Zoom has become a verb, and for a lot of us it is a very new tool. At the beginning of the lockdown we thrashed about in the deep end challenged by the gallery view, unmuting and content sharing. Professional photographer, Ingrid Weel, shares her top tips.
Video conferencing has replaced nearly all our habitual interactions with society. Social cues, body language and “reading the room” are all but gone in a gallery of talking heads. Despite these drawbacks it is an undeniable lifeline for our social and business lives.
There are some simple techniques that can help, particularly for business.
- We are often distracted by our appearance on camera and end up looking at ourselves during a conference call. This is totally understandable, but to someone whom you have never met it is like checking out the rest of the room during a conversation – no eye contact.
- When it is your turn to speak look at your camera. Put a mark above it to help: A simple “X”, a photo, or even prompts for your presentation. You are now engaging directly with your virtual audience.
- The camera angle and height will help with your online appearance as well – not least resolving any chin insecurities. Raise the camera level to your eyes and make sure it is at right angles to the floor. Looking down at your camera is like looking down at your audience – or them looking up your nose.
- Of course, if you need access your laptop keyboard this might not be possible so you could invest in an external webcam to resolve this.
- Consider your lighting. If I shot your business portrait with half your face in shadow, it would be the last time I photographed you. These webcams are simple things and they often determine exposure by the brightest thing in the frame.
- If the light is coming from the side or an overhead source, bounce it back into your face by angling a simple reflector positioned off camera. The dull side of tin foil smoothed onto a large bit of card does this brilliantly. Avoid having a window as your background unless you have additional lighting from the front.
- Consider your shot and the simplicity of your background. You will want at least your head and shoulders framed if not a little more so that you can gesture if it is in your nature. You might want to put a roll up banner behind you if you have the space. Move anything distracting lower in the frame or entirely out of shot. You can also engage a virtual background to eliminate all these issues but be careful with your lighting and sudden movements.
- Finally, you must prepare for these meetings as carefully as you would if you were attending in person. A lot of people are balancing their family life with working from home so changing into a suit is a challenge. Wear a plain t-shirt on a day you have a meeting scheduled, and pop your jacket on over it when it is time to log in. Use a headset if external noises cannot be helped and ask everyone in the home to at least wear clothes….
You can practice all these tips just using your camera outside of the conferencing app or feel free to book a video chat with me to set up your “studio” ready for the next meeting. Mine is semi-permanent now, a pile of books in the ideal position for my iPad.
We are all in the same storm and we will navigate our way through it.
Ingrid Weel is a professional photographer based in Surrey. For more tips on videos visit Ingrid’s website.