How can I make myself look and sound better over a live video call?

How do I Position My Laptop or Tablet for Online Video Calls

Businesses and brands are contining to evolve. In the world of online video, there are growing number of video calls taking place over platforms like Zoom and Skype. We are now seeing live broadcasts gain in popularity over LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media platforms. With the power to live broadcast, below are a list of areas that will allow participants to look and sound more professional.

Clothing, hair and makeup tips

The feeling of not knowing what to wear can be an overwhelming experience. As a general rule, solid and rich colors look best on video and film. Try and avoid wearing bright white clothing that can dominate the screen. When it comes to selecting your on-camera wardrobe you should avoid clothing that has a lot of patterns. Try staying away from clothing that has stripes, plaids, and floral patterns. It also does not hurt to have blotting paper handy. Blotting paper can be used to reduce oily skin. You can read more advice on clothing tips by clicking on this link.

Apply the rule of thirds

A mistake often made by those appearing on a video call is not properly applying the rule of thirds. The ‘ rule of thirds ‘ is well known in the photography and videography industry. It is used to help compose balanced shots. The basic principle behind the rule starts with dividing the image into 9 equal parts. The grid is used as a guide to place points of interest. In the example below, those appearing on screen should position themselves so their eyes line up on the top horizontal line. When composing yourself on-camera use the top grid as a guide to align your eyes.

rule of thirds

Rule of thirds – screen split into 9 sections

Rule of thirds – presenter eyes positioned correcly on top bar

Correct laptop positioning

When positioning your laptop begin by applying the rule of thirds. Next, it’s important to get the angle of the camera right to ensure the framing is correct. In examples A & B, the computer screen has either been tilted forward or backward. This can result in you appearing in a dominant or submissive position. Also, the balance will not be right. What you need to aim for is a balanced position like in examples C and D. For example D, consider using a few books to level out the laptop so it is composing your face more evenly.

How do I Position My Laptop during a video call - incorrect position with screen tilted forward

Example A – Screen tilted inwards ( incorrect )

Example B – Screen tilted Outwards ( incorrect )

Example C – Screen centered ( correct )

Example D – Books used to raise laptop ( correct )

Your background is your window shop

When broadcasting live its important to get your background right. First, scan the background and begin by decluttering. It’s important that the audience focuses on you and not something in the background. Secondly, it’s recommended that you remove any items like family photos. Lastly, the background is equivalent to a shop window. Therefore, don’t be afraid to stage the background with any available furniture and plants.

Use a one or two-point lighting set-up

Get the lighting right before the live broadcast begins and you will look much more professional over the live online call. As a minimum, I would recommend a one or two-point light set up. This will involve the set-up of a single key light or a key light and a fill light. The key light is the stronger of the two lights and will be the main source of illumination. Having a light means participants on the call can better illuminate themselves. For a professional online call, no one will want to see participants in the dark. For example A below, only one light is used. For example B, an additional light called a ‘ fill light ‘ is used to balance any shadows. For any of us appearing on a live call that does not have any portable lights, setting up near a window as shown in example C can provide a good source of a key light is the next best option. If you are using any lights, the general rule is to position them on a 45-degree angle. Afterward, move the lights as desired until your face is lit up enough. When working with any lights keep a special focus on any less desired shadows that may appear on your face.


Example A – One point lighting

two point lighting for an online video call

Example B – Two point ligthing

one point lighting for an online video call window

Example C – One point lighting with a window

Get your audio right

No one will want to listen to a participant for long if the quality of their audio is not audible. Most modern laptops will have internal microphones, but using an external microphone will vastly improve the audio of any participants. As a general rule, you want to set-up for live recording in a room that is not loud. For starters, avoid any rooms that have to much street noise. Additionally, listen out for humming sounds that may be coming from a heating or air conditioning unit.

There a number of options available for audio equipment to help anyone get started. For example A, a simple lapel microphone can be attached to a laptop and clipped to the participant. Participants can easily clip the microphone around their neck area. If participants wish to hide the lapel there are techniques I will cover in a follow-up post. For example B, participants can attach USB stationary microphones to their desks. Example C demonstrates a more advanced set-up. If you are after a full studio set-up, there is plenty of equipment out there whcih will be followed up in a future post.

Lapel microphone for online video

Example A – Lapel mircrophone

microphone for online video

Example B – Stationary microphone

Example C – Advanced microphone set up

Webcam – Do you need to upgrade?

Most modern laptops will come with a webcam, but not all are created equally. Less expensive laptops will typically have web cameras that have compromised quality. If you will be appearing on many live broadcasts, I would consider upgrading your web camera to something more professional if your existing web camera has a low resolution.

1080p vs 720p webcam? What resolution do you need? If you’re planning on recording and publishing the video afterward, then maxing out the resolution is advisable. For general video conferencing a webcam with a resolution of 720p should be sufficient. The image quality you will gain from purchasing a web camera will easily outway any price tag.

Best of luck with your online video making.Stay tuned for future updates including links to recommended erquipment.