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remote

How To Light Yourself When On A Video Call While Remote

Key things to keep in mind when on a video call are:

  • Daytime calls are best because they’re easiest to light.
  • But even when they’re daytime, it’s easy to be poorly lit.
  • When at night, or if you have no windows, lighting is hard.
  • With one lamp at night, it’s possible to look okay.
  • And with two lamps used “in stereo,” you can look great.

Rechargeable LED light sticks ($15/each) are incredibly versatile. And an LED ring lamp with USB port ($45) or less-nerdy and with color ($50) delivers a nice feeling when you’re working late at night.

You can watch a 5-minute quick overview of these ideas, or browse the image/text version below.

With just one lamp and one window, it’s possible to look great on video. It means you may need to move your furniture around in your house. But that’s okay because you’re expecting to be stuck at home for a long time. Unfortunately.

When you have a window behind you, it makes it hard for your audience to see you. But if you have a lamp that can light your face, it can look quite nice — and it makes your video feel literally “daytime.”

The professional scenario on the right (below) is called “Three-point lighting” and it’s how most interviews are lit. An extra bit of magic happens if you put a not-too-bright lights behind you in frame to create more dimensionality.

Two common nighttime (or if you have no windows) lighting scenarios while on Zoom, etc. for giving more of a professional impression (versus a less professional one) are presented below. With just two lamps it’s possible to look great on video. It means you may need to move your furniture around in your house. But that’s okay because you’re expecting to be stuck at home for a long time. Unfortunately.

The further away you position a light, the less impact it has on brightness. So placing your lamps is a way to more carefully light your frames. Be sure to use LED lighting to be safe when tweaking how you are lit.

Note that in the “professional” case it’s possible to do get the multi-point lighting effect with just two lamps by crafting a reflector out of foil and a used packing envelope (larger is better). Just bounce the main light off of your reflector.

This presentation as a pre-release PDF is now available 👇. The appendix on Remote and Distributed Work comes with the mailing list signup further down.

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As a small courtesy you’ll receive the 2020 CX Report appendix PDF link, the 2019 #DesignInTech Report PDF link, and the 2018 #DesignInTech Report PDF link — automagically sent to you soon after you sign up! —@johnmaeda

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