Where to put the camera

Now that we’re all working from home, the

conditions of communication have changed and most of us are doing it very
badly. But all that is about to change.

The conventions of on-line chats have tended to

allow intimate glimpses of our bedrooms and amateurish production values.
Blurry images, crazy camera angles and unflattering lighting have been
cheerfully tolerated as unpretentious intimacy.

But now that on-screen meetings and webinars calls
are the new norm, many of us are realising with horror that we look terrible
and our spare bedroom is woefully inadequate as a stand-in office. If we really
want to impress, we’re all going to have to tidy up our act to come across in a
more professional way.

But how? There are two aspects here: where you put
the camera and how you present yourself in the most effective way.

Let’s look the camera issues first.

1. Get a decent web cam. This can fit easily onto
the top of your screen and it will give you a more professional HD image. And
it’s not expensive.

2. Have the camera at eye level. Place your laptop
on a box or pile of books if necessary. Most people have the laptop too low on
their desk, which is why we get those weird ‘up the nose’ shots with triple
chins and are staring at your ceiling.

3. Sit up straight and well back from the laptop so
we can see your body and arms. Most people lean right into the lens and the
distortion makes them look as if they’re in a goldfish bowl.

4. Choose your background. Do you really want us to
see your nick knacks from that holiday in Spain, or the fact that you’ve got
the complete Harry Potter series on the shelf behind you? Keep the background
plain and simple, without distractions.

5. Put yourself in the best light. Dreadful
lighting is one of the most common on-screen mistakes. If you want to use
natural light, control it carefully, perhaps sticking a sheet of paper over the
window if it’s too bright. Direct sunlight on your face means the camera can’t
cope and burns out parts of you. On the other hand, if the room is too dark,
the image won’t be clear. Side lighting and strong overhead lighting will make
you look twice as old. Sitting 5. Put yourself in the best light. Dreadful

lighting is one of the most common on-screen mistakes. If you want to use
natural light, control it carefully, perhaps sticking a sheet of paper over the
window if it’s too bright. Direct sunlight on your face means the camera can’t
cope and burns out parts of you. On the other hand, if the room is too dark,
the image won’t be clear. Side lighting and strong overhead lighting will make
you look twice as old. Sitting with a window behind you will turn you into a
silhouette. You don’t need studio lights, but you can experiment with desk lights
and standard lamps to get a softer, more even coverage. Whatever you choose,
test it first on the full-screen to see what you look like.

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