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It’s a brave new digital world we’re living in. And since video chats are completely different than face-to-face meetings, they should be treated as such. To own your next video call, you don’t need a glam team complete with a makeup artist, hair stylist and manicurist—but it might make sense to hire a virtual stylist.
Intrigued? We talked to Los Angeles-based Steve Berg, a stylist to the stars who has been getting celebs—from Carrie Ann Inaba and Julianne Moore to Nate Berkus—ready for their closeups for decades. And now he’s using his secrets to boost our confidence. Let’s face it: we’re not used to this videoconferencing thing.
“For those under 35, this stuff is second nature—it’s how they’ve always communicated,” says Berg. “But for people of a certain age, it’s new territory and there are tricks that can help.”
Whether you’re on a Zoom work call or teaching a yoga class on Facebook Live, content is incredibly important. “It’s all show business—it’s theatrics,” says Berg. In other words, it’s not great to wing it; it pays to think things through.
Let’s start with a before-and-after to illustrate how good lighting, the right camera angle, and a proper background can make a night-and-day difference.
Here, our model’s face is shadowy, the camera angle is too high (less ceiling, please), and the background is unappealing—cue the fire extinguisher.
Ah, that’s better. Here, our model has moved to a room with more natural light to brighten her face. The camera is head-on, so we’re looking directly at her, and the surroundings are pretty.
Think of it this way: “Everybody is so used to looking at themselves in pictures and deleting ones they don’t like. But you don’t have that option with video—either it’s right or it isn’t.”
So think things through. “Before a call, whether it’s with a co-worker, a new client, or someone you just started dating, give yourself 10 minutes to tweak your look and surroundings,” says Berg. Take a screen grab and evaluate; you can even send a few options to a friend for input.
1. Light it right
Topping the list of key considerations? Lighting. Nice, even light will eliminate dark shadows from your face. “Natural light is always best,” says Berg. “So if you can, position yourself near a window.” If you can’t, play around: Place a table lamp in front of you or a floor lamp next to you, take the shade off, try a different color bulb, or bounce light off a wall. “Are there shadows? Do you like how you look?” says Berg. “If not, keep experimenting.”
For an amazingly diffused, flattering glow, consider a ring light. The 8" Selfie Ring Light with Tripod Stand, $60, comes with a carry bag, phone mount and mirror.
2. Raise your camera
If your laptop is sitting on your desk and you’re hovering above it, people aren’t getting your best angle. The fix? Prop that laptop up—cookbooks or boxes work well. “The camera should be at eye level or a little above,” says Berg.
3. Show the outside world
Sit somewhere that makes you smile. “People don’t take advantage of nature enough,” says Berg. “If it’s a nice day, set up your laptop outside near some pretty trees.” One caveat: Wind will affect the sound—not to mention mess up your hair—so go inside by a window if the breeze is too much. “You can always pick some flowers from the yard and put them in a beautiful vase next to you.”
4. Curate a backdrop
Think color, art, a view. “Look around your home for pieces that have meaning to you, like a painting, drawing, or sculpture,” says Berg. You can also hang a pretty tapestry, area rug, or blanket behind you, says Berg. When you’re surrounded by the things you love, your confidence will spike and it’ll show.
5. Keep it in context
That all being said, what you’re showing in the frame should make sense in relation to the call. If you’re a teacher, sitting in front of a bookshelf works well. And your college pals will surely appreciate that you’re wearing an alma mater sweatshirt.
Just keep it classy: “If you’re there as a coach, a mentor, or an instructor, you have to command respect,” says Berg. “It’s a virtual world we’re living in now, and first impressions are everything.”
6. Prep your skin
“To have beautiful skin on camera, it’s all about the prep,” says Berg. “Cleansing, hydrating, and exfoliating will help you look radiant.” Berg recommends Peter Thomas Roth Anti aging cleansing gel, $39, Dermatologica Daily microfoliant exfoliator, $59, and, for a hydrating spray, Caudalie Beauty elixir, $18.
You’ll also want to even out your skin tone with a good tinted moisturizer. “You don’t want to look washed out or overly tan,” says Berg, who likes BareMinerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30, $33.
Why all the fuss? “When someone has nice skin, they look healthy,” says Berg. “We don’t want to take advice from people who look stressed out or overly anxious. We want to look at people who take care of themselves—it’s inspiring.”
7. Make your peepers pop
“Eyes easily get lost on video,” says Berg. No need to go all out with liner, eye shadow, and the works, but a bit of mascara will make your eyes pop. For max impact, Berg likes Marc Jacobs Beauty Velvet Noir Major Volume Mascara, $27. It has a super-concentrated black pigment, and a curvy brush that pumps up lashes in all the right places.
8. Add some color
Cameras can wash you out, but a little touchup goes a long way. “You don’t want to look like you have a lot of makeup on—but you don’t want to look like you have none either,” says Berg.
He suggests a cream blush, because you can easily use your finger to press a little color into your cheeks. “It gives you more control than a brush—and it’s more forgiving,” he says. For a natural look, start in middle of your cheek and bring it up toward your hairline. Try Wander Beauty’s On-The-Glow Blush and Illuminator, $42. It’s hydrating, and includes a highlighter with pearlescent pigments that catch the light.
9. Fake a hairdo
If you’re into ponytails or buns, go for it. “But many people don’t want to pull their hair back—they feel comfortable with more coverage around their face,” says Berg. If this rings true, and you’re not loving your ‘do, consider a fake bang. “Tuck hair behind one ear and use a bobby pin to secure it, then pull some hair down onto the forehead so it looks like you have a side bang.” Whichever way you go, don’t worry too much about your hair—people will only see the front anyway.
10. Define your lips
“A great trick for women, whether 20 or 60 years old, is to use a lip liner to create a distinct shape,” says Berg, who likes Charlotte Tilbury Lip Cheat Lip Liner, $22. “You can also use a tiny paintbrush from your kids’ art kit or a cotton swab with your favorite lip gloss or lipstick.” Feel free to go outside the lines a bit to make lips look bigger on screen. Need a lip-lining tutorial? YouTube is a fantastic resource.
11. Wear cute specs
Can’t deal with makeup? “Eye glasses hide a lot,” says Berg—we’re talking puffiness, under-eye circles, and more. “Wearing glasses will take 10 minutes off your beauty routine,” he says. Just put on some mascara and a cute pair of specs and you’re ready to roll.
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