sloppy. Anything that can move around too much, that shows too much skins, so if you’ve got something that looks too low cut. Obviously, don’t wear anything that’s completely strapless because it can look like your … If I did this, suddenly I look like I’m naked. You just want to make sure that it’s something that you would be happy for people to see you wearing in real life, as well. Like if this was a face to face meeting, what would you normally wear? Don’t think that just cause you’re on video, you can step it down that much. Facebook Lives kind of tend to be a different thing if you’re talking to your audience and they know you well, but if this is a client or a potential employer or something, then obviously just dress the part.
Finally, number five is makeup. Now, there’s so much I can say about makeup because I am a makeup teacher and I’m going to have separate videos on where we’ll really break this down more. But ultimately, you can get away with wearing a little bit more makeup on a video call, because the quality tends to remove a lot of detail and it actually looks like you’re wearing a less than you are. A few things that can help is using some bronzer to contour your face, because we can become very two dimensional when at the quality of the call is fairly low and you just might want to bring that shape back into your face.
Definitely don’t skip the concealer, because our number one thing is usually about the dark circles under the eyes. Just keep in mind that you are in close up, so make sure you actually check your makeup closely before you get on the camera. Make sure there’s no clumps, blend out your eyeshadow shadow nicely, and again, don’t wear makeup that you wouldn’t wear in real life. I don’t recommend just putting on a really bold lip, because you’re like, “Oh, it’s a video, so I’m just going to be a bit …” No, it’s still just a normal meeting, so look like yourself. But you can just wear that a little bit more makeup. And so if you are concerned that you look tired or haggard, then wear slightly more foundation than you normally would.
And don’t skip the blush. Please, people. I think I need to create a t-shirt on this. Obviously, I’m talking to the girls, so you guys, it’s okay. You don’t want to wear any makeup, totally get it. But for the girls, the blush is a thing that just brings the color back into your cheeks and makes you look more fresh and healthy, and it can make such a big difference on camera so you don’t look so tired, because we often look really washed out, especially on video calls.
That’s enough on makeup. I will have some other videos coming on camera-friendly makeup soon, but I hope these tips helped you feel a little bit more confident on your next video call. If you have any other tips, be sure to leave them in the comments below. Otherwise, just tell me what your favorite one was, and don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss out on any future weekly videos.
All right, thanks for watching. Bye for now.
Kat is an actor and personal branding coach as well as the host of The Personal Branding Project Podcast and her self-titled YouTube channel. She started her career off by playing Marilyn at Warner Bros Movie World, went on to perform in the original Australian casts of Jersey Boys & Hairspray and eventually found herself writing/producing her own work before becoming a self-employed copywriter and marketing strategist. She now offers 1:1 Coaching and Online Courses for entrepreneurs, freelancers + multi-passionate creatives.