Looking good on Zoom calls (without a ring light)

woman at desk talking on Zoom call

For a lot of us, work from home is here to stay. While that means we can continue to do laundry all day every day and sneak in afternoon workouts, it also means Zoom calls and LOTS of them. We all wish we could live in a camera-off world, but for those of us who need to be camera-on, here are 4 easy tips to keep you looking good on Zoom calls (without hiring a team of stylists or buying the latest TikTok-approved ring light).

4 Zoom best practices to keep you looking good

Use these 4 simple tricks to look your best on every video call.

Lights. Camera-on. Action! 

woman waving at Zoom call on tablet
Looking good on zoom requires the right outfit.

1. Dress to impress your Zoom participants

It’s safe to say, most of us have adopted a more casual daily work look (no shame). However, looking good on Zoom means getting ready the same way you would for an in-person meeting. Take a shower. Throw on a work-appropriate outfit. Make yourself presentable, whatever presentable means to you.

Before you decide to hack the system with a “Zoom-fit” and pair a button-down shirt with pajama bottoms, remember that leading psychologists believe getting dressed up can significantly boost your mood, confidence, and motivation. In other words, throwing on that workwear means you’re not just looking good for your Zoom meeting, you’re feeling good about it too.

woman sitting at desk in front of window
Natural light is the best for looking good on Zoom.

2. Find your (natural) light

When it comes to Zoom lighting, au naturel is the way to go. It will light up your face and space evenly without being too cool (washes you out) or too warm (oompa-loompa status). Added bonus: natural light exposure reduces eye strain, headaches, and drowsiness. That’s a solid win-win.

The key to great Zoom lighting is to position yourself directly in front of a window facing towards it. This way your whole face gets lit up to perfection, so you look great throughout your Zoom call. Whatever you do, DO NOT sit with your back to the window. Backlighting obscures your face. Also, avoid having the window directly to one side of you. This position will cast shadows across your face. Not the best look.

If it’s super overcast, your meeting is at night, or you don’t have enough natural light in your space, don’t worry, you can still look good on Zoom. Replicate the daylight effect by placing a lamp directly behind the center of your computer. It’s important to use LED daylight or white light bulbs (to strike that natural daylight tone). The lamp should reach slightly above your eye line and point directly at the center of your face. Voila! Fake daylight. No ring light required.

man at desk waving at Zoom call on computer monitor
The right camera angle keeps your eyes lifted and your face in focus on Zoom.

3. It’s all about the camera angle

To look good on zoom, the right camera angle is critical and mercifully simple to achieve. Contrary to what the name might suggest, if you want to look good on zoom, you cannot have your laptop on your lap. This forces you to look down and makes your head appear smaller than the rest of your body. Instead, elevate your laptop enough so you can tilt the screen forward. This will make your face the focal point, keep your eyes lifted, and make sure everything is in proper proportion.

Zoom background of beige sofa and tall plant
A clean, clutter-free background keeps the focus on you during Zoom calls.

4. Zoom background check

A clean background is the final piece of the “looking good on zoom” puzzle. Once you’ve got your lighting and camera angle set, check out your background space. Clean up any clutter or mess you see in frame. You don’t need to have a totally blank background. The goal is to have minimal distractions in frame so everyone on your Zoom call can focus on you instead of spending 30 minutes figuring out if the weird shape in your corner is a vacuum or a piece of installation art.

No time to arrange the perfect Zoom background or feeling unhappy with your space? Don’t sweat it. When in doubt, just use a Zoom background. There are endless, professional-looking Zoom background options to choose from, but choose wisely. Opt for a background suited to you, your meeting, and your relationship with your colleagues. Is it an internal meeting with well-known coworkers? Feel free to rock the Eurphoria background. Are you presenting to stakeholders or meeting with a client? Opt for a tasteful office scene.

How to look good on Zoom in 4 quick steps

  • Get dressed like you would for an in-person meeting so you are looking and feeling your best.
  • Position yourself directly in front of a natural light source facing towards it. If you don’t have a natural light source, place a lamp (with a white bulb) behind the center of your computer screen, making sure that it reaches just above your eye line and points directly at the center of your face.
  • Elevate your laptop and angle the screen forward, so your face is in proportion to your body and you’re not forced to look down.
  • Clean up any clutter you see in the background or use a Zoom background to minimize distractions.

Now, go crush those Zoom meetings!



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