Don't look like a potato on Zoom
Avoid looking like a potato with a few pro tricks

How long has it been?  Actually just a few weeks.  If you’re WFH (working from home) likely you’ve been spending a considerable amount of time on Zoom, Web X, Google Hangouts, Skype, WhatsApp or, come weekends (are they still a thing?) one of the Quarantine Dance Sessions or Houseparty.

Let’s agree this is great at keeping us connected as we are sheltering-in-place. However, the almost universally felt downside is how often we’re rather shocked by our own shadowed, blue light-bathed, potato-esque faces peering awkwardly down at our screens while the screen’s camera captures our neck and nostrils.

When I’m not here writing about wine, my day profession is being a partner in a digital production company, PointMedia, and producer of Live Streaming, SMTs, EPKs, VNRs, PSAs and Live Concert and Corporate Events.  And as part of that work, also a Media Coach.  So, today I’m sharing my Media Coach insider tricks: Four Biggies of Grooming for Zooming!  This includes men.

First, what equipment is needed?  Likely, your WFH office set up is sufficient but will benefit from just a few technical tricks of our trade.  Let’s start with some audio choices: you need to be heard.

–   A consumer-grade USB microphone is recommended over internal mics.

–  Airpods or small mics work well, too.  Headphones aren’t a good look.

– Laptop or handheld devices have internal microphones that can be used successfully. However, quality can become an issue if you’re in a room that echoes – or if you sit too far away from your device.

– And MUTE your mic when you’re not speaking.

Now, for the 4 BIGGIES:

Biggie #1:  Video Tricks

Today cameras in computers and handheld devices provide good if not excellent results.  It’s all about placement. That’s the trick here.

Lift the laptop so camera is just above eye level

1- Your laptop, desktop, or handheld device needs to be lifted (a stack of books) so that the camera lens is just above your eye level.  It can be as simple as piling a few books under the computer.

2- Once in position, slightly tilt down the lid monitor (if a laptop), or desktop monitor, or your handheld.  This immediately solves several issues: the light reflection from behind you, double chins plus the “tilt down” also makes your eyes appear larger.  For $25 investment, there are tripods to hold and adjust your phone.

3- If using Zoom, there’s a setting called “Touch up my appearance”.  You’ll find it by clicking on the camera icon, then click the caret and go to Video Settings.  Once there, click on “Touch up my appearance”. This adds a softening filter, good for all of us.

4- Zoom also has a “Mirror my video” setting in the same area.  Click on that, as this shows you what you look like in the mirror — the way we are most accustomed to seeing ourselves.

Biggie #2:  Lighting  

Lighting really matters.

1 – If you’ve a window behind you, make sure draperies or blinds are closed if it’s daytime.  Daylight can broadcast a sickening blue hue onto skin tones.  More about that below.  If your window is on the side, the light coming in will seek out any bags and wrinkles and give them additional shadow.

2  – If you have a window directly in front of you check for the blue tone.  If you have a sheer drapery adjust that so that it functions as a filter and softens the light.  Then add a table or standing lamp with a warm LED bulb right behind your device,  facing you.  That will warm the colors.

2 – You’ll find a myriad of “ring light” products online that are inexpensive and can work. However, I don’t recommend these as they will reflect their “ring” onto your pupils, and should you wear glasses you’ll see two “rings” reflected on your lens.  Instead, for an investment of $55.00, you can get two, light-weight, small portable LED plug-in lights & stands with filters that, pardon me, are “light years” better.  Place these lights behind and just above your computer (stack more books if you need to lift the lights) so that their light is coming directly onto your face at a slight angle (left or right) in a wide chevron shape.

3 – To really get a professional skin-enhancing coloration, for about $20 you can order a beauty gel kit and have some fun playing with shades to enhance both your skin and background.

Invest in one of these products before you even finish reading this. They are life-changing. 

Biggie #3:  Background

You know how much we’re enjoying and being amazed at the backgrounds we see during our Zoom calls or on TV.  Perhaps one of the most famous making the rounds now is the unmade bed behind Charlie Puth during the recent Global Citizen One World Together streamed event. Nuff said.

Charlie Puth’s unmade bed went viral

Examine your surroundings for backgrounds by walking around with your phone to check out different areas.  Here are some ideas:

  1. Bookcases are always good-looking and give an aura of intelligence, your interests and worldliness (check to see which book titles are showing as that could ruin the intelligence part).
  2. A framed, non-reflective glass photo or painting that is tasteful or colorful.
  3. A shelf area that can hold some interesting objects such as a vase with flowers, or a single green palm or large leaf; a sculpture; or framed photos (again with non-reflective glass) or other art objects.
  4. Background colors that are white, neutral, natural (i.e. wood, soft draperies, shutters), and not overly patterned can add texture and depth.
  5. Position yourself with at least 8″-12” between you and your background to give depth of field.
  6. Zoom also has a selection of pre-loaded scenic backgrounds you can use.  Again, click the camera icon and you’ll find pre-loaded scenic backgrounds — or you can upload your own.
  7. Let’s say you’re feeling playful with a family or friend chat, there’s an app that can turn your image into a potato or many other whimsical things.  You can experiment here.
  8. Whoa!  IKEA has joined the fray with downloadable backgrounds for your video calls and conferences.

Biggie #4:  Wardrobe, Makeup & Facial Expression

1 – Color is good. Solids such as blues, pinks, red, green, yellow works well.  Black always works.

2 – Wear jewelry that is small without too much movement or noise-making (i.e. charm bracelets).

3 – Scarves are good for adding a pattern or accent and can also take care of any neck issues.  Or, wear a basic turtleneck.

4 – A jacket can add business-like formality for big meetings or job interviews and presentations. Avoid stripes and checks or busy patterns as this causes video “noise”.

5 – Women:  Wear a bit more blush, eyeliner, mascara, shadow and lip gloss than normal and powder yourself down. Cameras drab us out and the lights make us shine.

6 – Men:  You’ll need powder, too.  Trust me on this.

7 – Be conscious of where you’re looking.  Generally, you’ll see thumbnails of others in the meeting on your screen, focus on the camera rather than checking your own image.  By looking into the camera, you’re looking into your group’s eyes which you’d do in person.  Think about the expression on your face.  It speaks volumes if you’re reacting to something by rolling your eyes, looking bored, or stifling a yawn, or worse yet, texting.

And, finally.  Do not carry your screen of choice around with you during a call.  Remember, you’ve gone to a bit of effort to set your scene and if you move around, that’s shot.  Everything can be seen — google some fails on this. If you’re not muted, everything can be heard.

Now, go forth with confidence knowing that you’re ready for your close-up.  After, toast yourself with a glass of bubbly or a Quarantini!

And Follow My LA Lifestyle on Instagram & stay connected!

Contributor:  Stacie Hunt, Certified Silver Pin Sommelier/AIS; Vice President National Association of Wine Retailers; International Wine Judge, Author, Spokesperson, and Educator.  As a producer/spokesperson, winner of several national and international broadcasting awards.

Images Courtesy:  Zoom Potato:; Charlie Puth,; Stacie Hunt, or;

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