Many of us are spending more and more of our working life inside rectangular boxes these days. It can be tough to stay focused during endless hours of online meetings. There are so many technical elements to consider, in addition to the content itself. How can we put our best face forward online in the midst of all this chaos? Here are three insider tips for how to look good on video calls with a simple set-up that you can prepare anytime, anywhere.
Background distractions, unexpected interruptions from our children or pets, juggling home schooling with business calls: these are a few examples of the many challenges we face when working remotely. Sometimes the simple act of finding a quiet place to set up for an important online meeting can feel like a Herculean task.
How to Position Your Camera
For those of us who aren’t used to facilitating or participating in online meetings, the technical set-up can be a daunting proposition. Here we’re going to focus on one of the easiest fixes you can make to have an immediate impact on your video presence: how to position your camera for the most flattering angle.
The way we use a camera in professional media production is to think of the video box as a frame. In order to get the best angle, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What is filling your frame? Is your face visible to your audience at the other end of the line?
- Are you sitting too close, or far away, from the camera?
- Where should you look to best engage with your colleagues or audience on the other end of the line?
- What’s going on in the background? Is there a lot of clutter that may distract others from what you have to say?
The key is to think about where your audience’s eye is drawn. The following three tricks will help you frame your online video with the most flattering angles.
Tip 1: Look Up (Slightly)
You want to be looking up slightly into the camera. The camera lens (and be sure to think about the lens, not the screen) should be slightly above your eye level, as in the graphic below. If your computer or electronic device is sitting on a low table, move it up so that the lens is just above your line of sight.
Books or magazines—remember those, made out of paper?!—come in handy here. You can stack them to give height to your device so that you look slightly up. By looking up towards the camera lens, you also allow more light to reach your eyes.
Tip 2: Don’t Sit Too Close to Your Device
Once you’ve positioned the camera lens slightly above eye level, tilt the screen slightly towards you to bring the camera closer to your eyeline. Be careful not to fill the entire frame with your head. You want a little bit of head room at the top, so that there’s space between the edge of the frame and top of your head, in order to create a sense of space around you. (Check out this week’s Simply Comms video to see examples of how this works.)
PRO TIP: Try looking into the camera on your device, and not the screen. This may feel unnatural at first, but with a bit of practice, you’ll get more comfortable—and it makes a huge difference to how you appear on the other end of the call.
When you look directly into the camera lens, this creates a natural eyeline so that the audience perceives you to be looking directly at them, and not randomly through your screen. This optical illusion is a simple way to generate a greater feeling of connection.
Tip 3: Lean Forward, Not Back
The focal point of your video is your face. This is where you want to draw your audience’s attention. Leaning forward makes your head more prominent in the frame. It also moves your face closer to the light. If you need to, place a pillow behind you to give support and push you forward a little from the back of your chair.
Now you’ve got a nicely composed frame. That is, until your toddler strolls onto screen, or your cat’s tail pops into frame as you’re making an important point! Just remember, these things happen to the best of us. And the occasional distraction can even bring some light into someone else’s dreary day of back-to-back videos calls.
Check out this Simply Comms video with media producer Jennifer MacLeod, to learn more.
Do you want to know more about how to look good on video calls? You can have a browse through our full Simply Comms video series for more tips. We’d love to hear from you! Let us know your comments and be sure to send in other communication questions to address in future posts.