Zoom meetings are an intimate glimpse into our lives

Grooming for Zooming Part 2, by popular demand!  Because of the positive response and many questions I received about Zoom tips after my earlier post Grooming for Zooming or How Not to Look Like a Potato, we’re back with and packed with more information in Part 2!

I received so many questions and requests.   As a result, our publisher/editor, Laura Pardini, introduced me to a new contributor to My LA Lifestyle, Patrick Edinger.  Together, we shared our combined knowledge and skills for this “now-not-so-new-normal” which is here to stay.  Check out Patrick’s post here.

We’re no longer concerned with what day of the week it is, it’s now either Yesterday, Today or Tomorrow.  Good enough.  Your WFH space is likely fairly full of papers, take-out receipts, and other sorts of flotsam and jetsam.   By now, we’re all Zoom experts and quickly learning Team.

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


The not-no-new-normal part of my day profession is as a partner in a video production firm. Often, I’m called upon to conduct Media Coaching for politicians, celebrities, CEO’s and stakeholders who need to have a confident, good-looking presence on camera.  After coaching, clients used to head into a studio for interviews or step onto a performance stage.  Now, as a result of these unprecedented times, Media Coaching is a necessity for us all — and has moved into our homes.  It’s not enough to know how to dress, have make-up, and speak your truth; now it’s about setting up your own in-home TV studio. You’re responsible for your “set” design which encompasses lighting, wardrobe, make-up, grooming, and your background.  Patrick and I have joined together to create a complementary service.


First, what equipment?  Make this investment.  You need to be heard.  Your laptop and handheld devices have internal microphones that can be used semi-successfully, however, quality can become an issue if you’re in a room that echoes, have puppies or family – or if you sit too far away from your device.

Let’s start with some audio choices:

–   A consumer-grade USB microphone such as the Apogee MIC Plus is recommended over internal mics.         The mic avoids room echo and comes with its own mini-tripod.

–  Smaller mics work well, too, such as the Audio-Technica.

– Airpods are good for listening if your device volume isn’t loud enough.  Ditch the headphones though, not a good look.

– Tip:  When you’re not speaking, remember to MUTE your mic.


 #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.

1- Your laptop, desktop, or handheld device needs to be raised 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 a $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.  Click on “Touch up my appearance”. This adds a softening filter, giving a glow.  Wow!

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.

5 – Finally,  if you arrive early keep your MUTE on and your VIDEO off.  Then you can join when ready instead of having the rest of the gang arrive while you’re still in your “prep” mode.

#2:  Lighting  Tricks

Lighting really, really matters.

1 – If you have a window behind you, make sure draperies or blinds are closed if it’s daytime.  Light coming in from behind you puts your face in shadow.  Yes, it’s mysterious — but do you want to project that during a business meeting?

2. Best to face a window.  The caution here is that daylight can broadcast a sickening blue hue onto skin tones and shadow your face.  Add a light directly behind  your computer to add warm tones.  If your window is on the side, the light coming in will seek out any bags and wrinkles and give them additional shadow.  Take the natural light by sitting in front of a window, with the window facing you (and your added light).

2  –  If you have sheer drapery adjust it by closing part or all the way that so that it functions as a filter and softens the light.  Then go ahead and add a table or standing lamp with a warm LED bulb behind your lap or desktop facing you.  That will warm the colors.

3 – Avoid overhead lighting as it casts shadows down onto your face.

4 – If you wear glasses adjust your screen by pulling slightly forward to remove any reflective glare.

4 – If you invest in studio lighting, you’ll find a myriad of “ring light” products online that are inexpensive. However, I don’t recommend these as they will reflect their “ring” shape 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.

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

7 – Super Hack:  Place white paper or poster board on the surface of your desk. This pure white will reflect onto your face and brighten all of your features.  Also, lighten your device screen as much as possible which will also function as a reflector.

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

 #3:  Background

The new indoor sport is grading and making cheeky comments about other people and their backgrounds.  I should say that zoom has become the great leveler.  We can now see how our bosses, peers, colleagues, celebs and frenemies live.  And, yes, we make judgments.  Here’s a terrific, brief tutorial on backgrounds.

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 offer texture, color, and interest.
  2. Position yourself with at least 8″-12” between you and your background to give a depth of field.
  3. Zoom also has a selection of pre-loaded scenic backgrounds you can use.  Click the camera icon and you’ll find pre-loaded scenic backgrounds — or you can upload your own.
  4. 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.
  5. Whoa!  IKEA has joined the fray with downloadable backgrounds for your video calls and conferences so you can update your living quarters.
  6. Choose one accent in your background that’s organic, like colorful fruits, flowers.  If you’re light-haired, try a yellow accent in the background; if dark-haired go for red such as a bowl of apples.  No worries about your organic accents spoiling, here’s where to purchase fab faux fakes.
Light-haired look best with a splash of yellow in background.

 #4:  Wardrobe, Makeup & Facial Expression

1 – Be Bold.  Color is good. Solids such as blues, pinks, red, green, yellow works well.  If in doubt, 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 these cause video “noise”.

5 – Women:  Wear a bit more than normal blush, eyeliner, mascara, shadow, and lip gloss and powder yourself down. Cameras drab us out and the lights make us shine.  If shiny, take a kleenex and blot, not rub.

6 – Men:  You’ll need powder and blotting 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.

8 — Facial expressions.  When we’re listening, our facial muscles relax and sadly, droop.  This can give a poor and less than vibrant look to our faces.  Think about when you’re in conversation in person, listen actively —  that shows on your expression and keeps you looking vital and interested.

Be aware that you’re always on camera during a Zoom meeting.

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 Zoom fails on this for a few laughs and gasps.  And, the mute option.  If you’re not muted, everything can be heard.


For more information on how to maximize your Zoom meetings and look and feel more confident, reach out to Patrick and me.  We’re here to help you create and update your look and your background for success!

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 television and video producer/spokesperson, she is the winner of several national and international broadcasting awards.

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

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