Video chatting with friends and co-workers has practically become a way of life in our modern world. I use Skype and FaceTime pretty much daily in my home and work life, and because of that, I’ve spent a good deal of time trying to perfect my video quality.
Whether you wear pajama bottoms or a dress shirt for a video chat, you shouldn’t have to settle for sub-par results: Here are my favorite tips for making your webcam video look better than the rest.
- Film from above, not below
- Light it up
- Create a good backdrop
- Add effects and white balance with iGlasses
Film from above, not below
Whether you’re using an iMac, MacBook Pro, third-party webcam, or iPhone, the worst you can do is have your camera below your face, pointed up — human faces do not look great chin-first. In an ideal world, you want your camera positioned slightly above eye-level, looking down at you. Make sure not to position it too high, however: You don’t want to look like you’re craning to stare into the camera when talking to someone.
Light it up
While the “calling you from a dark cave” look is great if you’re trying to cultivate an air of mystery, it’s not the best way to chat with your co-workers. If you want to communicate effectively, you want some light on your face. The best way I’ve found is with ambient lighting behind your computer or webcam — adjustable Hue lights that bounce their light off the wall like a Hue Go, or Nanoleaf Aurora.
If you need to bathe an entire office in light, consider getting a few portable LED lights and tripods: iMore editor-at-large Rene Ritchie uses these to light up his personal studio at home for video shows like MacBreak Weekly.
A word of advice: You never want to point lights directly at your face unless they’re from a distance and allowed to diffuse somewhat, and you’ll want to make sure you’re evenly lighting yourself on both sides, lest you get the opposite of dark cave calling — “I’m in an interrogation room, send help.”
Create a good backdrop
If you’re routinely chatting from a specific space in your home — especially if these video chats are for work — it may behoove you to declutter your surroundings.
A few things to avoid in the background of video chats:
- Windows and lit lights: Both will create giant highlight spots that can either provide a wacky backlight or just pull focus from your face. To fix, cover your windows with drapes and turn your lights off
- Crazy patterns: They’ll pull focus
- Reflective glass in picture frames: I’ve broken this rule myself, but be careful of putting posters or pictures on a wall that can reflect your studio lights, or use anti-reflective acrylic.
- Garbage and other mess: Especially if you’re calling someone for work, make your studio space look professional and ditch the mess.