Look your best on video calls
Can’t meet in person? Here’s how to master the art of video calling
THE IDEAL WEBCAM ANGLE INVOLVES HAVING YOUR CAMERA AT ROUGHLY YOUR EYE LEVEL
YOU WILL LEARN
All the ways you can improve video calls on your Mac
WITH WORKING FROM home now an everyday occurrence for huge numbers of us, learning how to look your best on a video call is more important than ever. It’s no longer sufficient to simply turn on your Mac’s built–in webcam and hope for the best. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to spruce up your on–call appearance quickly and easily. All are simple to achieve and most are free.
The first and perhaps most important step is to get a good webcam. The built–in cameras in most modern Macs are simply not up to scratch these days. In fact, only the 5K iMac from mid–2020 offers 1080p resolution — every other Mac is languishing at 720p.
You don’t have to spend a fortune. We reviewed the Creative Live! Cam Sync 1080p ($49.99) in ML175, and its 1080p resolution looks great compared to what most Macs currently offer. You can go higher — the Logitech Brio outputs in 4K and costs $199, for example — but most users won’t need to spend that much. Just make sure you get a camera with a resolution higher than 720p.
LIGHTING AND ANGLES
Once you’ve sorted out a good third–party webcam, it’s time to work on the lighting. Never sit with a window behind you — it will darken everything in front of it and make you hard to see on the call. Use natural light if you can to avoid the yellow hue electric lights often give off, and try not to point lights directly at your face, as this can create deep shadows. Instead, light yourself from both sides with lights positioned a few feet away — you want the light to be diffuse rather than direct. If you can, get a dedicated lighting ring. A few webcams like the Razer Kiyo even come with a light ring built in.
Now that we’ve got the light sorted, it’s time to move on to getting your angles right. The ideal angle involves having your camera at roughly eye level. Too high and it looks like you’re doing a selfie. Too low and it looks creepy and gives you a multiple chin. It goes without saying that you want to avoid both outcomes. If you’re using a MacBook, getting the right angle might require mounting it on a stand.
It’s also important to consider your surroundings. Your audience will not just
see you, they’ll see everything behind you as well. That means the room you pick for your call matters. Try to choose an attractive room free from the distractions that will steer people’s eyes away from you. If your choices are limited, at least tidy up beforehand!
Many video-calling apps offer virtual backgrounds that hide your backdrop. FaceTime unfortunately doesn’t offer anything here, while Zoom has baked in some system requirements (macOS 10.13 or later and a quad–core Intel Core i5 processor. Failing that, you need a green screen). Skype offers a range of virtual backgrounds, from a simple blur effect to office and home settings to less serious scenes. These backgrounds are free and don’t have system requirements.
It’s not just your background that should look good — depending on who you’re calling you may need to look sharp as well, especially on a business call. Make sure to dress appropriately for the occasion. A good rule of thumb is to dress as you would if you were meeting the person you’re calling in the flesh. You can’t go far wrong with that.
What about more technical matters? The last thing you want when making a call is for your connection to drop, so you should test your internet before starting. If you’re having connectivity issues, try sitting closer to the router. If your Mac has an Ethernet port, or if you have an Ethernet to USB–C adapter for more modern Macs, it might be worth investing in some powerline adapters. These connect to your wall power and let you plug in an Ethernet cable to your Mac, even if it ordinarily would not stretch from your router. Alternatively, you could opt for a Wi-Fi range extender or a mesh network.
Once you’ve done that, make sure all your equipment is working as it should before you make your call. Is your webcam set up properly? Do you have your lighting situation under control? Do you know how to use the app? Finally, go in prepared. If you’re doing a presentation, for instance, have your notes to hand so you don’t draw a blank or stumble over your words. With that, you’re good to go. ALEX BLAKE