More than 10 billion videos are viewed daily on Snapchat, more than 200 million videos have been broadcasted on Periscope and more than 100 million hours of video are watched daily on Facebook. Here’s how to look a little better on camera.
I hate being on camera. I am a very expressive speaker, so I make weird faces. I get self-conscious about my off-kilter nose (broken twice). I let my nerves get to me.
I mean, my claim to fame until 2014 was that I had never taken a selfie! Those days may be long gone (even this post is #selfiecity), but I still don’t enjoy being on camera.
But last week, I had the opportunity to be interviewed live for Mojocon’s YouTube channel. I said yes, took a deep breath and tried to smile. Here’s the video:
But, I forced myself to watch the video, and (surprisingly) it didn’t send me into a self-loathing shame spiral like I’d expected. Dare I say at moments that I was actually proud?!? Of course, there are things I would do differently if I had the chance, but we live and we learn.
Whether you’re being interviewed in a big way or just hopping on Periscope, here are some tips to look a bit better on camera.
Position Yourself For The Best Light
The brightest light available should be in front of you during your on-camera appearance. No one likes to look tired. No one likes to look old. No one likes to look like an Oompa Loompa. No one likes to look like a Smurf. Enter, good lighting. Not only does it make you look more awake and brighten your skin, but positioning yourself so the brightest light (preferably natural light) falls on your face also reduces unflattering shadows and strange colors.
You should also limit any distracting bright lights behind you—especially windows that will reduce you to a silhouette.
Pay Attention To Your Background
Although the goal is to be so engaging that your audience only pays attention to you, that isn’t the reality. People are going to look at your surroundings. Make sure they aren’t seeing anything unseemly. Can they see the bathroom through your hallway? Are your coworkers goofing off behind you? Does your office look like a tornado just ripped through? Is there sensitive or private information visible anywhere? Or, in my case, is my pig calendar or Twain Buddha artwork going to be a distraction?
Although it might be tempting to find a blank wall to film against, the best broadcasts have something mildly interesting—but not distracting—in the background.
For the Mojocon video, we were fortunate to have the beautiful and interesting Aviva Stadium. Although it might look we should be talking soccer stats, it was a subtle background that still provided a strong sense of place—the event was, after all, at Aviva Stadium!
Resolve Latency Issues
Every Sunday, I video chat with my four sisters and my mother. Every week we take screenshots of each other frozen in strange poses and send them in our group chat after the fact.
Although I would trust my sisters with even the most unflattering pictures, I’d rather limit the possibility of that happening when broadcasting to total strangers. Your best bet against this is to resolve latency issues before you start.
Use an Ethernet connection instead of WiFi if you can. Turn off any programs—even auto backup things like DropBox—that may be running in the background.
Watch Your Angles
Very few people look good from a low angle. Our faces look wider. Even the thinnest of us look like we have slight double chins. Not to mention, it can look intimidating to your audience.
Instead, position the camera/webcam/phone at eye level, or slightly above eye level. I know my best angle is from slightly above eye level with my face angled slightly to the left.
To find your best angle, look back at your profile photos. These are likely the photos of yourself that you’ve most liked. What do they all have in common? Chances are, this will lead you straight to your best angle.
Make Eye Contact
One of my personal pet peeves is video chatting with someone who is multitasking. I may not be able to see (or even hear) you type, but I can tell by your eyes. I can also tell when someone is reading notes they have slightly off-camera. Or, when someone is watching themselves on their own screen.
I’m not suggesting intimidating or even continuous eye contact, but establishing consistent and comfortable eye contact early on is helpful.
Sit (Or Stand) Up Straight
Bad posture will make you look self-conscious, so do as Mom always told you: sit up straight and roll those shoulders back. Some people recommend standing while on camera to keep you energetic. Do whatever works best for you.
Wear It Right
Although I’d recommend wearing whatever you feel confident it, and, for live broadcasts, just running with what you have, there are some things that tend not to look great on camera. For example, stripes can make you look wider and bold patterns can be distracting and look messy. I’d suggest keeping it simple with subtle solid colors.
Do Your Hair & Makeup
We often look washed out on camera, so amplify your blush and lipstick. I usually go one or two steps beyond what I’d be comfortable wearing out in public. If you have naturally oily skin (or men who are bald), consider blotting before and applying translucent powder.
Your hair can also make a difference. I usually go for all down, or half down. Although I love a good ponytail, even the best messy pony either looks like a total mess or way too tidy. Leave that slicked back hair look to the 2014 runways, where it belongs! And, of course, minimize frizz.
Rest Your Face
If you watched the video above, you probably notice that after the first question I inexplicably acquire the most unflattering duck face of all time. Damn! I wish I would have remembered this one.
Even in calm conversations, I’m a very expressive person, talking with my hands and showing you exactly how I feel about something with a furrow, a frown, a raised brow or a smile. Keeping my face—and body—calm is a challenge, but one that I really want to overcome so the duck face dies with that broadcast. #Weird.
Speak With Confidence
Whenever I get nervous or embarrassed, my neck and chest tend to turn red. It’s a super obvious tick—that’s why I usually wear crew neck shirts on camera! Although your nervous tick may not be as visible as mine, even things like speaking faster or in a higher pitch, or having a shaky voice are dead giveaways.
I promised myself I wasn’t going to focus on video or audio quality in and of itself, but I wanted to mention this one because it also is a matter of “appearance.” These nervous ticks can hurt your credibility and cause distraction.
As simple as it may seem, take a deep breath and stay calm. If you find this to be difficult, read on.
Realize Nothing Is As Bad As It Seems
When the anchors asked me that question about how my class has changed over the past year, I went blank. I sat there for what seemed like 30 seconds trying to formulate an answer, until I finally came up with the brilliantly generic answer I shared in the clip above. It was this moment that made me most nervous to watch the video afterwards. But when I made myself watch it, I realized what felt like an eternity was actually only a couple of seconds. Whew! Redemption for duck face, I thought. I had blown it way out of proportion.
After day two of the conference, I was at dinner with a couple photographers and I mentioned my crooked nose and how I hate being on camera. But even with their trained eyes, they said they couldn’t tell (or they were lying, but I choose to believe them).
Our own flaws seem so obvious to us, but others probably don’t even notice them. In a weird way, it’s almost as narcissistic as it is self-conscious. To think others pay SO MUCH attention to us that they would notice such minor flaws?
So, just let it go. You mess up? Lose your train of thought? You make a duck face? Acknowledge it and move forward. Life goes on, my friend!
About The Author
Hey, I'm Sarah!
I love teaching small businesses and solopreneurs to create better content and incorporate cool tech and tools into their content marketing machine so they can get better results in less time. After all, isn't that what content marketing is for?