Looking Your Best on Skype

You’re probably not thrilled by the way you look on Skype.  As any DP (Director of Photography) in TV or film will tell you, fluorescents from directly above as your primary (or sole) source of light will probably not be the most effective way to show yourself off.  You may look like you’re losing your hair, the shine off of your forehead could be blinding.  The hollows under your eyes, not especially noticeable in life, may suddenly inspire thoughts of Dracula.  A worn-out Dracula.  The shadow under your chin is, well, disconcerting.

In other words, you could look a lot better.  And you know what?  It’s easy to fix.

First, place a desk lamp next to and close by your computer screen, so that when turned on it will light the front of your face (Front Light).  For a more dramatic effect, move it to the side, which will create shadows on one side of your face.  Place another lamp behind you (but out of the camera’s frame).  This will be your Back Light, serving to separate you from the background and focus the viewer’s attention even more on the subject – you.  Don’t switch these lights on yet.

Now, turn off the overhead lights.  Wow, surprising, right?  Although it may seem quite dark in the office, the auto-iris in your webcam has adjusted and you can still be clearly seen in the screen.

Turn on the front light, sit back, and look at yourself.  Add the backlight and again take a look.  Switch off the front light and, once more, check yourself out.  You’ve now seen five variations – overhead lights, no light, front light, backlight, and both front and backlight.  I suspect you’ll like the last one best, although you may want to adjust the position of the table lamps – especially the front light – until you’ve hit exactly the look you’d like for that particular conversation.  For example, if you’re trying to assert a powerful position, more dramatic is usually better, and if you’d like to convey a friendlier tone, the more straight-on, “flat” look would likely be ideal.

Skyping is just another version of website video.  As in any marketing video, be sure you embrace the film-makers’ craft.  After all, thousands of film production artists have been working for well over a century to figure out just how to do it right.


Leave a Reply