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We've all seen a thousand articles about the various faux pas of video calling—SNL even did a sketch about Zoom during their stay-at-home episode recently. As staying-in periods last longer than a few weeks, getting familiar and comfortable with video calling is essential.
Setting yourself up for success by ensuring you like your appearance when you're on camera is crucial toward that comfortability, and we can help. Check out the following tips for ways to improve the lighting on your video calls (and impress your coworkers endlessly).
And note—regardless of what you choose, the key to achieving the perfect lighting will always be experimenting. If you're not sure how your call will look, turn on your web camera while you adjust. Many video services also allow you to preview yourself before joining any calls, but if you need a test run, just use your computer's camera mode.
1. Find your natural light source
Is your desk near a window? If so, which direction is the window facing? Do you find that you spend half the day in shadow? Moving your work station to sit within a good source of light can make all the difference on a video call, whether you're sitting right beneath a window or in a room flooded with natural light. But whatever you do, don't sit directly in front of the window—it'll throw off the lighting and turn your silhouette dark.
If your workstation is pretty permanently placed within your space, making efforts to regulate natural light and rely on the lighting in your room can prevent a confusing visual effect when you're on calls.
If your space has a little room for improvement, you can always pick up a rolling desk, which will allow you to move around your home during the day and ensure that you're sitting in the best light possible.
- Get the Ledbury Computer Desk from Wayfair for $159.99
- Get the Adjustable Mobile Laptop Computer Desk with Black Top - Flash Furniture from Target for $131.99
2. Ensure your lighting is placed correctly
In order to properly illuminate yourself, your lighting should sit just above your laptop or computer camera and behind it. Find lighting that you can adjust, like desk lamps or pendant lamps. Placing this type of lighting above your computer allows it to more thoroughly illuminate what lies in your camera's field of vision, so you ensure a more even brightness.
Hang a pendant above your space or go full Pixar and get a movable desk lamp so you can achieve the perfect lighting angle.
- Get the Pixo Plus Task Lamp from Lumens for $250
- Get the Fiscus 42" Desk Lamp from Wayfair for $79.99
- Get the Random II Light from Lumens for $695
If you're looking for a more permanent lighting solution, consider mounting wall lights, which can drastically enhance the lighting situation in your home.
3. Wear darker clothing
We love a color theory moment. It seems simple, but whites and bright colors will reflect light and can create a confusing visual effect in your computer camera. Instead, relying on darker color palettes can help neutralize any weird light effects and keep your video calls simple and visually pleasing.
We also love an excuse to shop—if you're working from home, check out these great black and grey cozy options from Nordstrom to flesh out your video call wardrobe.
- Get the Signaturesoft Plush Sweatshirt from Nordstrom for $69.50
- Get the Topshop Weekend Tee from Nordstrom for $13.50
4. Try out three-point lighting
More art theory! Three-point lighting is very simple both in terms of concept and implementation—employ three light sources in a space to create a balanced lighting effect. The primary source of light (your key light) should come from behind your camera, and you should employ a secondary light (fill light) adjacent to the key light. Then, make sure you have some back source of light—you're all set beyond that!
And don't stop at video calls—now that you know about three-point lighting, you know how to take Instagram-worthy photos in your own home (like maybe pictures of that sourdough starter you've been growing?).
5. Switch out your lightbulbs if they feel too harsh
This is a small change that can make a huge difference in how your face is illuminated during a video call. Feeling washed out or overexposed? Changing out your lightbulbs can prevent you from, in my particular case, looking like a genuine vampire onscreen. Warmer lightbulbs that mimic natural light can soften any harsh shadows.
Beyond these tips, making sure that you're comfortable with your background and your workspace can go a long way toward making you feel better about video calls. Check out these articles for more info on how to improve your work-from-home set-up:
- 10 work from home essentials our editors love
- Everything you need to work from home during the coronavirus outbreak
- 15 must-have things under $30 to help you work from home
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.