Video calling has become all the rage during recent months.
One of the most popular ways families and friends are dealing with self-isolation is by connecting with each other over apps like Zoom, Skype, and Google Hangout. In fact, if you’re anything like us, you’ve probably seen more of your family over the past few weeks than during the last twelve months! People are holding quizzes, self-isolation discos, quarantine birthday parties, and discovering all kinds of brilliant, innovative ways to keep each other entertained while we all find our way through this. Even Sophie Ellis Bextor’s got involved by holding a kitchen disco on her Instagram page every Friday evening. You should check out some of the lighting she uses!
And that gave us the idea for this blog. Because the one problem with those video apps that put each of us in a little square so your pc screen looks like the opening credits of The Brady Bunch is it’s often really difficult to see each other properly PLUS it all looks a bit boring. We either switch on too many lights (which makes us look tired and really washed out) or we put on a light that isn’t positioned in the best way and spend the entire call sitting in shadow.
But here’s the good news: with just a little bit of careful lighting preparation, you can easily look video-chat fabulous!
Here are a few things to think about:
SAY GOODBYE TO VIDEO SHADY FACE
‘Shady face’ is when half your face is in shadow, so it looks like you’re doing a really bad ‘Phantom of the Opera’ impersonation. The best way to avoid it is by positioning one lamp, directly by your face, so the light on your face is constant and steady throughout the call.
Alternatively, you can achieve the same effect using your smartphone’s flashlight. Place the phone on a tripod or stand it on a flat, steady surface (like a desk or windowsill) so the flashlight is shining directly on your face and not from behind you. Try not to prop the phone against your pc or laptop because you’ll spend half the call readjusting it so it doesn’t fall over!
ADD SOME FILL LIGHT
While your main light (which professional photographers call a key light) directly illuminates your features, a fill light can be used to provide a sense of depth and shape to your face. You don’t need to use a second light to achieve this. All you have to do is place a white tablecloth or sheet of white paper on the table in front of you to give your face a flattering ‘fill and bounce’
HIGHLIGHT YOUR BEST SIDE
If you want your viewers to notice your very best features, place a tall desk lamp in line with and slightly behind your pc or laptop so it illuminates your favourite side of your face.
USE NATURAL LIGHT
Take advantage of natural light as much as possible. Natural daylight accentuates your skin tones and makes everything look more natural when you’re on camera. Set up your pc or laptop in a room where there’s a lot of window light but avoid sitting with your back to the window because the camera will overexpose and turn you into a silhouette. Simply sit facing the window and you’ll look perfect.
Also, balancing the natural light with a couple of properly placed soft white lamps will help to light up all areas of your room while not making you look overly bright on the video screen.
If you’re already the proud owner of our LED colour changing lights, you’ve got the perfect video lighting literally at your fingertips! Just select the colour to fit the mood – the spectrums of orange or red are great choices for high-energy party calls, yellow and blue spectrums are terrific for keeping you calm and concentrated during quiz nights, and the spectrums of green and pink will add a tranquil, comforting ambience when you just want to sit down with your loved ones and have a good chat. Stay tuned, because we might tell you more about the connection between colour and mood in a future blog!
If you’re holding a friends n’ family dance party, add to the fun by using LED colour changing bulbs and strip lights, LED string lights, or even rotating LED disco ball lights. If you don’t have any of those available (don’t worry, you’ll be able to get them when our shop reopens!) how about making a handmade disco ball by gluing some coloured sequins or cardboard silver squares to a paper lantern or some Styrofoam crafting balls? You’ll find plenty of How To’s online and it’s a great project for an afternoon when the sun isn’t shining. Plus, when you hang the disco ball up and it catches the light, you’ll be a video-call talking point!
A FEW DON’TS
Avoid using bare bulbs when you’re table-lighting a video call. Instead, use a lampshade or diffuser to soften the lighting so you don’t look harsh and ‘blown out.’
Choose your background carefully. You want your friends to be looking at you, not checking out what’s on the shelf or the bookcase behind you! Keep your background plain and simple, like a blank wall or a wall with just a single picture on it.
Avoid backlights because a) you’ll just be a silhouette on the screen, b) it will be really uncomfortable for other people to look at.
Don’t get too close. The cameras on smartphones and webcams are wide-angle so if you’re too close to them you’ll look distorted. Besides which, all the work you’ve put into carefully re-arranging your lights will have all gone to waste. Just sit back far enough for people to see your head and shoulders, but not so far away that you look like you’re in the next room!
And there you have it – our top tips for the perfect video-call get-together!
And the really good news is, when our shop eventually reopens, you’ll find a lot more exciting ways to light up your video chats and take them to the next level! In the meantime, here’s a story that made us smile and proves how lighting can cheer us up even in the grimmest of times…
Here’s a thought: why not take their example, bring your Christmas lights down from the loft, and use them in your video calls as well?!
Until next time, take very good care of yourselves, and each other. We’ll see you again very soon!