While dress codes and what it means to look good and professional have been wildly changing over decades, taking care of your presentation was always a good time investment. For many of us working remotely, the presentation is limited to those couple pixels (possibly 2073600 of them if you happen to be using a new Macbook) are all that other people see.
Looking bad on video calls has been a growing problem for many but there is good news - you don't need to be a fashion model or have a photography grade studio equipment to look good!
With those simple low-investment tricks, you'll be up and running looking fresh and professional in no time :)
Let's start with the most basic part - clean up. Clean up your room or that dirty kitchen cabinet that everyone else on the video call can see. Pick up that laundry from the floor.
While you can use a virtual background, there is no point in risking showing off that you live in a messy environment. Mistakes happen - always check your background first!
Webcams are not really the studio equipment that you would be filming a new Star Wars movie on. They're simple cameras made for basic communication. While buying a new better webcam might be an option, there is a cheaper way around it that doesn't require you to run to an electronics shop.
EpocCam app can turn your iPhone or any other camera (like a GoPro) into a separate webcam that you can use for your video calls. Modern iPhones have excellent cameras which can be easily turned into a webcam. Simply plug your phone in, open the EPOC app on your phone and install the required drivers on your computer. The difference in quality is massive!
Let's not forget the practicalities - positioning your smartphone-turned-webcam might be slightly problematic. You can purchase an additional smartphone tripod which should hold your device pretty well. If you're after a simpler solution, attaching your phone to the screen with a laundry clip might be the hack you're looking for.
A video call is not only video - it's also audio. One could argue that the way you sound might be even more important than how you look.
Investing in a podcast microphone might be a good way to go. Not only will it increase the quality of your voice and the audio that you send but due to the directional nature of such devices, it might help you to position it away from any source that creates unwanted noise.
Those tiny photons that are reflected from your beautiful face into the camera lens are what is being digitized and sent over the internet to other participants that you are on a call with. A good light can make all the difference in photos, movies and obviously… your video call presentation!
Try not to sit with a light source behind you. Webcams have a low shadow spectrum and you accidentally end up looking like a silhouette or a voldemort.
If working in the dark, try to add an additional light source than the one that comes from your screen. Having only light from the screen available will make you look like a ghost. Low cost methods might be as simple as a table lamp but having a ring light available is also not the worst idea.
If you're working from home, nobody expects you to sit there in a three piece suit (that is if you're not doing a mafia themed party on flat.social :)
Nevertheless, dressing appropriately when appearing on a video call shows that you're not slowly sliding into a pajama wonderland and projects respect towards other people that you are virtually interacting with. As a rule of thumb, when appearing on that important team call, select clothing that is no less than one level down from what you would normally wear into an office.
Also, as a tip try to avoid hectic patterns like animal prints, plaids, herringbone or busy stripes. While they might be looking good in a physical setting they can potentially distort light and cause strobe effects on a camera.
Try to position the camera at an eye level, not too far and not to close from yourself. There is nothing worse than accidentally appearing on a video call with your camera pointing from the bottom!
If the only piece of equipment that you have is a laptop, try to put it on a laptop stand or a couple of books. A slightly different angle might work wonders for the way that you appear on the other side of the call.
An occasional technical issue might be ok if you're having a meeting with your trusted coworker or a remote team that you have daily standups with. Nevertheless, there are times like an important virtual interview or a presentation when you want to make sure that everything goes just right. Technical issues are not only a distraction - they can also make you look unprepared.
Double check your connection. Run a quick internet speed test to make sure that everything works just fine.
Check your audio and video. Try to appear in the room earlier or use a test function in the video conferencing tool that you use.
Make sure not to be surprised by unwanted noise. Dogs will be barking, construction workers will be hammering. That's the way life goes. While you might have little control over it, making sure that you close the windows or doors before the call starts might save you from having to get up (hopefully not revealing a pajama bottom) and attend to the noise source.