Want to look better on your Zoom videos? Professional photographer shares tips, budget-friendly products

Want to look better on your Zoom videos? Professional photographer shares tips, budget-friendly products

CLEVELAND, Ohio — With no end in sight to video calls, do you want to improve how you look or upgrade your setup for your next Zoom?

a person standing in front of a computer: Using a laptop stand will raise the camera up to about eye level. David Petkiewicz, cleveland.com

© David Petkiewicz, cleveland.com/cleveland.com/TNS
Using a laptop stand will raise the camera up to about eye level. David Petkiewicz, cleveland.com

I’ve been a professional photographer for decades and get paid to make people look their best as a longtime wedding photographer, and below I’ve shared tips and tricks that can help you look better on everyone’s computer and phone screens for your next remote meeting or happy hour with friends.


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There are really just a few main considerations that affect your videos: camera angle/position, lighting and webcam quality. Each is detailed below, along with some products to consider. Most products are well under $100.

First, let’s talk about camera angle. Have you noticed on Zoom calls that many cameras appear to be looking up the subject’s nose (eww), but when you look at people taking flattering selfies, they are always holding the camera up high, and looking up at the camera? Well, there’s a reason for that: It slims everything down. On the flip side, sitting in front of a wide angle webcam does just the opposite — it makes things wider. So, the solution is to put your laptop on a stand, or even a stack of books or boxes, and raise the camera until it’s level with the top of your head if possible, and then tilt the screen down. It’s that simple.

Adjustable laptop stands

$32.70 at Walmart: This Allsop adjustable curved laptop stand not only looks cool, it’s adjustable to help raise your laptop up just enough to eliminate the up-the-nose look. It’s also vented to help keep your laptop cool while your processor works overtime streaming the video.

$59.99 at B&H Photo: The Uncaged Ergonomics WorkEZ professional cool laptop stand allows you to raise your laptop a few inches or more as needed. It can also be completely folded down and used on your lap to keep you from getting that warm toasty sensation from an overheating laptop as you work from the couch (or bed!). It’s a high quality aluminum laptop stand that also includes two fans, three USB ports and a mouse pad.

Next is lighting. Tip No. 1, if you see a window in the video preview shot of yourself, you need to turn yourself and the computer around so you have the window light on your face, not on the back of your head.

The most flattering lighting is soft light that comes in through a north facing window. But, not everybody has a north facing window to use, so any window that doesn’t have direct sunlight coming in will work just fine. What doesn’t work very well is a lamp that you removed the shade from and set next to your computer screen. (If you have to do that, at least leave the shade on). And, an overhead light in a room will work, as long as you’re not right underneath it.

A better option is to use a ring light, and set it behind where your camera is, and slightly off to one side and above the camera (straight on is fine too). Ring lights emit a soft light that looks natural. The real trick is to have more light on your face than the background behind you. To help hold the light where you need it, you’ll probably want to get a light stand, available for under $20 from Adorama.

Ring lights

$39 from Adorama: The Godox LR120 LED Bi-color 12 1/4 u2033 ring light is a color-temperature adjustable light, 3000-6000K, and will let you match the light in your house to give you an overall consistent look. You can also dial it to the lower light temperatures for a warmer look (making you look like you have a nice tan). The LR120 model runs on USB power, so you can easily bring it where ever you need it and plug it right into your laptop.

$59.99 from B&H Photo: Another option for a set location where you won’t be moving much is the Godox LR150 Bi-color 18 1/4 u2033 LED ring light. The bigger light gives you an even softer, smoother look. It’s also light temperature adjustable, but it plugs into the wall for power. The light is also dimmable from 10-100%, so you can fine tune it to your lighting situation.


The last thing you want to look at is your webcam. Are you using a laptop, or a desktop? Most laptops come with a built-in webcam, but for the most part they were an afterthought by the manufacturer and only do a so-so job of streaming video and audio. And, if you’re using a desktop, or if you want to upgrade the camera and microphone for your laptop, you’ll want to consider a nice webcam.

There are a plethora of different webcams out there, but for between $50-$100 you can get a really nice, high-resolution 1080p webcam with upgraded microphones built-in.

There are even a few monitors that have built-in webcams, so that’s a good option if you need a better screen now that you’re spending time at home in front of it most of the day.

$59 from Adorama (original price $149): The Green Extreme 300 is a great entry webcam. It is Windows and Mac compatible via USB and shoots at 1080p high resolution. It has a fast f3.1 aperture, which comes in handy in low light situations, and a full 94 degree field of view. The two built-in microphones have 15-foot range in case you need to step away from the meeting to let the dog out. And right now is a great time to buy from Adorama, the normal price on this camera is $149, so you’re getting a great camera and a great price.

$114.99 from Adorama: The Logitech C922 Pro Stream Webcam is a highly rated camera by both consumers and experts. This camera is also Windows and Mac compatible, and boasts a high-res 1080p camera at 30fps. In addition, it also shoots at a rate of 60 frames per second at 720p, giving you a smoother video stream (depending on your internet, of course). The two built-in omnidirectional microphones help stream clear audio.

Monitors with built-in webcams

$199 from B&H Photo: The Lenovo ThinkCentre 23.8 1/4 u2033 monitor with built-in webcam is the perfect solution if you’re looking for a new HD monitor, and want to upgrade your webcam. It features a high-resolution 1920×1080 screen and a 250 cd/m 1/4 u00b2 brightness rating for a super crisp and clear picture. And, with the camera mounted high on the screen, you will get a much better camera angle for your video streams. The built-in omnidirectional microphones help pick up clear sound. And, for an extra $64, you can upgrade this to a touchscreen.

$159.99 from Best Buy: The Asus 24 1/4 u2033 business monitor not only has a built-in webcam, it also includes built-in stereo speakers for video conferencing and live-streaming, perfect for the daily meetings. The camera is also adjustable +/- 10 degrees, so it’s easy to get just the right camera angle. And it has a sliding shutter to insure you have privacy when not using it. This model has an HD 1920×1080 screen, and boasts a 1000:1 contrast ratio, giving you super bright colors and contrast.


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