Blogger: Rachelle Gardner
I don’t know about you, but I never feel like I look my best on a webcam. What is it about those little cameras that seem to suck the life out of us?
The good news is that there are a few tricks to making sure you look your best for those all-important Skype calls with a potential agent. I thought I’d share a few tips I’ve learned from experience.
First, let me say: Don’t stress out!
With a little effort, it’s not difficult to create the right impression on your webcam. If you’re a writer, working at home, then that’s exactly the kind of environment that’s appropriate for you. In other situations, you may want to create a more polished professional impression. These are some ideas that you can take or leave, according to your own needs.
- Put your webcam level with your eyes or slightly higher.
Most people’s webcam is situated too low, and people don’t look their best in a camera angle that’s coming from beneath their chin. Grab a couple of books and place them under your laptop if necessary. Get that webcam up above your eyes.
- Experiment with different zoom levels and angles.
Move your webcam a little closer to your face, and a little farther away… figure out what looks best. If your webcam is at the top of your laptop screen, move your screen back and forth, creating different angles, again attempting to determine which angle suits you.
- Use plenty of light.
Make sure you’re not backlit — the light should come from in front of you (behind your webcam) or from the side, but not from behind. You may want to try putting a lamp on or near your desk so that it lights up your face. Try different ways of lighting yourself, avoiding glare and washout, yet creating a pleasing and clear image.
- Mind your background.
One of the problems of the too-low webcam is that the background becomes a giant white ceiling, which doesn’t look that great. A right-height webcam allows for a more pleasing background. What’s in your specific background doesn’t matter all that much, so long as it’s not distracting. You want your viewers to focus on you, not the pile of laundry on your bed. If you’re using a laptop, you have a lot of flexibility to take it wherever you want to get the background you want. Again, experiment.
- Pay attention to hair and clothing.
It’s not a beauty pageant, but you’ll still want to spare a moment before getting on your call (or recording your blog) to check your image and make sure it’s what you want to portray. You can stay in your pj-bottoms and slippers if you want, but put a decent shirt on! Women who typically wear makeup should wear some for the video, maybe even a little brighter than usual — it makes a big difference on a webcam.
- Get a new webcam if you need to.
If your webcam doesn’t provide a pleasing picture no matter how you adjust it or set the lighting, you may need to look at getting a new one. They’re relatively inexpensive these days, and they’re made to clip conveniently on to your laptop or monitor.
- Create a “videochat” space in your home or office.
This is for people who use webcams frequently. Once you’ve done some experimenting with lighting, background, webcam placement and angles, create a space that you always use for your video blogging or chatting. It should be quick and easy for you to get your lighting, camera level and angles just right so that you can go into a video session with very little preparation each time. Since I have a few video sessions each week, I have a permanent setup at my desk with just-right lighting and camera height, and it makes my life so much easier.
As you can tell, my overall recommendation is to give this some thought and experimentation before your next video chat. With just a few moments of practice, you can determine exactly what works and always be ready to look your best on video.
What do you love or hate about this brave new world of all-things-video? And what are YOUR tips for looking good?
Why do we feel we never look our best on a webcam? Here are a few tips. Click to Tweet.
Create a favorable impression by looking great on a webcam! Click to Tweet.
Image copyright: darrinhenry / 123RF Stock Photo
I think I’ll just hire Ken Watanabe to stand in for me…
* Seriously, these are great tips…and the one on hair and makeup is really important. They can make or break a professional impression. Yes, guys, this is for you, too. Yes, you need to consider makeup. It’s a video world. Deal with it.
* When you smile, touch your tongue to the roof of your mouth. It’ll allow you to only show your upper teeth, and avoid the Steinway Showroom teeth-bared grin. (Try this now….it really works…and it’s courtesy Julia Roberts.)
* Lighting is a profession, and there are resources that will help you. Use them. You can rent good studio lights from many camera shops.
* Another thing to think about are your mannerisms. Some people lick their lips before speaking, especially when nervous, and this looks really, really bad. Kind of like a frog getting ready to zap a fly.
* To that end, practice and rehearse. Get honest people to critique you, and then go back and do it again. Saying “ummm” and looking up and to the left isn’t charming. It’s amateurish. And if there are words whose pronunciation proves difficult, pay special attention to them.
* On words…beware of mispronunciations that have become accepted in local dialect. Saying Eye-rack or Eye-talian can instantly turn away part of your audience.
* Don’t read from a script on the desk in front of you. You’ll end up looking like a hostage reading a communique from a literary terrorist group, because your eyes will be magnetized to the words.
* If you talk with your hands, that’s OK, but be sure the zoom is set to show your hands. Nothing looks worse than a pair of hands occasionally popping up from the bottom of the screen and then vanishing.
* If you need glasses, wear them. Squinting because you can’t see something looks worse than the glasses ever could.
* Clip nose hairs and don’t eat lettuce before going on the air. ‘Nuff said.
* Always be ready to abort a take, and start again. You’re not using film. Allit costs is time.
Tried the tongue to the roof of the mouth before I read your suggestion to give it a whirl. I’m going to have to use that tip in pictures (I always look like a chipmunk from ‘too much’ smile). Thanks!
You’ve got some fantastic additions here, Andrew, thanks! The one about not reading from a script is so important. And I like your idea of hiring a stand-in. Hmm. I’ll have to think about who I’d choose.
Judith van Praag
I remember Julia Roberts getting the smile tip from her one time Veau that hunky L.A. Law actor. Learning that I wished I’S known sooner not to show the back of my throat 😉
Back in the dinosaur days when I first heard my voice on tape, I was shocked, SHOCKED, “Who was that?” Video opened up new ways to not like myself. Thank you, Rachelle and Andrew, for these suggestions.
Video phone looked so good on The Jetsons.
I know you’re right, Rachelle, but it’s a sad commentary of this brave new world in which we first have to sell ourselves in image and speech in order to sell our creative work. Ain’t no use to grumble and complain, because (as the children say) “it is what it is.” But still ’tis a pity, even as we accept it. First impressions, etc., etc. ad nauseam.
Not to be overly contrary, John, but we have always lived in a world where appearances matter. Even in Old Testament times, people wrote about how others looked, and how we appear is part of our total package. God gave us physical bodies so I guess he was aware this would happen!
Au contraire, Rachelle, and here’s why I say it: Possibly the greatest woman writer who ever lived, and definitely the most interesting, was Amantine-Lucile-Amore Dupin, aka George Sand, whose image was less than feminine. By today’s standards, it’s doubtful that she’d attract the attention of editors and publishers.
Her contemporary writer Edouard Grenier wrote of her, “She was short and stout, but her face attracted all my attention, the eyes especially. They were wonderful eyes–a little too close together, it may be, large, with full eyelids, and black, very black, but by no means lustrous; they reminded me of unpolished marble, or rather of velvet, and this gave a strange, dull, even cold expression to her countenance. Her fine eyebrows and these great placid eyes gave her an air of strength and dignity which was not borne out by the lower part of her face. Her nose was rather thick and not over shapely. Her mouth was also rather coarse, and her chin small. She spoke with great simplicity, and her manners were very quiet.”
Balzac described her in these (translated) words: “She is a female bachelor. She is an artist. She is generous. She is devoted. She is chaste. Her dominant characteristics are those of a man, and therefore, she is not to be regarded as a woman. She is an excellent mother, adored by her children. Morally, she is like a lad of twenty; for in her heart of hearts, she is more than chaste–she is a prude. It is only in externals that she comports herself as a Bohemian. All her follies are titles to glory in the eyes of those whose souls are noble.”
Thank you for the tips, Rachelle. I will keep these in mind when the time comes.
All your tips are great, and so are Andrew’s additions. I’ve only made two vlogs. I laugh every time I watch them. The first one I made outside … it’s humid out, so my hair is frizzy and with the bright light, you can’t even tell I have on make-up. And to top it off, my sheep are talking to me in the background. 🙂 On my second one, my hair is constantly getting into my eye, and I keep trying to move it without raising my hands. 🙂 I finally push it away. And it’s so hard to sit there and see my own picture staring back at me. 🙂 I know I look off to the side periodically, like Andrew mentioned … I need to work on that. And being from Texas, I talk slower than most folks, I guess … so I have to work on not drawing out my words so much. It seems right near impossible. 🙂 I start out slow, remember to speed up … I sound like an old record player warming up with the needle on the 45. 🙂 The only thing I probably have right is my heart … my intentions are good. 🙂
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
Ohhhh, we are soooo going to do a vlog together! That will be too much fun!
And slower than most? Ummm, I had not noticed. 😉
We could nudge the vlog speed a wee tad and you’ll be fine.
I can’t wait, Jennifer! I doubt I’ll be able to keep a straight face. Nudge the vlog speed? Say it ain’t so! 🙂
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
For all that is good and holy, if a person can afford a webcam, they can afford to make the thing eye level!!!
What great suggestions,Rachelle. I haven’t done a ton of online video stuff, but I have done a vlog and a couple video interviews. And I’m with others. . . it’s disconcerting to hear my voice and see my face being recorded!
That being said, I’ll add this to the mix. We all know we’re our own worst critics. We may think we sound tinny or childish, but someone else may love what we convey online. We need to give ourselves grace and do the best we can to ignore our perceptions of ourselves. If we choose to not worry about how we look and sound, and focus instead on our intended audience, it’s a little easier to have a successful vlog or interview
And I’ll definitely add my two cents to the suggestion to wear makeup. For women especially, adding a little extra blush can deal iwth some of the pale-ness that cameras give us. And for those who don’t like to wear makeup, at least putting on a little mascara can be very helpful in giving our eyes and faces definition.
So true, Jeanne–we are our own worst critics. I love watching others’ vlogs, especially those who comment here. Because you feel like you know them better. And the people here make me smile.
Agreed, Shelli. 🙂 I enjoy watching others’ vlogs too. 🙂
I know what would make me look better: keeping it a little out of focus to remove my wrinkles. That has the same effect as marrying a near-sighted man. With his glasses off, my husband tells me I look just like I did on our wedding day 40 years ago, and he’s right. I’m virtually the same-sized fuzzy blob as I was when we married. It’s also good to marry an archeologist. The older you get, the more interesting you become.
You made me laugh, Carol!
Too funny, Carol! 🙂
Just when I think I’m done worrying about everything I need to worry about, something new pops up. 🙂 Thanks for the tips, Rachelle.
No, I’m trying to help you NOT worry!! 🙂
Great list. We Facetime with family in California and I’m pretty sure they’re tired of looking up Mom’s nose. Sheesh. I’ll be applying your suggestions next time!
Funny, every single stock photo I could find of people using webcams showed them with the webcam too low. It’s what we all do – until someone tells us differently!
Fantastic tips Rachelle!! I’m going to print them off and file. Have a great day!!
These are great suggestions Rachelle! I’ve always been intimidated about recording with the webcam but had to make a video this week for promotional purposes and was surprised how easy it was on my MAC. I love your tips about lighting and where to put the webcam that I will definitely use in the future. Thank you!
Wow, this is wonderful! Thank you for the tips! I love these practical posts I can immediately apply.