Life Style

How to look good in front of a webcam

UNITED STATES (NYTIMES) – Catherine Minervini, a regional sales manager for textile company Sunbrella, video chats in her New Jersey kitchen with a 15-pound bag of brown rice in view.

Allen Hart, a psychology professor at Amherst College in Massachusetts, uses a home office hung with an upside-down world map.

Working at home, under siege from the coronavirus, means finding a quiet space to communicate remotely with colleagues, clients, students and friends. Thanks to videoconferencing tools like Google Hangouts and Zoom, it also means exposing one's private sphere to the eyes of outsiders.

Those who have telecommuted for years know how to create a professional niche within a larger landscape of dirty dishes, whining children and sentimental wall decorations. They have learned how to look presentable through the lens of a webcam, if only from the waist up.

The cautionary tale still lingers of Robert E. Kelly, the political scientist whose young children barged into his home office in South Korea three years ago and disrupted an on-air interview with the BBC. (The lesson: Lock the door.)

Then there are all the newcomers. Searches on Pinterest for "work from home setup" increased 1,144 per cent between March 6 and 20, said Amanda Switzer, the company's consumer communications manager. Asked for strategies to help rookies, design professionals came out of the woodwork.

Go Neutral

"Keep it as simple as possible," Gideon Mendelson, a New York interior designer, advised about the view through the camera. "You don't want a staircase behind you where people are going up and down, or too long a vista. I don't want to see multiple rooms in the shot; it's distracting."

He suggested creating "a little composition behind you" that is easy to set up and break down: a console table with a lamp and a couple of books. Or there could be a few flowering branches cut from a tree or shrub in one's yard, or bought at a green market, and arranged in a vase.

Lauren Rottet, an interior designer with offices in Houston, Los Angeles and New York, agreed that a basic setup is best.

"Find a place in the home that has the most neutral wall background," she said, recommending walls that are light gray or light blue (off-white, darker blue and beige are also fine, she said, but orange, yellow and red are off-putting).

"Also, avoid any patterns behind you."

Consider Light and Sound

To make sure you can be easily heard, Mendelson advised using a room with carpeting and window treatments to absorb sound. His home office is "all wood and glass" and a beautiful place to work, he said, but too echo-y for conversations.

And to look your best, Rottet warned never to sit directly under a light source; it will throw under-eye and next-to-nose shadows. A lamp or window positioned 2 feet (61cm) directly opposite to you that lights you evenly will be most flattering and will not cast glare on your screen. (People adept at videoconferences also swear by ring lights: circular fluorescent or LED lamps that reduce facial shadows and the appearance of imperfections.)

To avoid glare and unwanted reflection, Rottet said you should not let a light source, either from a light or window, be seen directly in the camera.

"Have the light source in front of you or beside you, but not in camera viRead More – Source