Husnara Begum Head & Shoulders Image

Husnara Begum, associate editor & career coach

Our associate editor and career coach Husnara Begum shares her top tips on how to up the glamour stakes on video calls without resorting to airbrushing or virtual reality!

With all attention focused on ensuring your laptop is fully charged and the Bluetooth connection on your wireless headphones is working, when it comes to video calls or virtual job interviews it’s really easy to neglect your appearance.

For me, looking good in the virtual world isn’t about vanity or pressure to meet society’s often warped and unrealistic expectations of what is considered beautiful. It’s all to do with confidence and self-esteem. A bit of glamour, even if it’s just a touch of lip gloss, makes me feel on top of the world. As well as having an uplifting effect on my mood, going that extra mile in the looks department makes slipping into my lounge wear after logging off for the day all that more pleasurable. In other words, without realising it, by giving myself a ‘virtual’ makeover I’ve created that much-needed boundary between work and home-life.

However, I’m not referring to airbrushing or using Zoom studio effects to give you the perfect eyebrows (I tried that trick and trust me it looked awful) or luscious lips. I’m talking much more basic.

Lights

Lighting is key to achieving news anchor glamour. The natural light in my lounge works wonders for my complexion but even that wasn’t a big enough reason to move my workstation into a communal area and compromise that all important boundary I mentioned above.

Home office it was then. That meant experimenting with ceiling lights and lamps. A few of my contacts swear by a ring lamp positioned behind their screen so it shines light onto their faces. I haven’t tried one myself as I find having any form of lighting pointing directly towards my face really hurts my eyes. Therefore, I eventually settled for the ceiling lights, which thankfully work well without killing the ambience in my office. Note to self however: make sure they are switched on if it is cloudy outside or as dusk approaches. I’ve interrupted endless calls to switch on the lights and in turn lost my thread or completely forgot what I was saying.

My next challenge was the bare white wall behind my desk. As well as being boring, it can make my look skin look bland and lacklustre. But it’s not just me. During the pandemic I’ve seen far too many washed out faces on my computer screen as well as messy backdrops that just become a huge distraction. My solution? I’ve put up loads of photos on the wall, which have been a great talking point during video calls. I’m also mindful of the colours I wear. And as for my pasty face – a hint of bronzing powder usually does the trick!

Alternatively, you could experiment with virtual backgrounds but I find that without a green screen behind me the image can look really blurred with my body parts blending into the background.

Camera

Nobody wants to see up your nostril or stare down your top. The positioning of your camera is therefore absolutely vital. I use my laptop for my video calls because the camera on my desktop is far too high for someone as short as me. I could raise the height of my office chair, but comfort is also important, particularly because so many of my video calls last for hours.

I’d also recommend avoiding sitting too close to the camera as you can then show off that lovely outfit you’ve finally made the effort to dig out of your wardrobe. What’s more. it will help with the action part of your new TV presenter image!

Action

Body language can help to amplify spoken words. But if all the other person on the call can see is your face then its impact will obviously be non-existent. I’d therefore recommend sitting slightly away from your screen, so your upper body and arms are visible.

With your arm gestures sorted the next stop is eye contact. I used to have my Zoom set to gallery view. This resulted in me switching my gaze between myself and other participants on the call – in other words my eyes were all over the place. Once I realised the error of my ways, I put a stop to it immediately by switching to speaker view and ensuring that I only look at the camera. This was all a bit weird to start with as it felt that I wasn’t looking at the other person on the call, but I quickly got used to it.

Hope the above helps. But if in doubt, experiment with your camera switched on and play around with its positioning as well as yours. But most importantly, have fun.