Video chatting is so commonplace these days that even dogs know how to do it. But with the rise of live conferencing and Skype interviews, there is also a need to look halfway decent on a webcam, which is no easy feat.
To help guide you, Yahoo Tech has consulted YouTube makeup artist Michelle Phan, who rose to Internet superstardom by filming beauty tutorials on her laptop. Hundreds of clips, her own makeup brand, and over 6.3 million subscribers later, she’s the poster girl for looking good on the Internet.
Whether you’re preparing for a cross-country interview, Skyping with your long-distance boo, or FaceTiming your grams, these tips will keep you looking your best onscreen. Get ready for your closeup:
1. Lighting matters. Wherever you are — the corner of a coffee shop, a library, your apartment — it’s important to find the best source of light possible. The last thing you want to do, however, is sit directly under a giant fluorescent lamp. That creates shadows under your eyes that can make you look tired or, god forbid, older. As Phan tells Yahoo Tech: “You don’t want it directly on you; rather, keep your light source diffused. Instead of opening a window, you should have a sheer curtain in front of the window to diffuse the light.” That and try to gravitate toward warmer hues. Rarely does anyone look good beneath the harsh beams of an industrial-strength lamp.
2. Angling can be your best friend or worst enemy. Our default position for most smartphones is to hold them below our faces at all times, as if we were checking email or playing Candy Crush. And even compact laptops tend be positioned below our faces.
But that angling can indirectly make you look like you have a double chin. Or even worse, show off the insides of your nostrils.
Phan recommends that you “keep the laptop or device directly in front of you at eye level. Also, don’t position the camera too close, but make sure it is far enough away to reduce the fisheye lens effect.”
If you want to get serious about it, skip the webcam altogether and connect a separate camera to your laptop, propped up by a tripod or stand.
3. Make eye contact. Avoiding an unflattering angle also requires you to focus your eyes into the camera. It’s almost human nature for your gaze to wander to that small box with your face in it at the bottom of your screen. Avoid the temptation: Not only is it somewhat rude for the person on the other end, but staring downward can increase the prominence of shadows in your face and make it harder to see your eyes.
If it’s an option within your video chat, try to hide that box with your face in it on the screen altogether.
4. Dress the part. Though video chats include only the upper third of your body, it’s still important to be conscious of what you’re wearing. As a general rule, bold patterns are to be avoided, as they can detract attention away from your face.
But that doesn’t mean you need to go completely neutral. “Keep your clothes bright to help reduce shadows on your face,” Phan said. “Try and wear solid colors, and avoid distracting patterns. You want people to look at your face and not what you’re wearing. Keep it simple and classy.”
5. Brighten your face. Though guys might be hesitant to touch up before a video chat, the same basic rules apply to both men and women.
“Both want to brighten the face,” Phan said. “Highlight the center, and keep hair out of your face.” Our editorial director, Rafe Needleman, confirms that when it comes to video interviews, a little MAC powder can go a long way toward smoothing out a complexion.
And when it comes to the ladies? “They should avoid heavy and dark makeup and use a bright pop of color on the lips to brighten and draw more attention to the face.” Noted.
6. Audio helps. Though it has nothing to do with how you look, garbled or fuzzy audio is annoying and makes it hard for people to want to listen to what you have to say. The headset from your phone is usually better than most, if not all, laptop mics. And if you want to go wild with it, you could even buy a microphone that attaches to your laptop via USB. The $150 Yeti Blue (on sale for Amazon Prime subscribers) is as solid as they come.
You might be thinking, “This is nice, but what if I have just 10 minutes to get ready?”
We can relate. Video chatting is happening more spontaneously every day. Phan, however, has some solid advice for anyone in a time crunch.
“Take a bunch of computer paper and lay it in front of you between you and the laptop,” she says. “The white paper will fill in any shadows. Then stack a few books to help the camera meet you at eye level.” And there you have it, a mini studio.