Given the lockdown, video calls are having a moment. Many of us are on them through the day, moving from Zoom, to WhatsApp to House Party and so on, for meetings, game nights, and even weddings. Admittedly, there is a learning curve. And, unlike your latest profile picture, in this case you can rarely use filters.
You can, however, use the available light to work as a natural filter. To begin with, ace photographer G Venket Ram has a simple tip, “Sit in front of the light source.” If it is daytime, sit facing a lit window. If it is night, sit in such a way that light fills your face. “Never have the light source directly above you, since it forms harsh shadows on the face. And avoid sitting with a lit window behind you; your face will be more of a silhouette then,” he adds.
Raise the camera
A common sight on most calls is that of people repeatedly moving their heads or phones to get that desired angle. “Eye level is the best,” says Venket. You can place your phone or laptop on books or other objects so it reaches that height. “If you notice, the camera on your laptop or your phone is always on the top. Take a cue from that and avoid placing the camera low because that will show more of the ceiling than you. I have noticed on many calls the ceiling fan forms a halo around the face. And it gives more prominence to your chin and nostrils. If you still want a lower angle, make sure you trim your nostril hair,” he laughs.
Prop up your phone
Trust us, nobody wants a shaky tour of your surroundings. So, prop your phone in order to avoid constant movement. This also saves you a lot of potential embarrassment, if your beds are not made. Or you are only wearing the top half of your suit.
It is also important to set the frame before getting on call. “While composing your picture, make sure your background and foreground are not cluttered. The focus must be on you,” says Venket, while recommending occupying 60 to 75 % of the frame, especially in a Zoom meeting, where with a lot of people, your image is one of the many tiny boxes. “So if your face is too small there, your presence may not be felt on the screen and whatever you say may not have impact,” he adds.
(Insider tip: Before going live, it is a good idea to do a demo run so you are confident about how you appear to others. And don’t forget you are being watched, so try not to yawn or pick your teeth.
Hair we are
“Don’t be shabby,” says celebrity hair-stylist Savio John Pereira. Since the upper body is in focus, it is important to pay attention to every detail. Just as you would not like to look at unkempt faces throughout a call, be thoughtful and return the favour. “With the camera right in front of you, your face and hair are in focus. For women, if you don’t have access to a blow-dryer, tie your hair into a neat ponytail,” he says. The safest thing during work calls is to play around with tied hair: it could be a high ponytail or a low one or a side plait. These, he believes, look classy and stylish as opposed to hair left loose.
With salons closed, Savio has been fielding anxious calls from clients. “Use baby oil to tame the frizz and massage your scalp once a week with almond or coconut oil,” he says. “If you want to conceal your greys use a bandana or a scarf. A little bit of eyeliner along the hairline can also do the trick.”
For men, he suggests either a clean shave or a well-groomed beard. “No in-between stubble, please,” he says, adding, “And brush your beard before going on call.” Savio also says to remember the little details, like your nails. “You might be moving your hands on camera and you do not want your nails to look chipped or unclean.”
Stafford Braganza, national makeup artist and technical trainer, at L’Oréal Paris, India suggests you keep it subtle. “Start with a simple base. Add a touch of foundation and concealer, go with a dash of blush to brighten the apples of your cheeks,” says Stafford.
To awaken those eyes, apply a thin swipe of liner on the lash line, leaving the water line, liner-free. Or skip the liner and add a bit of mascara for volume.
His list of don’ts include: dark colours, smoky eyes, thick eye liner/kajal or lipsticks in shades of wine. “And tone down the shimmer from the highlighter because it reflects off the screen,” he adds.
However, the queries Stafford receives are not always about makeup alone, there are also concerns about the skin looking dull and eyes puffy on screen. “Drink a lot of water and get enough sleep. Rub cubes of ice over the puffy area and once the bags disappear, apply kajal and you are good to go.”