5 Tips to Help You Look Better on Skype, FaceTime

Dec 12, 2013

There’s no question more and more people are using Skype and FaceTime to connect with family and friends. And businesses are finding the technology to be a convenient way to interview job candidates to connecting with clients.

But what about how we look staring into those tiny computer and phone cameras? It seems everyone I talk to has a story about looking at themselves on Skype or FaceTime and thinking, “I look terrible.”

Two Seattle lighting designers, Christopher Thompson and James Sultan with Studio LUX, LLC, say the main reason we look so bad on these video chat connections is that the camera is capturing the really bad lighting that we have in our homes or offices. So we asked them for some tips on how to our look next time the relatives or a potential employer asks for a virtual get-together.

1. Don’t Just Rely on Your Overhead Light

Screenshot of Van de Velde on Skype with only an overhead light.
Screenshot of Van de Velde on Skype with only an overhead light.
Credit Justin Steyer / KPLU

Don’t rely on your ceiling or overhead light alone, say the experts. All that harsh light coming down on you creates dark shadows under the eyes, nose, lower lip and chin.

“When you do that, you’re lighting horizontal surfaces, but not vertical surfaces, and you are a vertical surface in relation to the camera,” says Thompson.

2. Don’t Become a Silhouette to the Wall Behind You

This happens if just the wall has light on it.

3. Do Shine Soft Light Directly on Your Face

Credit Justin Steyer / KPLU

If you are at a desk, for example, you can use a table lamp and drape a towel or a bedsheet over it.

“You don’t want to look like you’re staring into headlights,” Thompson said.

4. Do Use a Gooseneck Lamp

On the left, Van de Velde on Skype with only the overhead light. On the right, Van de Velde bounces a gooseneck light off of the wall in front of her.
On the left, Van de Velde on Skype with only the overhead light. On the right, Van de Velde bounces a gooseneck light off of the wall in front of her.
Credit Justin Steyer / KPLU

Turn the lamp toward the wall and bounce the light, so that it reflects toward your face to create a soft, broad display of light.

5. Do Use an Indirect Floor Lamp

Place the floor lamp in a corner behind the computer.

“The light is bouncing off the wall and the ceiling at the same time, and can be a very effective to fill the space with light,” said Sultan.