Camera tips: how to get the best picture when WFH
I’ve been continuously asked to give tips on how to get the most professional picture when WFH (Working From Home), so here I collected all the information I usually give to my clients to get the best results.
BACKGROUND: Usually having a white wall behind you is not really flattering. Look for a room-wide enough, in which the background is not so close to you. I would avoid having any window in the background because the light coming from outside would be too bright and as a result, you would have either an overexposed part of the background or the whole picture will be automatically underexposed, making your face dark. One of my favorite backgrounds is a bookshelf (with lots of books!). Somehow that gives a signal of professionalism and education. Now be aware that everything in the picture will be on focus (usually that’s the problem with computer cam or any cam with a small lens) so be sure that the viewer will not be distracted in reading what books you have in your house, instead of listening to what you are saying.
COPYRIGHT: if you are using the recording of the meeting for broadcasting or any other marketing asset, be sure that there are no LOGOS visible in the picture (besides your company logo).
DAYLIGHT: I believe the best position in the house is to set up your laptop in front of the window: facing the window! In this way, your face will be lit by the light coming from outside and the window will be behind the camera. Be sure that the window does NOT allow the sun to be direct at your face (that would create dark shadows and that would be not flattering). So the best would be to find a window which faces south or north where it’s not hit by the sun, depending on the time of the day (cloudy days are the best to shoot, as the light is diffused naturally by the clouds). ALSO if you are located in front of the window, most likely you won’t have a wall behind you but you will have a spacious room in the background with hopefully a lot of different things. Curtains are great to diffuse the light coming from outside, but be sure they are NOT blocking the light too much.
NIGHT-TIME: in this case, well, forget about the window. Turn on the lights in the room. If you have a spotlight or any powerful light, I would say, be sure it doesn’t point directly at you. I would actually direct the light to a white wall (or better to the ceiling) in order to have good diffuse light. More diffuse light, less dark shadows on your face -> a more flattering image.
MAKEUP: use your regular make-up (if you never wear make-up, DO NOT wear it now). There is a misconception about makeup. People sometimes think that in ‘camera’ it is always better to have lots of makeup. It’s actually not so simple and really depends on the lighting. On movie sets, professional makeup artists change the quantity and the quality of the makeup on talent, depending on a lot of factors. They usually continuously check the monitor to see if what they applied is good for THAT particular picture. To make a long story short: do, what you usually do for an in-person meeting.
DRESS UP: Please dress business-like. If you are a man, a jacket and tie would be a sign of professionalism. Is that too much? Maybe just a nice shirt and a jacket. Dress like you would go to work. I believe in this new normal, we are sick to see people in a bad t-shirt or worse in a pajama. Prepare your self to look the best. Like the first picture of this post… You can still wear pajama-pants 🙂
CAMERA SET UP: either you use an external cam or your laptop when you set up your camera, I would keep your eyes higher than the 50% of the frame (1st picture below on the left). One of the basic photography rules for a portrait, says the eyes should be at 2/3 of the height of the screen (there are a lot of exceptions to this rule BUT in this case, it’s useful to follow it). Just tilt your camera a little down and you get something like the 2nd picture below (the EYES are at 60-70% of the frame height).
MOVEMENTS: Avoid moving closer and farther from the camera. Usually, webcams, laptop cams, or any type of web camera have a wide-angle lens. That makes every object close to the camera huge, gigantic, and really small if far away. Having you going back and forth in these lenses will create a constant change of proportions. Usually, the problem is the chair where you’re sitting. Be sure you are comfortable on the chair and you don’t move back and forth (in a normal shoot I would say the same thing, but the reason would be more for the focus cause I usually try to get a really shallow depth of field). Wide-angle lenses don’t have usually problems with focus. The same concept is true even when you don’t move BUT you move the hands close to the cam. While you are talking if you put your hands in-camera, close to the camera, the hand would be much bigger then your face and even or your body, cause of the lens’ deformation. That would not be flattering. That would be extreme, but I hope you understand what I mean.
MOBILE: If you are recording or getting the meeting using your cell phone or iPad is totally fine. I would recommend keeping your device horizontally, cause since the standard is 16:9 format, the vertical mode would automatically generate black stripes on the side of the picture.
I hope these tips can be useful. I’m sure these are nothing you haven’t heard before but sometimes it’s good to be reminded. Oh and one more thing: REMEMBER that at the end, the most important thing is always the CONTENT of what you’re saying 🙂