How to make Skype, FaceTime, or Hangouts video look great

Frequently video chat with friends, co-workers, or podcasters? Here’s a few tips to look like a pro.

Video chatting with friends and co-workers has practically become a way of life in our modern world. I use Skype and FaceTime pretty much daily in my home and work life, and because of that, I’ve spent a good deal of time trying to perfect my video quality.

Whether you wear pajama bottoms or a dress shirt for a video chat, you shouldn’t have to settle for sub-par results: Here are my favorite tips for making your webcam video look better than the rest.

Film from above, not below

Whether you’re using an iMac, MacBook Pro, third-party webcam, or iPhone, the worst you can do is have your camera below your face, pointed up — human faces do not look great chin-first. In an ideal world, you want your camera positioned slightly above eye-level, looking down at you.

Light it up

While the “calling you from a dark cave” look is great if you’re trying to cultivate an air of mystery, it’s not the best way to chat with your co-workers. If you want to communicate effectively, you want light on your face. The best way I’ve found is with ambient lighting behind your computer or webcam — adjustable Hue lights that bounce their light off the wall, for instance, a Hue Go, or Nanoleaf Aurora.

If you need to bathe an entire office in light, consider getting a few portable LED lights and tripods: iMore editor-at-large Rene Ritchie uses these to light up his personal studio at home for video shows like MacBreak Weekly.

A word of advice: You never want to point lights directly at your face unless they’re from a distance and allowed to diffuse somewhat, and you’ll want to make sure you’re evenly lighting yourself on both sides, lest you get the opposite of dark cave calling — “I’m in an interrogation room, send help.”

Create a good backdrop

If you’re routinely chatting from a specific space in your home — especially if these video chats are for work — it may behoove you to declutter your surroundings.

A few things to avoid in the background of video chats:

Add effects and white balance with iGlasses

I’ve saved my favorite video trick for last: eCamm’s iGlasses for Mac gives you a fully-adjustable editing window for your video in every program, letting you change your exposure, temperature and tint, and crop and zoom; you can also flip your video and add weird effects (if you’re into looking like a space alien on your call). I’ve used iGlasses for years to brighten my video and crop out pesky things like windows, and it’s made a huge difference.

Your tips and suggestions?

Do you have any tips and suggestions for great webcam video? Let me know below.

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