Guest Blog by Marc J Chalifoux
As many of our meetings and interactions with people have shifted to an online format, it is more important than ever to stand out from the crowd and put the most professional version of yourself forward. Here is a description of three principle elements that you can easily control – Background, Lighting, and Camera placement – and how you can immediately elevate your Zoom meetings, FaceTime Calls, or Google hangouts. The last element I will address is audio, which can be thought of as your secret weapon.
Two things capture the viewer’s attention – the subject and the background. Ideally, the background supports the subject – you. It is an opportunity to compliment you and to ‘represent your brand.’ If you have room, put some distance between yourself and the background. Ideally, you should position yourself at the mid point between the backdrop and the camera. The background itself should be organized or ‘art-directed’ enough to show some effort. It is important for your background to be well lit with diffuse light that is about 50 % of the power of your main subject lighting (key lighting).
Good subject lighting (key lighting) will keep your audience engaged more comfortably for longer periods of time. Natural light from a window can work well as long as it is indirect (i.e. no intense sun shining through). If that is not possible, an easy set up is two lights placed in front of you, evenly spaced at 45-degree angles to where you are sitting. Diffusion of your light source is key to creating a flattering effect that is easy to look at. Lamps with lampshades or a more directional lamp bounced off of a light coloured wall sheet also work for light diffusion. Never have a light directly above or behind you as a general rule.
This is the easiest thing to change right out of the gate. Raise your camera (or computer) by a few inches. To avoid an unflattering perspective, raise the camera 10 – 20 degrees higher than your eye-line. This will eliminate the under-the-chin angle. Second, move a foot or two back from the camera so you are smaller in the frame. As your eyes are farther from the camera, your audience can’t easily detect if your gaze is not directly on the camera. This helps with the perception of directly addressing (looking at) your audience. Extrapolating on this idea, move the zoom window on your desktop screen as close to the camera as possible, so your eyes more naturally look in the direction of the camera. If possible, train yourself to look at the camera and be conscious of not looking down or away from it. You want to simulate direct eye contact and avoid the perception of distraction.
In my opinion, audio is as important as all of the aforementioned elements combined. As a videographer, one thing that sticks with me is that great audio can, in many cases, compensate for lesser quality video. The webcams in use currently, built in or detached, are sufficient for the amount of bandwidth available in this pre 5G era. Thus, if you are willing to make one investment in your home studio, my recommendation is to purchase a decent microphone. There are plenty to choose from that run the gamut in price range but you can find a decent USB mic that will vastly improve your sound for $100-200.
Celebrating filmmaker David Lynch has been doing a daily weather report during the pandemic and was gifted a USB mic by a Los Angeles radio station.
Compare the difference:
Before new mic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MNUi_yPl1Uc
After new mic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzMBGbMYyJg
David’s set up reveals a few things I have discussed above, sitting a back from camera, elevated eye-line, diffuse and flattering natural light, solid brand representation, and once he received the mic – great audio.
I hope this information has been helpful.
Marc J Chalifoux Photography Bio
I am a full time professional photographer/videographer/filmmaker based in Edmonton. Attention to detail is my main concern. Documenting a moment and collaborating with others is the fuel that keeps me going. Working together with clients and artists elevates our craft to the next level then becomes the manner through which art is brought forth and shared with the world.
Examples of my work: marcjchalifoux.photoshelter.com